- Growing concern over the link between slaughterhouse practices and the increase of violent crimes.
- Previous study on 581 US counties from 1994 to 2002 shows the annual arrest and report average increases with presence of a slaughterhouse.
- New study reports that the presence of a slaughterhouse corresponds with a 166% increase in arrests for rape.
Studies Link Slaughterhouses and Violent Crimes Increase
There is a growing concern for the constructed socially-sanctioned violence against farmed animals in the agricultural industries and the flow on effects of violence into our society.
It is thought that children who are cruel to animals are more likely to bully other children, that adults who are cruel to animals are more likely to commit other crimes, particularly violent crimes, such as domestic violence and child abuse. At the more extreme end of the anti-social behaviour continuum, FBI work has shown that animal cruelty is a prominent behaviour in the profiles of violent criminals.
Today, it is accepted by professionals and scientists alike that mistreating animals is not an isolated behaviour but part of a constellation of anti-social behaviours. As a society, we reject those who intentionally harm animals and subsequently fear that such behaviours will then transplant to human victims. Conversely, we then sanction the employment and resulting mandatory violence committed by workers against billions of farmed animals in agriculture every year. Society has convinced itself that a contradiction does not exist, that violence in the context of full-time financial employment is acceptable and without impact.
They are wrong.
The Violent Crimes Link
The 1906 novel written by Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, galvanised readers after describing that the hellish world of factory slaughterhouses was as dangerous to human beings as it was to pigs–it even prompted President Roosevelt to order reforms to the meat industry. In 2009, this literary classic was essentially proven to be correct by Criminology Professor, Amy Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald crunched numbers from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report database, census data, and arrest and offence reports from 581 US counties from 1994 to 2002. She found that an average-sized slaughterhouse with 175 employees would annually increase the number of arrests by 2.24 and the number of reports by 4.69 on average. The larger the slaughterhouse, the worse the local crime problem.
I have a graph that shows that as the number of slaughterhouse workers in a community increases, the crime rate also increases.
– Amy Fitzgerald.
A more recent 2014 study by Jessica Racine Jacques, a Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida, has discovered a very strong relationship between rape and the presence of “beef” slaughterhouses in the community. While her study also looks at other forms of crime, she reports that the presence of a slaughterhouse corresponds with a 166% increase in arrests for rape.
Piers Beirne had theorised that the institutionalised harming of animals might actually affect the perpetrators, explaining that “whenever human-animal relationships are marked by authority and power, and thus by institutionalised social distance, there is an aggravated possibility of extra-institutional violence”.
The slaughterhouse occupies a contradictory position within society that other industrial processes do not. Formal regulations about requiring “humane” slaughter directly acknowledge that sentient animals who are being killed are worthy of protection–yet those who are engaged in the work of the slaughterhouse also develop emotional constructions that allow them to actually carry this kind of work out.
It will come as no surprise that the consequences of such emotional dissonance include domestic violence, social withdrawal, drug and alcohol abuse, and severe anxiety. As slaughterhouse workers are increasingly being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), researchers are finally understanding the results of systematic killing of sentient animals for a living.
Upton Sinclair’s 1906 hypothesis seems to be accurate in that the work of industrial animal slaughter, with its inherent contradiction, has a different affect on local communities than other forms of industrial work. Indeed, the propensity for violent crime is increased by work that involves the routine slaughter of other animals as the people who work in slaughterhouses are more likely to be desensitised to suffering due to the psychological weight of their work which erodes their well being, and in turn can make them more likely to be violent towards humans.
Flinders University senior sociology lecturer, Dr Nik Taylor, said it had been established that the more positive a person’s attitude to animals, the lower their aggression levels, and that the reverse is also true–if you’re cruel to animals, you’re more likely to be violent to humans. She found that meat workers’ aggression levels were “so high they’re similar to the scores .. for incarcerated populations”.
We should be very concerned about social standards and policies that encourage and legalise aggressive, dominating and violent behaviours, such as hunting and slaughter. If we were instead to promote harmonious relationships with animals by encouraging appreciation of life in all its forms, we would be cultivating a culture of compassion and resilience instead of violence and intolerance. Current and future generations would benefit psychologically and economically through such reduced anti-social, violent and criminal behaviour.
The Historical Emergence and Social Separation of Slaughterhouses
The slaughterhouse emerged as a unique institution in the early 19th century as part of a larger transition from an agrarian to industrial system, accompanied by increased urbanisation, technological developments, and concern about public hygiene. The first public slaughterhouse appeared in France at the beginning of the 19th century and the French word abattoir was introduced to refer to a specific place where animals are slaughtered for human consumption.
The earliest reference to commercial slaughterhouses in the US dates back to 1662 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Concerns about slaughterhouses emerged shortly thereafter and in 1676, officials in New York City relocated slaughterhouses from densely populated parts of the city.
There was awareness in the 1800s of the moral effects of slaughtering animals where it was seen to educate these men in the practice of violence and cruelty and then have no restraint on the use of it. Such concerns combined with public health issues saw large, public slaughterhouses subsequently constructed outside city centres across London and Europe.
These constructions were, and are, nondescript—designed to look like any other factory. The geography and architecture of slaughterhouses served then, as they do now, to avoid a collective cultural guilt.
This separation of the public from the slaughter of animals they consume developed into a hyper-separated state with the industrialisation of animal slaughter which we still see today. The separation is so vast and is inextricably advanced by clever marketing that people today do not even make the cognitive connection between the plastic package lifted in the supermarket once being a functional body part of a living animal whose life was taken by force.