Every Twelve Seconds: Animal Suffering and Normalized Violence

On Monday I wrote about the horrific conditions for laying hens, which reminded me of this Opinionator piece by Mark Bittman from a few weeks back.

He draws attention to this new book by Timothy Pachirat, out from Yale University Press–Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight.

Perhaps the cover says more than the title:

From the Yale Press description:

This is an account of industrialized killing from a participant’s point of view. The author, political scientist Timothy Pachirat, was employed undercover for five months in a Great Plains slaughterhouse where 2,500 cattle were killed per day—one every twelve seconds.

Working in the cooler as a liver hanger, in the chutes as a cattle driver, and on the kill floor as a food-safety quality-control worker, Pachirat experienced firsthand the realities of the work of killing in modern society. He uses those experiences to explore not only the slaughter industry but also how, as a society, we facilitate violent labor and hide away that which is too repugnant to contemplate.

I’m really intrigued by the phrase in the subtitle: “the politics of sight.”

I would rather not see the sweatshop workers sewing my jeans.

I would rather not see the landfills filled with the crap I’ve thrown away.

I would rather not see how the people who pick the grapes I eat are treated.

What other things would we prefer be invisible? How does relying on invisibility contribute to an increasingly violent and less empathetic world?

{Then there’s that lunatic farmer somewhere in Virginia who has an open-air slaughterhouse…huh. Got nothing to hide, I guess.}

About Rachel Marie Stone
  • Tim

    I’d rather that no one sees the sins I commit. God sees it all though, mine, yours, theirs. (Hebrews 4:13.)

  • http://www.greenfieldsbeyond.blogspot.com Justin Moore

    Great post, Rachel…there are so many “invisible” things going on, that we don’t want to see.

    As I read the description of the animal slaughterhouse, I contrasted that with the men in my neighborhood who, two winters ago, took me on a deer hunt with them. We were neighbors, relatives, and friends, and it was a combination of social reunion and communal work. We hunted on one man’s farmland, killing deer who had been eating his corn & beans. I missed my shot, but several others were more successful and (with their patient instruction) I helped clean, skin, and butcher the various deer, a job which required cooperation and skill. I won’t romanticize it: there were slimy and odoriferous moments. But it brought me close to my neighbors, our land, and our food in a way that few other moments have. And the next day, when they gave us some of the meat and Mel turned it into an amazing dinner for friends, I experienced a sense of “feasting” that shrinkwrapped hamburger has never brought to me.

    • Rachel Stone

      that is a great story, Justin. Thank you.

  • charity

    I’m so glad you brought this book to my attention! As far as food is concerned, I’d rather not see what goes on inside my internal organs when I eat a standard Americand diet…which is more often than not!…but on a more meaningful note, I think Tim takes the point here!

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