Marxist Animalism

May 2020 Forums General discussion Marxist Animalism

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  • #202787

    Foreign workers are forced to endure inhumane living conditions so that we can eat cheap meat.

    Those who toil in German slaughter houses are to gain extra protection after new COVID-19 hotspots erupted at several slaughterhouses across the country, with hundreds of migrant workers from Eastern Europe infected. The infected workers from Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and other eastern European countries live in cramped and often squalid shared accommodations, which makes quarantining and social distancing nearly impossible.

    Many of the workers in Germany’s meat industry are hired by subcontractors. Next year, these types of labor arrangements, known as Werkverträge in German, will be banned for the meat industry. Until now, the meat industry largely procured workers using a network of subcontractors and task-specific work contracts. German slaughterhouse operators would sign special contracts with subcontractors which determined a set price for the number of animals that needed to be slaughtered or outlined the weight of carcasses that needed to be cleaned and processed. These types of contracts mean the German companies are not legally responsible for the personnel, leaving workers vulnerable. Migrant workers are often shorted their pay or charged extra fees by subcontractors for work expenses.

    Other articles

    A woman who lives across the street from the workers’ home tells me that authorities were slow to act and says she feels sorry for the foreigners. “They are poor people, put up in squalid conditions and exploited,”


    Meat plants across the world are grappling with serious coronavirus outbreaks. The US has been hardest hit, with confirmed cases at more than 200 meat and food processing plants and the death of at least 66 workers. There have also been clusters of cases at meat plants in France, Germany and Ireland, where more than 500 workers have tested positive.

    “It’s a shit way to go for £9 an hour”

    The South Yorkshire meat processing plant where three workers have died from coronavirus has been criticised for failing to adequately protect workers. Three workers at a Cranswick food processing facility in Wombwell, Barnsley, which supplies UK supermarkets, are confirmed to have died after testing positive for coronavirus. The UK-based company has an annual revenue approaching £1.5bn


    I don’t understand why you have posted this here and not in the coronavirus thread. Your point can’t be that workers in the meat industry have died from the virus, therefore become a vegetarian, can it? If so, what conclusion should be drawn from the fact that (many more) bus drivers have died?


    As you should know by now, ALB, my point on meat-eating is that it will disappear when socialism is established because of the serious psychological effects suffered by those workers in abattoirs and slaughter-houses. No amount of job-sharing will provide sufficient voluntary workers to engage in the unavoidable cruelty of that industry. There can never be a humane cruelty-free killing of livestock on the scale necessary to supply the present day demand.

    I believe your brother is a vet, and from conversations I have had with some, the worse experience they have is the euthanasia of healthy unwanted animals and that is by a process that is as pain-free as possible yet it remains an unpleasant task.

    Today’s level of meat-eating is only maintained by the extensive use of immigrant labour as most indigenous workers decline to work under such conditions which are both inhumane to the animals and as these posts show, also inhumane to the workers. It means only those desperate enough will take such jobs. Such desperation will not exist in a socialist society.

    The brutality of the industry towards animals creates the management mind-set that spills over into the brutal working conditions and the callous treatment of  those unable to find alternative employment.

    The coronavirus pandemic, as with many other aspects of society, has brought to the surface the underlying conditions of the migrant workers within the meat industry.

    That is the focus of the posts.

    If I wished to concentrate on bus-drivers, it would be on their reduced mental stress because of lesser levels of road-traffic and jay-walkers which will also be part of the benefits of socialism.

    As an aside, I think we can speculate that if the taste for flesh persists inside socialism, it will be satisfied by meat substitutes and we see the development of lab-grown meat produced in vats in addition to the increased popularity of plant-based fake meat.



    One of my brothers is indeed a vet and hit the headlines when he had to serve notice about a bull that was being mistreated by vegetarians:

    O irony !

    • This reply was modified 2 days, 2 hours ago by ALB. Reason: Changed the link to one not behind a paywall
    Matthew Culbert

    I don’t buy either that slaughtering for food need be cruel. The present plight of some of the workers is a consequence of capitalisms increased exploitation of them, their living and their working conditions.

    The men used to chase us as kids, when we went in to see the animals in their corrals, to prevent them from being distressed.

