Most people I know support the killing of animals for meat…yet when I asked fifteen of them if they would go with me when I had the rare opportunity to tour a slaughterhouse, they refused one at a time. I went by myself.
While the entire experience lives in my brain as a real-life horror movie complete with the cold, the blood, the screams, the stench, and deplorable conditions for the workers, there was one cow whose face, and fate, will be etched in my memory until I take my last breath. She was old, a reject from a dairy herd - “used up,” the man said. She seemed comfortable with people and trusting, so she didn’t require the cattle prod - an instrument capable of producing first degree burns - to walk the ramp to the metal enclosure where she would be stunned with the captive bolt pistol. When the worker came at her with the stunner, she crouched to avoid it. He whistled at her, the way I imagined he might whistle at his dog when he got home that evening. She raised her head in response and was shot with the captive bolt.
She dropped to the floor, was immediately hoisted up by one leg, her throat slit, and as the blood gushed from her body, she was efficiently skinned before my eyes. She was turned within a minute, maybe two, from being to beef. ‘You have just dined,’ wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the distance of miles, there is complicity.’ Emerson was a vegetarian.