PTSD: POST-TRAUMATIC SLAUGHTER DISTRESS


(this photo has some heroes of mine sitting peacefully in a factory farm with phones in their hands, taking pictures of the fear and dread and terror on the pigs’ faces, as these pigs are being forced to live out their entire lives in the most horrific conditions, only to be killed and slaughtered in the end for food)

Imagine this: You have just been hired as a factory farm slaughterhouse worker. It is your first day on the job, and you have the first animal to slaughter. The animal is right in front of you and is terrified and looking to you for help. You see that in his or her eyes. But you’ve been hired to kill the animal because people get hungry. But you just can’t do it. For reasons you can’t quite explain, you care about the little and breathing  soul in front of you. You don’t want any harm to come to him or her. What are you going to do? If you don’t slaughter the animal, people go hungry and you lose your job. If you slaughter the animal, people won’t go hungry but you just might lose your soul in the process.

This is the dilemma I am sure many factory farm slaughterhouse workers face when they are called by duty to kill a factory farm animal. Of course, some will do this without a bat of the eye, which makes me question, “What could possibly be going through that person’s mind knowing they have to kill an innocent and feeling and living being?” I step back from this with the same question posed to me. I might not be able to predict this with complete accuracy, but I think I know myself pretty well enough to say that I simply would not be able to do it. And if I was forced to do it, I can honestly say that I would never be the same again. I would turn hard, cold, harsh, and I would have to completely disassociate myself from the action because I would not able to withstand the stress, distress, and despair of taking the life and the lives of these beautiful souls. It wouldn’t matter to me if I knew I was only doing this to feed others; I would simply “crack” from the inhumanity of taking the life of another. I actually do have some proof of me suffering some kind of breakdown in the face of this: When I first watched PETA’s short documentary, “Meet Your Meat,” I was in bed for weeks from severe depression because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe a human could terrorize and torture an innocent, sentient, and living being. Yes, the proof is there that if I were a slaughterhouse factory farm worker, the actual doing of what I watched slaughterhouse factory farm workers doing would probably kill me. I would not want to kill a beautiful creature of God because it would kill me.

It has been well-documented that many slaughterhouse factory farm workers suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). A Texas Observer article reported that slaughterhouse workers face a variety of negative emotional and psychological consequences including PTSD. It has also been proven that criminal charges and cases of abuse of humans by factory farm workers is very, very high. In an article printed in the PTSD Journal, it stated, “these employees (slaughterhouse factory farm workers) are hired to kill animals, such as pigs and cows, that are largely gentle creatures. Carrying out this action requires workers to disconnect from what they are doing and from the creature standing before them.”

And if you think those who run slaughterhouse factory farms care about their workers, think again. Buzzfeed News revealed that on average, one Tyson employee a month in a factory farm that abuses and kills chickens is injured by equipment and loses a finger or limb.  The organization, Mercy For Animals, reported that slaughterhouse factory farm employees go so long without breaks that some employees are forced to wear diapers. These workers are subjected to hazards like injuries, respiratory illness, and infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that 10 out of 22 workers who were tested carried potentially deadly bacteria.

Clearly, we are talking now about both physical and psychological damage caused to slaughterhouse factory farm workers. And please don’t get me started on the physical and psychological damage to the factory farm animals. In fact, I find it so emotionally difficult to list the reality for these animals that I often refer others to the PETA video, “Meet Your Meat,” because if a picture is worth a thousand words, that documentary does that factual statement justice (https://www.peta.org/videos/meet-your-meat/). Of course, I am just a writer and can’t force anyone to watch someone they don’t want to watch (because you don’t want to watch this documentary, right?) That said, if you eat meat that comes from a factory farm (99% of meat for human consumption comes from here), then I think you need to face the music and dance with what you support, what you encourage, what you know is the painful truth. A dance that is not a “truth dance” is a dance with no partner; it’s you alone dancing to the beat of your own drum, and I hope the melody you dance will be one of compassion and love for all people and all animals.

written by Timothy J. Verret. Mr. Verret is a writer and painter, an actor, and, first and foremost, an animal welfare advocate. He is a published author of a children’s book, Clarabelle Comes Clean, that teaches children about the harming effects of bullying and stereotyping. You can purchase this book, as well as see what else Mr. Verret creates, at his website, timothyjverret.blog. Mr. Verret shares his life with Conrad, that crazy cat, and a dear dog friend named Blue.

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