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Animals, Society and Culture Lecture 7: Cultures of meat eating and farm animals 2013-14.

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Presentation on theme: "Animals, Society and Culture Lecture 7: Cultures of meat eating and farm animals 2013-14."— Presentation transcript:

1 Animals, Society and Culture Lecture 7: Cultures of meat eating and farm animals 2013-14

2 Lecture outline How people who work with farm animals relate to and perceive them – ambivalence. Factory farming systems where individuation of animals is least and they’re regarded as ‘embodied commodities’ rather than as individual beings who can suffer. How meat eating has become associated with risk – risk to the animals, risk to human health, risk to the environment.

3 Livestock/Deadstock Rhoda Wilkie’s book explores the lives of those who work with farm animals and the relationships they build up with them. Ethnographic study of production of beef cattle in north eastern Scotland. Interviewed 53 people – 30 men and 23 women working in different jobs within the farming sector including vets and abattoir workers. Her sample included hobby farmers as well as commercial farmers. Focuses on is animal husbandry, farmers and stockpeople who have a duty of care to their animals and who establish relationships with them but who also have to send them to slaughter. She argues that the relationships differ depending on the animals’ productive career.

4 Sentient commodities Reflects ambivalence of the animals’ status and how people relate to them. Instrumental and affective relationship Some individual animals seen as friends, pets and work colleagues ‘Orphaned lambs and calves can be routinely de-commodified on the provisional understanding that, as productive animals, they will still be sent to market or slaughtered.’ (Wilkie, 2010:127). One of the hobby farmers said that all the sheep are different, all individuals: ‘But if you took the trouble to get to know all the sheep that were going to go off to the abattoir, then you would realise that they were all different… [Then] we’d all be vegetarians, ’cause we’d realise they were all individuals’ (Wilkie, 2010:136).

5 Individuation Seeing animal as individual varies according to their productive function. Breeding animals can become individuals and workers become fond of them over lengthy periods of time. ‘with the cows you actually make friends with them, you actually go out and some sort of bonding, some sort of relationship, gets set up. You recognise characteristics, you recognise the fact that they’re different, you recognise their uniqueness. With the young stock, you don’t do that actively; you do it passively. Something may be thrown up in front of you but you don’t actively seek it.’ (Wilkie, 2010:141)

6 Sending to Slaughter Animals are both commodities and sentient individuals. ‘slaughter stock is more easily denied the individuated status imputed to and enjoyed by many breeding animals’ (Wilkie, 2010:142). Unless they depart from ‘the normal process of production, slaughter animals are fairly anonymous and will be processed as part of a de-individualised and commodified group’ (Wilkie, 2010:146) Many of the workers coped by not thinking about what happened to the animals once they were sent away. Just didn’t think about the process between live animal and meat in shops.

7 Killing In the slaughterhouse itself animals are stunned and then bled. Even those who stun the animals find it hard, have to harden themselves to it. One said: ‘A lot of guys can’t do it because you have to face the animal and shoot it at point blank range’. Wilkie goes on to say that ‘The significance of being face to face with the animal was captured in a ‘moon-eyes’ look, which, he explained was a ‘sad longing, unsure, looking-for-comfort [look]. You see that walking towards you and you’ve got to shoot it’. (Wilkie, 2010:163).

8 Who kills? ‘Not only is such a doubt formally possible; it exists in reality. When asked, some will say that the bleeding alone causes death, which is true, but they will promptly add that, once stunned, the animal feels nothing; ‘it’s as if dead’, and bleeding merely finishes off a death that would in any case not be long in coming. Others consider the stunning crucial, and the reason they give is the same one: ‘it’s as if dead… and what follows can no longer matter to it’.’ Vialles, N (1994) Animal to edible, Cambridge University Press

9 Factory farming Shift from husbandry to industry Relationship between stockperson and animals is severed and with it the duty of care – what’s sometimes seen as the social contract between humans and the animals they eat – the animals become units of production, they are completely commodified. Less likelihood of regarding the animals as individuals.