    We got too excited as we lived in the east end and hadn’t seen sheep or cattle save in books or on TV.

    Bijou Drains

    In a similar way to Matt I have a bit of skepticism with regards to the necessity of inhumane and cruel practices in meat production (although I accept that killing in itself could be defined as cruelty). I worked as a Social Worker in West Northumberland for many years, often working with farming families and most were very compassionate about the way they raised their animals and the way they looked at wildlife. For example for the most part they detested the local hunt brigade, but as they were for the most part tennant farmers, they had to put up with them and their destructive ways. However if they wanted to get rid of a fox they would rub a bit of polyeurathane foam against a car window at night time. It makes a sound like a rabbit in trouble and when the fox popped up they shot it quickly and humanely, not chasing it until it was exhausted and then watching it have its guts ripped out.

    The Peter Rabbit brigade would have us believe that wild animals live out a blissful existance and die peacefully in their beds, being comforted by their close family and friends. For the most part wild animals lead a pretty precarious existance, live a lot shorter lives than their domestic counterparts and die either a long slow death of starvation and hunger or by being ripped apart by their long feared enemies.

    Given the choice I’d rather have a relatively longer life in a comfortable and humane Socialist farm and then a quick and relatively pain free death at the end of it. To that end I tend, when I can, to eat Mutton and Beef as this is the closest I can get to what I described above. I do however deplore the modern trend of eating relatively young animals because people don’t have the where with all to cook older animals properly.

    As to how cattle would survive in the wild, you only need to look at the precarious existnace of the Wild White Cattle of Chillingham to realise that their lives would be precarious and short lived.



    That’s a good point. For Alan’s pipedream of a world gone vegetarian there’d first have to be a mass slaughter of food animals, either in one go or gradually. And what fanatical veggies make of that?

    It’s just not going to happen and doesn’t need to happen. As to producing artificial meat, what a waste of resources that would have to be to cater for the vast majority of humans who want to eat meat, as humans have been since we came down from the trees (and probably while we were still up there).

    Socialists shouldn’t make fools of themselves and of socialism by advocating such an unrealistic idea. If you want to be a vegetarian, fair enough. Go and be one, but leave the rest of us alone and stop pestering us to be one.


    One of my points is that the nature of the work in slaughtering animals is that it cannot be made humane and less cruel. But perhaps it may be possible to euthanise animals at an industrial scale in a pain-free manner in socialism with an injection. But then there is the butchering of the carcass that is required. Can a person intellectually divorce themselves from the connection?

    No-one expects, Bijou, that domesticated livestock, bred over generation after generation into being totally unlike their earlier wild relatives, can be re-wild. It is impossible. (Maybe goats might be able to go feral)

    So meat-eater will have a temporary respite as the present generation of slaughter-men carry out final culls of farm animals. (i’ve never met too many women who took up the occupation but I am sure there are exceptions. And i’ll add another caveat, it is usually women who predominate in the food processing sector of the meat industry. Matt will know what I mean when I learned the details from a newly arrived female immigrant of the unpleasant work endured at Broxburn)

    We can also expect a slower end to milch cow breeding (with higher rates of lactose intolerance in Asia, i’m well used to soya milk now). Domestic cows can live to 20 years or more; however, those raised for dairy rarely live that long, as the average cow is removed from the dairy herd around age six and marketed for beef. To keep producing milk means cows continuously producing calves and they are usually slaughtered for veal.

    Again i have to say that work which leads to occupational diseases that cannot be avoided will end in socialism and second-best alternatives will substitute. Such jobs cannot have the psychological harm minimised with improved safety equipment or rotating the task or by automation (not sure if sci-fi Asimov readers would approve of killing androids if they were invented).

    There is ample evidence that shows such work as slaughtering animals is not good for a persons mental health.

     “It may seem logical that people that are surrounded by death all day, every day would eventually succumb to the emotional turmoil and stress of having to kill for a living, seeing the live animals coming in knowing that the worker will personally be ending its life but not being about to care. Slaughter house workers are increasingly reporting symptoms of PTSD including extreme anxiety, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and social withdrawal. Nearly 10 percent of Americas Slaughter houses are in Texas, criminologists at the University of Windsor in Canada, reported in a study that there is a strong relationship between the location of a large slaughterhouse and high crime rates in American communities.”

