Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight (Yale Agrarian Studies Series)
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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.
Through his vivid narrative and ethnographic approach, Pachirat brings to life massive, routine killing from the perspective of those who take part in it. He shows how surveillance and sequestration operate within the slaughterhouse and in its interactions with the community at large. He also considers how society is organized to distance and hide uncomfortable realities from view. With much to say about issues ranging from the sociology of violence and modern food production to animal rights and welfare, Every Twelve Seconds is an important and disturbing work.
vibrations that travel along it as the aging wheels creak, drag, and then finally spin against the concrete floor, also becomes familiar, as does the feel of sharp steel bars pressing into my palms as my burning legs stretch back and my elbows lock to give the initial push to move it with its load of a hundred or more livers, each weighing between ten and twenty pounds, forward and out of the way. I become used to the feel of the cooler hose, a live, writhing snake when the water is turned on,
performance. Halting a process that maintains its hypnotic effect through perpetual motion, line shutdowns sometimes also highlight the fantastical nature of industrialized slaughter. One morning, just before eight, one of the hydraulic hoses on the side puller broke, spraying oil on the nearby carcasses. Rushing to the scene, Jill and I marked the carcasses with yellow “re-inspect” cards before Donald could arrive to issue an NR. Alerted to the problem via a “May Day” call over the radio,
allows the kill floor managers to monitor the red hats as well as the line workers. Technically, QCs are not managerial staff; like line workers, they are paid by the hour and have no direct supervisory authority over any other workers. Unlike line workers, however, QCs are not supervised by red hats; they report directly to Bill and Roger and have direct contact with staff in the front office. Implement sanitation is one of the areas where red-hat supervisors typically “compromise” with their
accessed in a perceivable form, including but not limited to any paper or electronic format”(defined expansively enough, in other words, to include the book you are now reading)8—proponents of such legislation ironically underscore a key assumption of any politics of sight: the transformational potential inherent in making the hidden visible. Pity (or horror, disgust, and shock), then, is the assumed response to slaughter made visible, both by those who seek to transform contemporary slaughter
refinement and intensification of what Rousseau terms the sentiment of pity or commiseration, what Anthony Giddens characterizes as events that arouse existential questioning, what Hannah Arendt references as “the animal pity by which all normal men are afflicted in the presence of physical suffering,” what Max Horkheimer terms “the solidarity of the living,” and what Lev Tolstoy evokes in passages like the following: “When a man sees an animal dying, a horror comes over him. What he is