Why are slaughterhouses morally repulsive?

Hypothesis: Throughout history, various taboos and social practices have surrounded the use of animals for food, and these taboos have in general the purpose of protecting humans from coming to enjoy the torture and killing of emotional beings, while they continue to torture and kill emotional beings.

Case A: ancient past: the killing of animals was not pretty, but was first order obviously required for surival. Prayers to the dead animals, respect for their life, not over exploiting, no needless suffering created etc…

Case B: middle-ages, pre-modern: the killing of animals was strictly ritualized. To some extent their raising was probably required for community survival, and in some cases perhaps because explicitly luxury. The killing was not draconian, but happened according to a strict process which recognized the brutality of killing the animal was a state of exception – one must not let the killing of the animal translate into a lack of concern for the animal at other times because this might lead to moral degradation. Taboo against mindless slaughter and abuse of animals justified from the perspective of protecting the taboo against molesting and murdering people – because everybody who spends time with them knows animals have emotions.

Case C: present: mechanization has created black churches to torture and suffering. The new ritual is to ignore and to distance oneself from the violence. Either by deciding to consider animals radically non-morally considerable (i.e. not having emotion, feeling – even if this is against the evidence). Or, by not looking, choosing not to think about it. Or by believing in progress and standards (happy meat), or by some form of veganism or vegetarianism (this is an “active form” of not looking).

Alternative case: serial killer: Look at those who do frolic and relish in the torture and killing of emotional creatures – every serial killer account begins with the killing (sometimes accidental) of an animal, and the continual process upwards towards larger and larger animals, until one begins killing humans.

Implications: The practice of veganism must be recognized as two sided. On the one hand, it is merely another method for an individual to cope with the contradictions implicit in exempting certain emotional beings at certain times to any consideration. On the other, it can be a call to resolve the contradiction rather than continuing to preserve it in various forms. Up till now, the ways of containing the contradiction have succeeded only in,(and only to some extent), preserving the taboo against murder and torture of other humans. These methods should be replaced with the radical idea which could resolve the contradiction: animals should not be produced for exploitation and use except where necessary for human survival.


5 thoughts on “Why are slaughterhouses morally repulsive?

  1. I think feedlots are actually far more repulsive than slaughterhouses. The objectionable thing isn’t humans killing animals for their own purposes; rather, it is the conditions in which those animals live.

  2. There is an important distinction between “objectionable”, which refers to reasoned opposition, and “repulsive”, which only refers to the emotive horror.

    And, if you visited a slaughter house to see the mass murder, saw still live animals being boiled or cut apart, you would be repulsed. And it’s a good thing to – because if you weren’t, you’d probably be a serial killer.

  3. It’s perfectly possible, however, to subvert “repulsion” and fail to object on the basis of a rationalization. Further, it’s possible to participate daily in such repulsion and remain, superficially at least, a decent fellow.

    “Most of you know what it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side, or 500, or 1,000. To have stuck it out and at the same time – apart from exceptions caused by human weakness – to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and is never to be written.”
    -Himmler, 1943

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