Critical Analysis: Slaughterhouse Labor

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Critical Analysis: Slaughterhouse Labor

As Americans, we are often blinded by the food industry to think that what we are putting into our bodies is to fuel our bodies, not to profit major companies. However, the whole idea of food production is to make food for the general public in the quickest, easiest way possible. When producing a mass product, things must be done efficiently and effectively, regardless of who or what it is affecting. Major businesses try to get the most bang for their buck, and it often has high stakes for those involved in the hard labor of the food industry. Many aspects of this industry have been explored in excerpts from “Fast Food Nation” and scenes from Food Inc., but something that particularly stood out to me was the way that the workers and animals in the slaughterhouses were treated. Workers are treated unfairly and put through unnecessary and unhealthy conditions. We get nearly all of our meat from these slaughterhouses, so it caught my attention that there are people that must work through these conditions in order to make a living, and animals that must lose their lives against their will. It made me think that while consumers are often blind to the ways in which their food is being made, it is incredibly crucial to have an understanding of the severity of poorly treated slaughterhouse workers and animals, because it is, after all, the food we are eating that comes out of the process.

The ideas and arguments against the treatment of slaughterhouse workers and cattle were presented in the text in such a way that the reader is compelled to react. Because the houses were “far away from the strongholds of the nation’s labor unions” (164, Schlosser, 2002), they were able to get away with exposing both animals and workers to unhealthy and unsafe conditions without any major repercussions. The gruesome details of workers standing in pools of blood, or the chilling fact that a majority of them end up getting injured by sharp knives and other tools draws the reader in to feel some emotion. This emotion comes from the tactile feelings of the “hot and humid” (170, Schlosser, 2002) work environment and the olfactory presence of blood and manure. Some may feel disgust, while others are horrified, and more often than not, the readers will feel sympathy for anyone who is put through such a situation. Even for the more selfish audience, the argument is that the slaughterhouse is “a menace… to their own health” (152, Schlosser). In the excerpt, nothing is sugarcoated or taken lightly. This is effective, seeing as it gives the reader an inkling of emotional attachment to the situation.

The author also appeals to people by showing the audience that the workers are, in fact, people. He tells of the silence of the workplace, because the workers are so anxious and not wanting to be getting behind in work. Most Americans can relate to being stressed out, so that brings another key connection. Schlosser describes that the simple motion of cutting meat could cause major tendon issues, or that many workers end up stabbing themselves on the job. When Schlosser tells of the blood splattering on emotionless faces or that getting injured is beyond regular, we realize that it could be us.

In addition to this is the appeal to discrimination. It is mentioned that nearly all of the workers were Latino, and most were young or women. This implies that these workers cannot find other jobs without flying under the radar if they are illegal immigrants, but it also shows that slaughterhouses are most definitely breaking labor laws in the process of making maximum profit.

Meanwhile, the animals are forced to tightly pack themselves around other cattle for months at a time, eating only grain fed to them through concrete troughs. This is strictly to fatten up the cattle and to prepare them to be meat. “The animals stand ankle-deep in their manure all day long, so if one cow has it, the other cows will get it too.”...
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