Pachirat’s “Every Twelve Seconds” and Adams’ excerpts from “The Pornography of Meat” both address the treatment of animals to show how notions of power and privilege continue to play a key role in our modern society. Pachirat provides an in depth description of a particular slaughterhouse in America to illustrate the reality of the processes that occur in this industry. Pachirat explains that this slaughterhouse is distant and invisible to the public. The slaughterhouse is physically deceptive because the building’s outer appearance looks like any other building in the community. Additionally, the people who are working within the walls of the slaughterhouse are the only ones who have true knowledge of what is actually going on inside. I found the first three chapters to be particularly informative since Pachirat physically worked in the slaughterhouse and can therefore offer a firsthand account. I personally gained a lot of eye-opening and disturbing information about what is involved in producing the meat that appears in grocery stores or at restaurants. Pachirat says “in many of our meat dishes the animal form is so concealed and changed by the art of its preparation and carving that while eating, one is scarcely reminded of its origin” (10). Before reading this book, I honestly did not think much about how a piece of meat presented on a plate at a restaurant got there. Pachirat continuously argues that “distance and concealment are at work as mechanisms of power” (31). I am able to distance myself from what goes on in the slaughterhouses, which reinforces how I, along with my classmates, am in a privileged position in our country.
I found it interesting to think about the appearance of meat in grocery stores in America compared to markets around the world. When I was abroad in Barcelona last semester, the famous market called La Boqueria had several meat sections. The meat on display consisted of items including pig bodies, cow legs, and duck heads to give a few examples. After seeing this meat, I told myself I would never eat it. The meat that is sold in American grocery stores on the other hand looks very clean and is neatly packaged. This example led me to question why Americans in particular are by and large blinded from the process of killing animals and preparing animal meat, which goes back to Pachirat’s description of the slaughterhouse.
Pachirat provides an explanation of all the different positions in the slaughterhouse to show how a hierarchical structure exists within the slaughterhouse as well. He gives the layout of the slaughterhouse and illustrates that people with superior, prestigious jobs are distanced from the actual process of slaughtering animals. For example, the front office and the kill floor are as far apart as possible. He describes how race, class, gender and education are factored in when examining the different workers. The employees who work in areas like the kill floor have beyond brutal and difficult responsibilities. As I read about the details of the kill floor, my stomach churned. Pachirat explains that those working on the kill floor face the most dangerous and unsanitary conditions, compared to those in the cooler or fabrication department. The kill floor is “where leaking fluids—from blood to urine to feces to vomit to bit of brain mater to bile—are a constant presence” (40). I cannot imagine the lives of these workers who experience haunting images of destroyed animals every single day. I began to wonder if they suffer severe mental and emotional consequences, like those soldiers experiencing PTSD. These workers are carrying out their duties as ordered by their superiors. Many of these people need these jobs in order to survive economically. Because our society has grown to be so competitive, people are willing to take jobs in places like slaughterhouses if necessary in order to strive toward success. These are the people taking the lives of the animals because our society is relying on them to do so.
In the "Pornography of Meat" excerpts, Adams discusses the overall structure of our society and how animals and women represent inferior objects. Women and animals are both seen as consumable or usable in different ways. Due to the dominant views that have been constructed in our culture, women and animals are expected to serve others. When thinking about animals, Adams asks a critical question, how did we come to accept that animals are destined to be no more than meat? (19). Humans have the power over animals and therefore often use them as meat. We strip animals of their individuality and uniqueness and turn them into our food, as seen in Pachirat’s description of a slaughterhouse. It is impossible for us to know what an animal is thinking or how an animal is feeling. However, it is clear that animals experience pain and pleasure. Animals are beings that do not exist to merely feed humans. Slaughterhouses, along with mass imprisonment, are examples of systems that illustrate how power and privilege function in our society. These systems symbolize larger structural issues in America today.