A visual depiction of the US slaughterhouse industry


Extremely chilling animation depicting the rate of slaughter, in real time, of chickens, pigs, and cows last year in the USA. [Click image or here to go to Herbivore blog and watch.]

27 Responsesto “A visual depiction of the US slaughterhouse industry”

  1. I continue to note how the vegans/vegetarians ignore the widespread destruction to animal life caused by their lifestyle/food choices. Growing vegetables and grains on the massive scales to feed them requires enormous numbers of acres which are under machine tillage, weeding, fertilizing, pesticides and harvest – all of which destroy habitat and kill billions of animals.

    The reality is we’re all part of the food web. Eating means others die for you, both plants and animals. Vegans and vegetarians are simply deludingthemselves or perhaps merely hypocritical.

    Eat meat, in a reasonable amount, along with veggies, grains and fruit.

  2. Joel says:

    Seriously, Walter?  What do you think the animal you eat was eating?  Vegetables and grains.  It takes way fewer resources to feed people vegetables and grains than it does to feed people animals who have been fed vegetables and grains.

  3. Wrong, Joel. The animals I’m eating were eating pasture. They eat pasture that I can’t digest. You are falling for a common fallacy. It is not necessary to raise grains and vegetables to feed livestock. Raise them on pasture. There is plenty for them to eat without having to raise grains for livestock. The fact that you say what you say tells me you don’t know what you’re talking about. I do. I raise pigs on pasture.

  4. Joel says:

    As the topic here is the US slaughterhouse industry, which is in vast majority based on factory farmed animals, I’m not sure I’m wrong.  Your idea that vegans are destroying habitat &c that–presumably?–would not be destroyed if they were eating meat is incorrect.  In short, although no diet can be entirely free from suffering, the “widespread destruction to animal life” caused by vegans is much less than the destruction caused by a typical (or globally sustainable) omnivorous diet.  Perhaps the animals you eat don’t compete with humans for food.  But there is not enough pasture in the world to support animals to feed everyone.  So either everyone eats factory produced meat, or vanishingly few eat meat.

    I know what I’m talking about.  I raise vegetables.

  5. Jed "the country bumpkin" says:

    Sorry, but I don’t know what is so “chilling” about this.  Ethicurean writers and many of its readers eat meat, right?  To eat meat, one has to kill- it is that simple.  I think it is “chilling” to know that more Iraqi’s have died since the US occupation than under the entire Saddam Hussein regime.  I think it is “chilling” that there is modern day slavery in Florida.  I think the genocide of people in Sudan is chilling, but this video is not…..it’s just life.

  6. Jane A says:

    There were some interesting articles I read a few years back analysing just how extensive the damage is from growing vegetables fruit and grains for human consumption and showing that if we converted everyone to a vegan diet that the destruction to animal habitat was truly horrific. Another one of those inconvient truths that we don’t want to admit. Sorry I dont have the links. google it.

  7. Joel says:

    @Jed: I think what’s chilling, even to meat eaters, is the industrial scale.  It’s the reason we find genocide more chilling than a murder.

    @Jane: funny, I’ve read articles saying the exact opposite.  Don’t have the links, though.  Google it.

  8. Bonnie P. says:

    Ooh Walter, you were scrappy last night! Yes, I do eat meat, and yes, I do eat meat almost exclusively from farms like yours. I called it “chilling” because of the massive, relentless scale of the industry involved in slaughtering that many cows, pigs, and chickens. The graphic reminds me of the assembly lines in hangar-sized places where I doubt you’d ever send a Sugar Mtn pig to die. As for the vegan vs. vegetarian vs. conscious carnivore vs. typical American diet: I think animals are essential for a productive farm ecosystem, and can turn sunlight into protein on some land that crops can’t. But we should still go back to the days when meat was a treat.

  9. Agreed, Bonnie. Everything in moderation. I greatly dislike the vegan/vegetarian vocalists who try to convert everyone to not eating any meat while ignoring how important the interrelations of the whole system is and the damage that their choices make.

    There is another closely related issue – Veganism is not sustainable in our climate. To be a vegan in the north, or corresponding south, people have to pop pills or ship in food for long distances for part of the year. I can a tremendous amount of food from our gardens each year but it isn’t enough and there are nutrients lacking. Animals, raised on pasture without any need for grains or petrol, are an excellent sustainable part of that diet. We’re part of the natural web of life.

    I’m no defender of factory farming or mega processing. I grow most of my food – Joel has no idea what he is talking about since he doesn’t know me. As to being scrappy, I hadn’t eaten yet, Joel looks tasty and offered himself up. :)

  10. Joel says:

    Walter, you’ve yet to demonstrate that the choices vegans and vegetarians make are necessarily damaging.  (to what?)  Certainly locavore-style veganism isn’t sustainable everywhere in the world, but it is in temperate zones, ie, where most of the world’s population resides.  Whatever nutrients are lacking in your garden could be made up with different plants.  And no, I don’t know you (although after reading your blog I think I have a pretty good notion), but that doesn’t have anything to do with whether my arguments make sense.  As you haven’t answered them, I’m thinking maybe they do.

