When my father was posted as an army officer in Bangalore, we lived on Pottery Road near a large slaughterhouse. The smell was infernal. There were fights all the time. We moved very quickly and for many years I completely blocked it from my memory.
When Swami Vivekananda went to America, as he neared Chicago, he is said to have commented that he could see a large black miasma over the city. It was then the largest stockyard and slaughterhouse in the country. It was also the main centre of crime run by gangs.
Which are the most dangerous cities in India? I would put Rampur on top of my list. The police and armed forces are wary of it too. Recently, a full-scale attack by terrorists on a paramilitary division took place there. Murders and other forms of violent crime are common. It also has the large number of illegal slaughterhouses, killing cows and buffaloes by the thousands every day. The Mewat region of Haryana, where the police refuse to go, is the largest illegal slaughter centre in North India, and the centre of the wildlife parts smuggling trade as well. In Delhi it is the Jama Masjid area of the Walled City where cow skinning takes place in every lane.
Which is the most dangerous part of your city? Is it not the place where the slaughter of animals takes place? You don’t have to be a vegetarian to feel scared. You know instinctively that anyone who can kill an animal is immune to the morality of killing his fellow man.
In Bareilly recently, a Superintendant of Police tried to stop a truck carrying cows to Rampur. The people on the truck whipped out guns and shot at him. This is not an unusual occurrence. Every overloaded slaughter bound truck carries guns. Many of my people have been shot at. Certainly, the first attempt of the driver is to run over whatever or whoever is trying to stop it.
Recently, we stopped five trucks in Shahjahanpur with 300 cows – 60 per cent of them were dead. The men in the vehicle all carried guns and could only be stopped after a long chase. In Aonla the same people, who killed 10 cows recently in public view and were left off, have now torched houses in the town to protest against the worship of Shiva by the Kavarias.
In 2009, A.J. Fitzgerald and colleague published an interesting study in Organization & Environment after 9 years of research, entitled: ‘Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates: An Empirical Analysis of the Spillover From The Jungle Into the Surrounding Community’. One hundred years ago the famous author Upton Sinclair wrote a book entitled The Jungle which detailed the working and living conditions of workers in and around the stockyard slaughterhouses in Chicago. In explaining the numerous fights instigated by slaughterhouse workers after hours, Sinclair noted a connection between these fights and the killing and dismembering of animals all day at work. According to Sinclair, ‘these two-o’clock-in-the-morning fights, are like a forest fire … men who have to crack the heads of animals all day seem to get into the habit, and practice on their friends, and even on their families, between times.’ The book denounced the massive slaughterhouse complex in Chicago as a ‘jungle’, and said that all crime and criminals in America were born out of it.
The purpose of this study was to prove/disprove the Sinclair contention. The authors write: ‘Contemporary studies
conducted by social scientists documenting the negative effects of slaughterhouses on communities have not attended to the possibility (which Sinclair alludes to) that the type of work undertaken in slaughterhouses is a contributing factor to increased crime rates in slaughterhouse communities.’
When a person removes a non-human animal from moral consideration, he removes humans from moral consideration as well. This is seen in historical examples where colonialism or genocide used the idea of the victims as ‘animals’ to justify murder or oppression.
The meatpacking industry’s effect on physical environment and human health and on the high rate of injuries to workers has been carefully documented by scholars. This study analyses population/jobs/crime data of 1994-2002 in 581 non-metropolitan counties to analyse the effect of slaughterhouses on the surrounding communities.
The findings of the study indicate that slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes, rape, other sex offenses, vandalism, arson, robbery, assault and disorderly conduct in comparison with other industries. The research demonstrates that in communities where slaughterhouses open there is an increase in crime. For instance, documented crime increases include a 130 per cent increase in violent crimes in Finney County, Kansas and a 63 per cent increase in Lexington, Nebraska. The Canadian town of Brooks, Alberta, witnessed a 70 per cent increase in reported crime. Particularly telling is the fact that the arrests in counties with 7,500 slaughterhouse employees are more than double than in those where there are no slaughterhouse employees. This proves the existence of a ‘Sinclair effect’ unique to the violent workplace of the slaughterhouse, a factor ignored previously in the sociology of violence.
Various explanations for these increases in crime have been proposed. The objectives of this study are (1) to test the theories that explain the crime increases and (2) to compare the effects of slaughterhouse employment on crime rates to the effects of similar industries, to see if the effects of slaughterhouses are unique.
These were the theories that existed and this is what they found:
8 ‘The workers were mainly immigrants and more likely to be involved in criminal activities.’ A link between immigrant populations and crime rates, however, has not been found. On the contrary, studies have found that typical immigration does not result in crime increases.
8 ‘The much increased violence in these communities is not because of the slaughterhouses but because the workers are lower middle class, usually uneducated hard drinking people who are mainly young males.’ Studies have found that age does not have a significant effect on some types of crimes, such as burglary and homicide.
8 ‘Crime increases are the result of population booms and social disorganisation.’ In simple terms this means that the population is poor with a great tendency to shift jobs and migrate both in and out of the towns resulting in social disorganisation and consequent increases in crime. But these explanations do not hold water because people in identical low paid, filthy, dangerous, blue collar towns with high unemployment and heavy alcohol habits have not got the same spike in violence. The study took similar towns with comparative industries: Iron and steel forging, truck trailer manufacturing, motor vehicle metal stamping, sign manufacturing, and industrial laundering. These industries are categorised as manufacturing, have high immigrant worker concentrations, low pay, routinised labour, repetitive and dangerous conditions. These were not associated with a rise in crime at all. In fact crime rates were on their way down. No connection was found between high unemployment rates and violent crime.
The researchers concluded that ‘the industrialistion of slaughter has the strongest adverse effects’. The unique work of killing and dismembering animals in slaughterhouses has resulted in the types of crime which Upton Sinclair referred to as ‘the jungle’ in the community. Fitzgerald and colleague say at the end ‘We believe that this is another of a growing list of social problems that need explicit attention.’
The findings of this study seem so obvious to me: When a person removes a non-human animal from moral onsideration, he removes humans from moral consideration as well. This is seen in historical examples where colonialism or genocide used the idea of the victims as ‘animals’ to justify murder or oppression. Someone who has the ability to rip thousands of animals throats is not a gentle and law-abiding person. People who have made documentaries about slaughterhouses show workers kicking animals, playing football with chickens, throwing cow eyeballs at each other, urinating on bodies and masturbating on dying animals, a state of desensitisation so extreme that it could only spill over into general violence.
The rise of factory-style slaughter has inured our whole civilisation to mass killing of animals and humans and enabled us to wreak havoc on each other, each war surpassing the previous one in its acceptance of mass murder of humans as a feature of conflict among nations. We are not shocked by the slaughter in Iraq or Afghanistan or even angry with the country that is doing it as mindlessly as they kill animals. In killing animals we kill the better part of ourselves, and pay the price in the form of wars, crime, obesity and poor health.
Go to a large factory slaughterhouse in your town; it is a terrifying experience, enough to make you cry and vomit.
Suppose all the abattoirs are changed into soybean processing plants. Doesn’t even thinking about it make you feel better?