The Killing Floors you are not to see

Reporters are embedded in modern warfare operations. On television we may daily watch real people getting killed for real.

But some killing floors are off limits. In the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma the author Michael Pollan tries to analyze modern food production. At one point he was denied all access: To the killing floors of modern slaughterhouses. They are No Trespassing territory to all reporters. And for good reasons! The food industry realizes that if the public really saw how the butchery went on, there would be another attitude regarding what one eats. Just reading about it is sickening. In one slaughterhouse 400 cattle are killed per hour. There is ‘only’ an error rate of maximum 5 per cent (much higher before the public demanded that McDonald and other meat providers do something). This means that not more than 20 cattle an hour are still alive when they are skinned and hooked up upside down etc.

I am not in the business of animal rights or making a mission for vegetarianism. But I do think that animals have some kind of consciousness or emotions or intelligence. Reading about the industry of meat, or egg production or pig farms etc, where animals are deprived of any natural way of living and develop nervous, aggressive and unnatural behavior (hurting, killing and eating each other etc) make me agree to what Pollan is saying: This is something the world at least should see. Then we might at least make a more informed choice about what we eat.

By the way: I do not really recommend the book unless you are able to read vertically. Like many American books it has no more substance than justifying an article (and the book is 411 pp). But the author has some very interesting and well made points.


  1. Folke

    I actually filmed for television at a slaughterhouse for poultry some 15 years ago. It was shocking, and lots of the poor creatures avoided the electrocuting and were torn apart while still alive. I couldn´t help thinking how this perpetually holocaust for animals influenced the workers who stood there all day watching this horrible scenery. But I guess you can get used to almost anything.

    I dont´t think we would be allowed in today, with heightened controversy around animal rights.

  2. mh

    Yesterday, Danish television reported from the Danish Bacon production, and that was shocking documentary: Every day, 25.000 piglets die in the Danish production – either still-birth or because they are squeezed to death. Production of meat has become an industry, which leaves very little sympathy. As one customer said, while she stood by the bacon fridge in the supermarket: I do not want to know about it, because then I would become a vegetarian tomorrow!

  3. olego

    Regarding Folke’s comment: Michael Pollan states in The Omnivore’s Dilemma that it supposedly has been proven that persons continually involved in slaughtering animals develop sadistic traits. He says that this is one of the reasons why some cultures practising ritual slaughtering had their priests rotate regarding the ritual killing.

  4. kaifm

    That sounds horrible. One can imagine the state of mind of those people who are responsible for such mechanisms of animal slaughter and of those who allow it to happen.

    I met a woman who had been doing anthropological fieldwork in rural Iran. She said that most people there were vegetarians but when an animal is killed for food, it is ensured that as many parts of it are used in the meal, an attitude that she thought emerged from a respect for life.

  5. kaifm

    correction – most people there are NOT vegetarians.

  6. eirikj


    You must be prescient. Yesterday Norwegian Public Broadcasting showed numerous pictures and videos taken by actionists from Norwegian fur farms, showing captive animals with wounds and bites, legs bitten off, and other grotesque injuries. All this is despite the fact that the same took place a year ago, and the Minister of Agriculture then promised to ensure that the fur farm industry would clean up its act. Still this goes on, all of it to satisfy female vanity (and admiring men). Hopefully the time is near to say enough is enough, and prohibit this inhumane practice!

  7. olego

    I also happened to watch the NRK reports from the fur farms. It is kind of unbelievably cruel. I am especially happy to be reminded that this cynical/negligent torture of animals for money is supported by annual grants from the Norwegian government. You and I are paying for something we really hate to see! I am even more happy to listen to the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture telling us that the fur farmers are trying to do their best as honest and good people. I wonder what the really bad fur farmers might be up to!

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