    How lightly those here pass over such findings as

    “Most of the relevant literature addresses animal abuse preceding homicide or domestic abuse cases where the mental predisposition to abuse already exists and animals serve as a convenient outlet for aggression, a relatively easy first step before moving to human targets. In slaughterhouses, the predisposition to abuse is not necessarily preexisting, but killing animals may serve a similar purpose in those without a predisposition as it does in those with one by acting as a first step that desensitizes workers to further violence aimed at humans.”

    A Call to Action: Psychological Harm in Slaughterhouse Workers

    I have already suggested that even under clinical conditions vets are affected by the need to euthanise animals.

    “Studies of shelter staff, veterinary professionals, and laboratory animal technicians have consistently shown that these people experience a higher than usual rate number of physical and psychological symptoms of stress—including high blood pressure, depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse—related to their job.”

    But as I have also said what we personally wish is not particularly relevant. Unless you wish to rear and slaughter your own livestock (and I expect there will be some) those who engage in the industry will vote with their feet and eventually walk off the job. Self-survival will prevail among those now pressed into such work by poverty. We may disagree but I do not envisage willing volunteers lining up to undertake such tasks when there is no vital need to do it.

    Greggs as Bijou now probably has tasted a few times, do plant-based meat-less sausage rolls and steak pasties, a pleasure I have never sampled since they went on the market after my last visit to the UK but from press reports they appear perfectly satisfactory as an alternative to real processed meat.

    Manufactured artificial meat is still in its early days of development but it seems it will progress and produce alternative sources of animal-free meat.

    Those are not unrealistic ideas when peoples welfare comes first. Meat-eaters aren’t going to be deprived as ALB suggests.


    Some meat-eating will persist, varying according to local geography and cultures, as I said often enough previously, but it will become an occasional luxury indulgence. The daily diet will be predominantly plant-based with those seeking the familiar taste and texture of meat finding it in suitably adequate alternatives and substitutes. And as the Gregg’s vegan products have demonstrated, when such is readily available and accessible, they are adopted.

    As an aside, I come from both farming and fishing background. Fathers side still has family working on farms but mothers side, the connection died out with the whaling and herring industry. I recall my father telling me of one of the less pleasant tasks he did in his youth – castrating lambs with his teeth. Perhaps he was passing on a legend, just as he passed on to me his hatred for farmers and land-owners and the fore-lock touching docility of rural workers (including a number of his own family members) to their “social betters” and how they still voted the way the employers instructed them despite the demeaning manner in the way they were treated. He recognised intuitively what Marx described as the “idiocy of rural life.”




    At one time cutting up carcasses was a skilled craft and the early unions of such workers were craft unions.

    But, as in other trades, the employers eventually destroyed the craft aspect of the work and had it done by unskilled general workers and working conditions got worse. Note that both the unions mentioned above eventually disappeared.

    Your argument is basically a variety of the “who will do the dirty work” question. To which we have traditionally replied: what is regarded as “dirty” has more to do with social attitudes to it than with the nature of the work itself and that this often reflected the low wages paid to those doing it. I don’t know what will happen in socialism any more than you do, but I can imagine that those humanely killing animals to eat will be highly regarded by the meat-eating majority for carrying out an essential job ( which they needn’t have to do all the time).

    Working in an abortion clinic must also be pretty distressing for those working there and presumably there will be studies too of the effect on their mental health. But you don’t argue that in socialism women should not be entitled to an abortion unless they are prepared to work in such a clinic.

    Bijou Drains

    But then there is the butchering of the carcass that is required. Can a person intellectually divorce themselves from the connection?

    I have been on several short butchery courses, all of which were well attended by amateurs like myself. I often get a side of mutton or pork and break it down into the different cuts, make sausges, black puddings, white puddings and haggis. I am also quite happy to gut and clean fish, fillet and clean game birds, etc. I don’t think I have develped psychological problems through this process, I do however recognise that an animal has been killed in the process and do my best to ensure that every part of the animal that can be used as food is, including roasting bones to make stock and making broth from the carcasses.

