A great many issues in this country which begin as inherently moral have become so highly politicized that any discussion surrounding them becomes dry and heavily saturated with platitudes. The food industry is not one such area in which only soundbytes and clichés dominate the conversation. When I first became a vegetarian, and then a vegan, my personal reasons for doing so were largely governed by the abysmal treatment of animals in factory farms, with the health benefits as a close second; however, the arenas of vegetarianism, veganism, and the food industry as a whole are multifaceted and are as much about human rights as animal rights.
According to the University of Windsor’s recent study on the psychological effects on workers in the slaughterhouse profession, profound trauma has emerged in countless individuals whose job it is to kill the animals which we consume. In short, it is not an overstatement to say that the work these men are employed to perform destroys their psyche, sense of inner peace, and overall well-being. In fact, the book Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry not only chronicles the plight of billions of animals, but of the workers who suffer through a significant mental and emotional toll.
The Texas Observer Article “PTSD in the Slaughterhouse” summarizes this phenomenon perfectly. The fact that these workers are required to take life but are forbidden to feel the emotional ramifications of such a task often leads to substance abuse, many forms of anxiety, and domestic violence. Incidentally, the meat packing industry is the only industry to be singled out by Human Rights Watch for broad workers rights abuses – a testament to the fact that much, much more needs to be done to get society to view the food industry more holistically. The desensitization to which these workers are subjected adversely affects their ability to adjust into a society where killing is “bad,” and a general fondness for animals is “good.”
My personal opinion is that the human spirit is not designed to adapt to such brutality. For the very same reasons I believe war is unnatural, for the very same reasons I believe that our inclination for compassion innately overrides our propensity for hostility, I wish to see an end to the barbaric practice of slaughtering animals in such a mechanized and inhumane fashion. So, why am I a vegan? I aim to reject cruelty to sentient beings, both non-human and human. I reject the speciesist approach to food consumption, but also view the issue through a human rights paradigm.
Gunita Singh is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying political science. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.