10 Mass production The underlying principle of factory farming is production for a mass market – so push down costs to increase productivity and profit. With mass production of meat it becomes cheaper. As a result the meat content of western diets increased substantially over the course of the 20th century. Now about 90% of all eggs in Britain and US are produced in batteries Almost 100% of broiler chickens produced in intensive sheds Around 80% of pigs are reared from sows kept in close confinement

11 Chickens Chickens were the first animals to be factory farmed. Two types of chicken – battery hens which are the layers and from whom we get our eggs, and broilers which are the ones bred for eating. Account of factory farming in the US in Kalof and Fitzgerald, ‘Brave new farm?’ By Mason and Finelli.

12 Fordism The production systems are highly mechanised, rationalised, and require minimum input of human labour. In 1961 almost all egg producers kept flocks of less than 1,000 birds and required minimum of one stockperson, with battery production only need one stockperson for every 30,000 birds. ‘by placing large quantities of animals in semi- automated manufacturing systems housed in discreet buildings in the countryside, farmers and consumers have been significantly insulated and distanced from the consideration of individual animal suffering.’ (Franklin, 1999)

13 Five freedoms We believe that an animal's welfare, whether on farm, in transit, at market or at a place of slaughter should be considered in terms of 'five freedoms'. These freedoms define ideal states rather than standards for acceptable welfare. They form a logical and comprehensive framework for analysis of welfare within any system together with the steps and compromises necessary to safeguard and improve welfare within the proper constraints of an effective livestock industry. 1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour. 2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area. 3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment. 4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind. 5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering. (Farm Animal Welfare Council)

14 EU welfare research EU is developing codes of practice The Welfare Quality Project (2004-2009), and the Welfare Quality Network (current) k/44186/5/0/40 k/44186/5/0/40

15 Working conditions Recent expose of trafficked workers working with Freedom Food chickens. t/29/workers-chickens-allegedly- trafficked-beaten t/29/workers-chickens-allegedly- trafficked-beaten

16 Working in slaughterhouse Slaughterhouse workers regarded as less than human, the moral dubiousness of this work is reflected in social valuation of it. The dis-assembly line is like working in a factory. Pay is low, turnover high, boredom high. All male and high use of migrant labour – trafficked labour. Low skilled, no other job prospects. Very dangerous – high levels of sickness, injury and death, cavalier attitude to health and safety of both humans and animals. Brutalisation of workers and cruelty to animals – systematic and normative cruelty found by research in slaughter houses.

17 Effects of factory farming Streams and rural water supplies contaminated with animal manure Respiratory ailments triggered by airborne ammonia Antibiotic resistant pathogens such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) BSE in the 1990s an example of meat contamination

18 Decline in meat eating Meat eating began to fall after government campaigns in the late 1970s linked fatty meats and dairy products with heart disease – but consumption of chicken has increased. Varies between classes – more of a decline in service class than working class (29% compared with 14%) (Table 8.1 Franklin, 1999:152) Vegetarianism on the increase. 1984 – 2.4% of population vegetarian 1995 – 4.5% 2007 – 5% (DEFRA figs) Almost twice as many women as men vegetarian. Health scares relating to animal fat has most impact on young men, vegetarianism most appealing to young women. 45% gave up eating meat for health reasons, 16% for taste, only 13% gave moral reasons (Franklin, 1999).

19 Deforestation Amazon deforestation. o/2012/nov/14/brazil-halting-deforestation- amazon-video o/2012/nov/14/brazil-halting-deforestation- amazon-video World Bank estimates that ‘since the 1960s, about two hundred million hectares of tropical forest have been lost, mainly through conversion to cropland and ranches, the latter especially in Central and South America’ (Cudworth, 2011:121).

20 Summary Ambivalence in relation to farm animals – attachment and aloofness – attachment is to individual animals, more pronounced when involved in breeding animals than in fattening them up for slaughter. Moral discomfort with slaughter. Introduction of factory farming has created system of mass production. Reduced massively chances for individuation of animals. No relationship between stockperson and animals, systems automated, serious implications in terms of animal welfare. Mass production of meat has consequences for animal welfare, human health and the environment. Can understand this in terms of the profit motive and capitalist production increasing the risks associated with the production and consumption of meat.

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