    As to Gregg’s, I am not a fan of their meat products, they were decent in the 60’s & 70s, but their sausage rolls aren’t very good, vegan or not. They are however the only place you can get proper stotty cake (they only sell them in the North East). Back in the day the Scottish bakers Crawford’s had a few branches on Tynesde, now their Scotch Mutton peppered pies were a thing of wonder! I am sure you remember them well Alan, washed down with gulps of Creamola Foam and a bit of Scottish Tablet for your puddin’


    I don’t find your analogy of a slaughter-house to a medical clinic particularly comparable, just as I don’t try to link dissection of bodies to butchery.

    There is a big difference between warder in a prison and a psychiatric nurse in a secure hospital.

    My argument is not who will do the dirty work in socialism but will socialism permit harmful work.

    It is a health and safety question. The damage to mental health for such workers is an occupational disease. Surely, the health and welfare of workers take precedence. Surely, socialism won’t be a society where an job that is proven injurious will be allowed to go on just to benefit others. It will be in nobody’s interests to maintain pitiless working practices.

    “nothing would be produced and no processes would be used that might in any way be a threat to human health and well-being.” – Adam Buick

    How food is poisoned for profit

    “we can be sure that the safety and well-being of those who produce the goods and services will be paramount. ” – Paul Bennett

    Worked to Death

    The point of contention appears to be that you claim that such work can be carried out pain-free and humanely without affecting the mental well-being of those engaged in the industry. I challenge that view and say that even temporary short-time rotation of such tasks will result in psychological harm.

    The briefest of googling produces an abundance of evidence to support my case. But once again, I refer to those who have first-hand experience – those who work in the abattoirs and food processing factories.

    “Maximum six months then you make a change, because if he shoots continuously it will start affecting him. He gets a murderous attitude in him. He will do it to other people. He will stab you with a knife, turn around and walk away.”

    “As time passes, you get used to it. You feel nothing. You can imagine, if you kill a thing a 1000 times over and over, you wouldn’t have feelings after a while. It kills you on the inside, an abattoir, it kills you. You can be full of blood, it will not bother you.”

    But to be fair here is a quote which might think support part of your argument

    “Ensuring that the Muslim community are consuming whatever is wholesome and lawful that makes me very happy, because I’m doing something for the community on one side.” 

    Another article worth a read

    “Australian research suggests repeated exposure to violence in an abattoir causes psychological damage. It found aggression levels among meatworkers were so high they were “similar to some reported for incarcerated populations.”

    How can such studies be ignored? It’s hard to see how those types of jobs could have anything but a deleterious impact on people’s mental health.

    And as I have also emphasised – there are practical substitutes to real meat.

    The job is not one that is unskilled these days.

    As an aside, concerning unions and slaughterers, I worked with a EC member of USDAW who represented the work-force with Halls the Butchers. It was one place he was always hesitant to break bad news to. As he said, they all carried razor sharp knives.


    I don’t understand the point you are trying to make. Of course conditions in places where animals are killed will not be the same in socialism as they are today under capitalism, any more than conditions in factories and offices will be. Ensuring safe working conditions is one of the primary reasons for establishing socialism.

    And your argument that humans are somehow repelled by killing other animals to eat doesn’t wash either. Humans have always done this. In fact as omnivores it could even be said that it is “natural” for humans; it is certainly not unnatural or harmful.

    The case for vegetarianism is a moral not a scientific case. If people want to be vegetarians for moral or ethical reasons that’s fair enough but they should stop trying to bolster their ethical choice with science.

    Basically vegetarians who say that everybody should stop eating meat haven’t got a leg to stand on. We should not mix up the argument for socialism with theirs; otherwise we undermine the credibility of our own case.



    There is also no point in trying to decide now what attitude a socialist society will take towards meat eating and the slaughtering of animals, especially when different parts of the world may take different attitudes towards it.


    Rod, I have added caveats in many of my various posts, hoping to address your concern such as when i said, “Some meat-eating will persist, varying according to local geography and cultures…”  Message #202915

    But hopefully it is acceptable to speculate and  make some generalisations about the nature of socialist society, and again hopefully with some informed educated guess-work.



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