If you have any friends or family flying in the radar zone of animal rights, you would have noticed a notched up attempt for Animals Australia to address the mass production of livestock in factory farming conditions. (Update 08/04/2019)
Hats off to them I say. Let’s look at how our agribusiness systems can ethically produce animals in humane conditions all the way through to slaughter. But it’s never a perfect system and inevitably those with no voice or rights (the animals) get vanquished upon, for the sake of lower inputs and higher returns.
Who cares about the rights of cattle when rump steak has never been cheaper?
What’s that? Chorizo at $4.99 per kg?
Six-buck BBQ chickens?
Well of course factory farming has an impact on price as it does on the rights of those who can’t speak up for themselves.
Now before you think I’m going all lentil-burger on you I have these points to make about meat consumption:
1) meat tastes inimitably good and is pleasurable to eat
2) the protein structure in meat provides long satiety (as they are digested)
3) meat has profound cultural significance in food and its preparation.
With those points aired, there is the inverse commentary:
1) Production of meat is extremely energy intensive (from production of grain, pasture, slaughtering, processing, and packaging)
2) Excessive meat consumption is linked to many cancers
3) Global meat consumption is increasing, combined with declining soil fertility, and arable land, and peak oil / phosphate.
4) Livestock produce immense amounts of greenhouse gas
5) The energy conversion of grain-to-meat is poor compared to that of insects (another source of protein for the future!)
So what does this have to do with abattoirs?
Well Animals Australia have released a graphic video of a cow in a full inversion slaughter box.
‘Full inversion’ slaughter box from Animals Australia on Vimeo.
It’s ghastly to see a non-stunned animal bled before it eventually loses consciousness. Why are these animals not stunned before being bled?
My assumption is religion (Islamic, Halal) has something to do with this particular way of slaughtering but it’s not what I’m discussing here.
In the video it does not appear that the animal is toutured.
It’s restrained so as not to injure itself or the worker, throat cleaned, and made visible for an accurate cut. It’s inverted so as to speed exsanguination so the animal looses consciousness quicker—like you or me in an event of massive blood loss, we blackout. In the context of this particular type of slaughter, nothing is awry.
It’s bloody and confronting, but it’s been done in a similar style for millennia. Remember “lamb of god”? Sacrificed at the altar? These were once reverent acts of considered consumption. We’ve just turned up the speed and our rate of consumption because we’re now wealthy compared to cost of food — and we want it every day.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the importance of banning live export and stunning an animal before slaughter.
But this video is not like the ones of the past where we’ve witnessed animals being punched, kicked, and stabbed or whatever sadistically grisly action that’s turned the abattoir worker on.
So what does this have to do with market-place abattoir?
Well, if ever a bridge that needed to be crossed for the inner city latte-classes (yes I am one of them) it is the sterile gap between meat production and consumption.
The gusto with which farmers markets have arisen is case-in-point people want an enriched experience with the food they consume and the systems/people behind it. We want meaning behind experience because quite simply humans have existed in market systems as long as they’ve been altar sacrifices.
With the appropriate legislation, checks and ticks in boxes, I think animal slaughter and butchering should be reintroduced to markets to display what a gruesome process it is. Of course there would be visual isolation and warning to prevent unintended exposure (young children) or those who may take offence may remove/not enter the scene.
Those who choose to eat beef should see a happy cow being humanely stunned, slaughtered and butchered.
I think that by showing people this macabre act, it will hopefully instill an appreciation that a living sentient being has been slaughtered for consumption.
Hopefully people will consider that eating meat should be treated with temperance, like it once was—as rarity or special occasion.
Significance needs to be reattached to consumption so we hopefully self-censor for fear of becoming bloated on the guilt associated with unnecessary animal murder (plus it’s not good for your health).
We need to witness this to recalibrate our appreciation so it’s not just a fillet steak in a plastic tray, but a living, breathing cow that stared back to you earlier that day.
It’ll be fresh (unless you want dry-aged beef, come back in a week) and hopefully more expensive (so as to deter everyday consumption), also there would be a crushing guilt if meat were to be wasted on the edge of plates.
These are not new concepts, just ones we’ve forgtten while on the conveyor of factory farming. The new concept is accelerating meat consumption via reduced cost of meat, while cocooning us away from slicing-and-dicing made cheap by poor treatment.
We need to see slaughter so we take stock, and consider our consumption, not have it served up on little black trays at the cheapest possible price.
Market abattoirs, I wonder if it will ever catch on?