Slaughterhouse workers, fishermen face high risks of injury; teaching them skills key to ensuring their dignity, financial well-being

Various surveys conducted across the world indicate that the worst jobs are that of sewage cleaners and workers at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Factory farms include farms where fish, cattle, poultry and other animals are grown and slaughterhouses are where they are killed for their meat.

Millions of slaughterhouse workers doing various jobs, including dragging animals to where they will be slaughtered, stringing them up, bleeding them, breaking their bones and skinning them. An equally difficult job for these workers is to tend to the animals being reared in tight enclosures. This entails them to administer injections to the animals every day, clean out their food and faeces and move them to overcrowded trucks.

Moreover, slaughterhouses are dirty, smelly and filled with blood, making the working conditions unsanitary and putting the workers at risk of diseases.

 Slaughterhouse workers, fishermen face high risks of injury; teaching them skills key to ensuring their dignity, financial well-being

Representational image. Reuters

Each of the workers is trained in different processes that are conducted inside a slaughterhouse. While one may specialise in killing and bleeding animals, another may skin or boil them. There are some who may make separate cuts in animals to separate fat, muscle and the bone. Dealing with animals in various states of fear and pain, these workers get accustomed to the constant noise of dying animals that protest till the end.

These workers are also underpaid and form the lower rung of society. Could this be the reason that they live together in tight, slovenly ghettos all over the world?

Slaughterhouse workers have many kinds of jobs that might seem unfathomable to an average adult:

Animal masturbator: The sperm of animals is always in great demand, whether by researchers or farmers, who want to conduct artificial insemination of their livestock. The only way to obtain the sperm is to masturbate the animal and catch the semen in a pot. Animals have to be physically excited and cases of serious injuries during these procedures are common. Manual stimulation or using an artificial vagina on the animal’s penis are other options. Electroejaculation generally requires anaesthetising the animal and is typically used on zoo dwellers.

The AV, a large latex tube coated with warm lubricant, is used primarily to get sperm from dairy bulls. In this procedure, a brave technician redirects the bull's penis into the mock genitalia. Three additional technicians anchor themselves to restraining ropes attached to a ring in the bull's nose. This procedure is also followed by pigs and goats.

An artificial insemination technician, also known as a dairy cow midwife, inserts semen into female bovine vaginas to get them pregnant.

Chicken sexer: The technician picks up fluffy, hour-old, chicks, turns them upside down and squeezes their faeces out so that he can determine the offspring’s gender. The males are killed. This job requires a gentle hand (so as to not damage the female chicks) and a good eye (to recognise whether they have a penis or not).

Animal shearers: These technicians pin the rabbit down flat on a surface and then shear the hair off, often breaking bones and leaving cuts on the animal’s body in the process. The same applies to sheep shearers — considered the worst job in Australia, next to sheep daggers — whose job is to bend over sheep and remove soiled wool from their backsides – a process extremely painful for the animal and backbreaking for the human.

Goose/duck stuffers: To make pate foie gras, the diseased duck liver that is considered a food of luxury, the bird has to have an aluminium or plastic tube put into its food pipe. Workers stuff corn mesh down the tubes constantly and make sure that the retching birds keep it down. If the mesh gets stuck they have to put their fingers into the tube to make sure the corn is pushed down into the stomach. This process continues until the liver is as large as the bird and it can be killed.

Pig hair remover: The hair is pulled out from the live pigs. Three people hold the animal down and the fourth pulls out bunches of hair, which are sent to be made into brushes. Later, the blood is washed off.

Pig stabber: There is a belief that pigs should be stabbed many times before being killed so that the pork is more edible. People are hired in piggeries to take short knives and stab pigs repeatedly before killing them. A former floor manager gave the following account, "The worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll. Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later, I had to kill them, beat them to death with a pipe. I can’t care."

Animal renderer: Workers who bring the entrails, bones and blood from butchers and slaughterhouses, clean and strip them, boil and sort them, so that these animals can be turned into soap, fertilizer, candles, pharmaceuticals and toiletries.

In India, these jobs eventually become family professions. Parents train their children from a young age, often at the age of four.

Most facilities operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week — killing and processing hundreds or thousands of animals each hour. As one worker recounted, "There is no time to sharpen the knife. The knife gets dull and you have to cut harder. That’s when it really starts to hurt, and that’s when you cut yourself."

Each slaughterhouse worker suffers from diseases ranging from tuberculosis, asthma and bronchitis to eye, nose and throat irritation. They also suffer from traumatic injuries and noise-induced hearing loss. Workers suffer chronic pains in their hands, wrists, arms, shoulders and back. The industry has consistently operated with one of the highest injury rates in the country.

Fishermen experience one of the highest rates of fatalities among all classes of workers. They must stay at sea for extended periods, withstand adverse weather and sea conditions, catch, extract and store fish and load and unload the catch. Depleted supplies of fish in many waters add an element of uncertainty regarding the success of expeditions.

Apart from negatively impacting the lives of workers employed with the industry, these jobs also result in land and water pollution, posing a risk to citizens all over the world. Instead of trying to increase meat exports, the government should be looking at retraining slaughter house workers in skills that let them get jobs that ensure their dignity and financial well-being. Others can help by switching to vegetarian diets.

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Updated Date: May 28, 2019 08:58:45 IST