  11. Joel, when tilling, weeding and harvesting equipment run through the fields they kill animals. Pesticides and herbicides kill animals (and people). The problem isn’t meat vs vegetable but rather large scale vs small scale. Not eating meat is fine if that is what you want to do yourself but stop bothering to convert everyone else and don’t distort the facts to sell your message – it just makes everything else you say look questionable.

  12. Joel says:

    I don’t deny that these things kill animals in the production of plants.  I maintain that it is not possible for the world to live on small-scale production of either animals or plants; and that the large-scale production of plants is much less damaging (and involves much less suffering) than the large-scale production of animals.  What facts have I distorted?  And at what point did I try to convert you?  I think you may be confusing me for someone else.

  13. Joel, we disagree on a fundamental level. I do firmly believe that the world can live on small-scale production of animals and plants. I base that on our own family’s consumption. If I can do it so can others. You are trying to make an impossible logical statement, “X does not exist because you can’t find it.” I’m making the simple statement that “X does exist, because I have it.” It is possible to feed the world’s population without large scale production. Certain people will need to make downward adjustments to their volume consumption, true.

    Either people will adjust or they won’t. Either the technology will improve or it won’t. Moot. Frankly, I’m not worried about it. What does bother me is when people make claims like “everyone must convert to veganism in order to feed the world” or “meat requires more resources (because they just think factory feed lot grain fed, etc)” and they ignore the destruction of their agenda.


  14. Joel says:

    I’m not making an argument based on what I haven’t seen.  There has been a lot of research done by people, I venture to say, smarter than either of us, about what the world can and can’t sustainably live on.  The projections I’ve read (again, based on statistics, not “I haven’t seen it”) say that in a world without intensive animal production, animal products are prohibitively expensive for all but a wealthy few.  I don’t deny that you and your family can do it–I deny that there are enough resources for the rest of the world to do it the same way.

    Again, I’m not claiming that everyone must convert to veganism, only that in a world without large scale animal production (which we agree we’d like to see), most people will end up being vegan most of the time, by necessity.

    I do certainly claim that meat requires more resources, no matter how the animals are fed.  In this context, an animal is a machine to convert calories to calories, and it does so with less than perfect efficiency.  That’s all there is to it.

  15. “n a world without large scale animal production … most people will end up being vegan most of the time, by necessity.”

    No, I disagree. My family eats non-vegan diet sustainably on just a few acres. If all the world ate as we do we could have a population of 22 billion easily, possibly ten times that (oh, the horror).

    Frankly, a bigger population is better, because it means more people to think. There is a far bigger problem facing us. We must expand off this planet and out to the stars. Living on just one isolated planet in one star system is highly risky.

    “I do certainly claim that meat requires more resources, no matter how the animals are fed.  In this context, an animal is a machine to convert calories to calories, and it does so with less than perfect efficiency.  That’s all there is to it.”

    And you are wrong about this. I raise animals with a net negative carbon foot print and all that. We contribute to the sustainability, not against it. You don’t seem to get pasture and other issues. But I have no expectation of educating you because I see you are locked into your mental state of “smarter than either of us, about what the world can and can’t sustainably live on”. That right there locks up your mind. No progress can be made.

  16. Joel says:

    But you live on a few arable acres.  Most aren’t so lucky.  Actually, can I see your math to get to 22 to 220 billion?

    I’m not talking about carbon footprint.  I’m not talking about pasture versus grain.  I’m simply talking about net calories.  Although of course we can also talk about net water, net acreage, and so on.  For each of these, an animal converts them into something you use; and for each of them, the animal is not perfectly efficient.  Thus, if you can use the input rather than the output, or put the input into a more efficient machine, you will gain.  For almost every climate and locale (not all but most), there are more efficient vegetable machines to convert sunlight, water, earth, and air into product for humans.  Believe me, I do get the idea of pasture; what I’m saying is that pasture is only one way to use the resources of the area, and not necessarily the most efficient one, calorically speaking.

    Honestly, I don’t think that acknowledging that experts in the field are smarter than I am means I’m locked in to my mental state.

  17. I find the very concept of saying you can’t come up with a new idea odd. That’s what I hear when you say that. (okay, see when you write that.) I on the other hand can come up with new ideas and am not going to drink the Kool-aid.

    Do we both agree that:
    The factory farms are bad?
    The mega farms are bad?
    The mega processors are bad?

    We disagree on what it takes to feed the population. Since I know I’m right and you think you’re right we’re not going to change each other’s minds on that.

    What else would you like to address? This is getting cyclic.

  18. Joel says:

    I don’t remember saying I can’t come up with a new idea.  Here’s something we can address: how about you provide your math for how 22 to 220 billion people can eat the diet you eat?

