A Visit to an Abattoir - Introduction
As part of my job I was asked to come and have a look around an Abattoir. This was something I felt I desperately wanted to avoid, but as a consumer of meat I felt a obligation to go and see what was happening.
I should point out that I did not visit the killing area, as that was not required as part of my visit. I did express an interest in seeing this, but I was discouraged with no reason given.
A Visit to an Abattoir - The Good
Perhaps the one good thing which I saw on this trip was the use of cattle skins destined for leather production. These were carefully graded and salted and sent to Italy (I was told) for tanning. Tanning being the process of turning skin into leather.
A Visit to an Abattoir - The Staff
The thing that struck me the most was how unhappy everybody looked who worked at the abbatoir. This is not a job I would like to do. This is a messy, unpleasant job and it showed in the faces of the people who worked there.
As you can imagine there is a high turnover of staff. The company does not have good employment records (I checked). How does this manifest itself on the treatment of the animals I wonder?
The employees I observed during the visits appear a mixed bunch, with some behaving in a highly ignorant manner. Dealing with this type of work force requires a certain type of manager, and I can safely say that I did not enjoy talking the the manager in question.
A Visit to an Abattoir - The Waste
All animal caracasses are required to be inspected for blemishes or disease (I am not sure of the exact detail). Whilst I was there I saw 2 whole cattle disposed of. There was nothing visibly wrong with the carcasses, as far as I could see, and this seamed a massive waste.
The animals were separated into useful, and non-useful parts. There were tanks for blood, and bins for unwanted body parts such as hooves and heads.
Grass from the cattles stomachs was separated out and sent for recycling (Anaerobic Digestion)'
A Visit to an Abattoir - Trauma
I consider myself fairly thick skinned, but I will not lie. I found the visit traumatic.
Perhaps one of the most distressing parts of the trip was watching the recently severed head of a cow, which had been skinned with the tongue and eyes still moving. I think I will carry this image in my mind until I die.
There must be a big impact on the staff who work in these places, is it healthy to become desensitised to such activities?
A Visit to an Abattoir - The Smell
The smell on site was highly unpleasant, a mix of butcher's shop and farm yard. Blood and excrement.
A Visit to an Abattoir - The Animals
I saw only live animals (cattle) outside the Abattoir, they were herded up a steep ramp. Their treatment did not seem too forceful, but they did look frightened. I do not make this comment lightly as I have worked with cattle on and off for 15 years, and these animals were frightened.
I can only imagine things got worse inside.
A Visit to an Abattoir - Conclusions
I did not see the killing area. In hindsight I am very glad, as I likely avoided some mental scarring. The whole place was like something out of a nightmare, and I would certainly think very carefully about repeating the experience, particularly if I was required to enter the killing area.
I still eat meat once a week but I did not enjoy it for months after this visit. It is easy to become disconnected between the meat on your plate and the squalor I witnessed at this place of death.
As with all things consumer, if this sort of thing disgusts you then vote with your pound / dollar and buy from sources value welfare. I have found Riverford Organic to be very transparent regarding their slaughter processes.