  19. Jane A says:

    Sounds like a communication error or logic error here. Joel you are saying it doesn’t exist. Walter is saying he is doing it. That is to say living sustainably at a level eating meat (how much?) that would support life without factory farms and feed everyone on the planet. One of the things about logic is it is very difficult to prove the non-existence of things and that is what you’re trying to do. Walter is living it according to him so that proves, to him, the existence of the thing making your argument invalid since your argument is based on proving that no instance of the thing exists. You can’t do it. As to experts, they are a dime a dozen. You can find an expert, and pay them if necessary, to say what ever you want. So what. We all know doing just about anything on a big scale does big things and big damage. I really don’t see what all the fuss is about. Joel says he isn’t trying to convert anyone to veganism. Can we drop it?

  20. Joel says:

    Definitely a communication error.  I feel like I’ve been pretty clear but let me try again.  Walter and I agree that a family can sustainably eat meat.  I do not believe that the entire world can sustainably eat meat.  This is not about proving the nonexistence of anything; it’s about the numbers.  We simply don’t have enough land in the world that is free for use as pasture.  Research has been done that supports my position; you can believe it or not, as you like.  Walter says he has done the math to prove I’m wrong.  I am eager to see it.

  21. What I did to come up with the 22 billion is use how much land it takes us to raise everything we need (food+heat+fiber) sustainably for our family. Since we’ve lived that way, producing most of our own food, for a long time I find that a reasonable estimate. Then take the land area of the earth and use 10% of that for people. The rest is margin of error, forests, etc. This includes eating meat in a reasonable amount. If I can do it so can the rest of the world.

    I realize that not everyone will, or wants to, but those people buy from those who do raise meat, veggies, fruit, grains, etc. We don’t produce just food for ourselves – we also raise it on pasture for many other people. We produce enough sustainable pastured meat for several thousand people.

    We’re doing it. We’ve been doing it for years. The math works. Feeding the world can be done with a lot more small farms rather than a few large farms. There is a fallacy that we must have Big Ag to feed the world. That’s wrong. It’s an idea dearly promoted by Big Ag – they don’t want to feel unwanted. 

    There is another fallacy, promoted by vegans/vegetarians, that we can’t feed the whole world if everyone ate meat. That’s wrong. The fact that I can raise enough for our family on just a couple of acres, along with all of our fruit and vegetable needs, proves that it is possible. Just eat less meat and raise it sustainably. Eat a balance. Meat is a high quality source of proteins, lipids and minerals that can be produced on pasture without resorting to the whole petro/grain/subsidy blackhole.

    That’s as much as I’m going to say on this topic. I’ve got other things to do. If the ‘communications error’ isn’t cleared up I don’t know what will do it.

  22. Joel says:

    Numbers, Walter.  The only number you’ve given–10%–is the total arable land of the world, allowing no margin of error or other use.  How can I trust you got the other ones right?

  23. Since you don’t seem to want to do your own math:

  24. Joel says:

    Thanks.  Of course I couldn’t do that math, since you didn’t provide me with the number of acres you use, nor the size of the family you sustain.  And here you say “a few acres”, but there you say one.  Which is it?

    Ultimately your back-of-the-envelope calculation is too simplistic.  Not every acre of arable land in the world is as fertile as yours in Vermont.  Most will need irrigation–water being another scarce resource.  And more importantly, much of the arable land in use today goes to growing non-food crops.  Does your acre provide all the cotton, linen, hemp, canola, and flax your family needs?  Can every acre?  Oh, and how about power?  Sustainable energy means solar and wind, which means huge amounts of land, which means even less space for people to grow their plants and animals.

  25. Joel, actually, most of the arable land is far more fertile than our land. We’re high in the mountains on steep land. We also have the ability to generate plenty of power, grow our our wood, live in a super energy efficient house of my own design that we built with our own hands for very little money – Other people can do it. Once more you demonstrate your lack of grasp of the topic, lack of research and lack of thinking. I’m not going to bother responding to you since you don’t really want help. Rely on your experts – you/they obviously know everything and will never learn anything new.

  26. ann says:

    hint hint everybody — all those experts computer models are little more than hen scratchings on the back of an envelope. they make so many assumptions. change one and the model changes dramatically. every year they give us new fears. focus on doing the right thing and not on theory.

  27. Aimee says:

    While I certainly admire what Walter is doing, I have to agree with Joel that it cannot be a model for everyone else in the world. What about cities, folks? Where are the 22 million people in Mexico city, or the 12 million in New York, etc etc going to get their “few acres” of fertile land? Walter, surely you cannot think that a redistribution of land on such a scale will ever, ever happen. Or that most people, even if given an acre of the best land on earth, would be able to do everything you do and be self sustaining without years of education – or trial and error. I think each of you are spending too much time justifying yourselves, and there’s really no need. You – and I – are on the same side here. I also have a few acres, and we raise all of our own meat and eggs and milk. It works out to one pig, a couple of goats, a small flock of chickens, and a quarter of a cow per year to feed a family of five. They are all raised mostly on pasture, but the milk goats a grain supplement, which we do not raise ourselves. Frankly, I don’t have the knowledge or the math skills to calculate my family’s impact, but I at least know for certain that my animals have lived a happy healthy life right up until we shot them.