Looking at words – ‘slaughter’

Image by Tras los Muros

Image by Tras los Muros

The word that keeps recurring to me today is ‘slaughter’. It’s a common word; everyone knows it, probably everyone uses it. I look on it as one of these words that we tend to use without examining too closely. It’s a bit like the word ‘suffering’ that I wrote about recently. It’s a word we glance at and we get the gist; a vague impression of something undesirable, unpleasant. And then we move on. Swiftly, thinking words like ‘necessary evil’ and ‘protection laws’. But today, indulge me, let’s have a closer look at what it really means.

Slaughter. What does the dictionary tell us? I looked at several and each has a slightly different definition. Disregarding colloquial use like ‘the football team was slaughtered’, definitions fall into two main categories; humans and nonhumans, and may be summarised as follows:

The killing or butchering of cattle, sheep, etc., especially for food;
Killing animals for food;
The killing of animals for their meat.

The brutal or violent killing of a person;
Killing people or animals in a cruel or violent way, typically in large numbers;
The violent killing of a large number of people;
The killing of many people cruelly and unfairly.

Hiding in plain sight

Isn’t it interesting what a dictionary tells us in terms of the double standards of our species? Note that definitions that broadly relate to nonhumans aim for a matter-of-fact tone with ‘killing’, ‘butchering’ whereas with only minor exceptions, definitions relating to humans, suddenly become ‘brutal’, ‘violent’, ‘cruel’ and ‘unfair’.

As always, our prejudices are hiding in plain sight. We skate over the facts unless our own species is involved, and then even our very dictionaries – where we look for facts and clarity – are dripping with speciesism.

Much is written about the preposterous term ‘humane’ slaughter. For me, it’s crystal clear that trying to insert the word ‘humane’ (merciful, kind, kindly, kindhearted, tender, compassionate, gentle, sympathetic; benevolent, benignant, charitable) into any of these definitions just won’t work. It doesn’t. It creates a completely nonsensical term.

Well so much for the wordplay.

Death is death

Put simply, land based nonhumans are slaughtered by the tens of billions and aquatic dwellers by the trillions every year to assuage consumer demand for their flesh and body parts, and as a direct result of our obsessive use of their eggs and breast milk. It is of absolutely no relevance what kind of prison our victims occupied while awaiting death or what kind of food they were given – things we are encouraged to obsess over and look upon as ‘welfare‘ – they all end up in the same place. The slaughter process as inflicted on sentient mammals and birds varies depending on the species but in every case it is geared to achieving one thing; their death. The death of every one of our bird and mammal victims is by ‘exsanguination’, which means they bleed to death, are drained of blood.

This bleeding to death is done by the cutting open of the throat and severing the carotid arteries and jugular veins, or the blood vessels from which they arise. Gravity is enlisted to assist their hearts in this process of bleeding to death, hence the reason that the dying are hoisted upside down as their lifeblood pumps from their gashed necks. In other words, they are not dead at this stage.

Stunning and gassing

I know many of us console ourselves that the practice of stunning is intended to prevent our victims from being aware of what is happening while their throats are being slit. Setting aside the fact that this can be an inexact procedure, particularly given the sheer volume of nonhumans passing through the death factories at ever-increasing speed each year, once we start to open our minds to what is really going on here, our common sense kicks in.

Many of our victims are massive individuals and their terror and awareness of their plight cause them to seek escape with a strength born of desperation. While much is made of stunning as some sort of ‘humane’ way of easing their distress, we need simply remind ourselves that this is all happening in the interest of profit and commerce, driven by nonvegan consumer demand. In other words, the main reason stunning happens is to reduce risk to the machinery and the operatives who are carrying out the processes. Common sense tells me that a large bovine hanging upside down by one leg is difficult to achieve unless the desperate individual is in some way disadvantaged. Once hoisted in this manner, the potential for the struggles to cause harm is severely restricted.

With smaller, helpless species like chickens, the issue of damage caused by their futile struggles is obviously not a consideration. Their deaths, however, take place on conveyor belts. Frantic fluttering would not be in the interests of efficiency.

As for the use of CO2 gas which is a common method of incapacitating turkeys and pigs, the stunning effect is significantly delayed compared to a bolt gun or electric bath. Carbonic acid forms on the moist mucous membranes of the animals’ respiratory tract, causing a stabbing pain. Their desperate screaming is heart-wrenching and individuals have been known to tear their feet off in their frantic struggles.

It is easy to find procedural manuals for killing nonhumans online but I have no wish to become an expert. I know all I need to know and my common sense fills in the blanks. As will the common sense of any who allow themselves to turn away from the myths that we were all taught as children.

Hard to believe

And if, by any chance there are any ‘animal lovers’ out there who are still undecided about whether this word ‘slaughter’ relates to something morally justifiable, I would ask them to consider this.

It is recognised that our victims are sentient individuals, as are those species whom we regard as companions and indeed as are we ourselves. When considering other sentient species, we have far more similarities than differences.

Many, if not most of us have shared time with, and even loved, companions. I have shared my life with nonhumans, cats and a dog about whom I have written before. I have held trembling paws in my own shaking hands as the light faded from their beloved eyes, ebbing on the tide of drugs administered by a vet. I have held them in my arms and wept over them as their breathing slowed and stopped. To this day it torments me that they may have known an instant of fear or pain that medical expertise could have prevented.

If someone had tried to tell me that to stun them with a captive bolt or by electric shock, hoist them upside down by one leg and cut open their throats was a ‘humane’ way to end the pain I could no longer prevent, I would have had no difficulty seeing it for the nonsense it was.

Common sense has not failed me and I’m confident yours won’t fail you. We have no need to slaughter anyone, can live and thrive without deliberately causing harm.

Stop refusing to be vegan.



Video is of stunning by CO2 gas. This is routine for several species and is boasted about by the industry as being ‘humane slaughter’. Judge for yourself.

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32 Responses to Looking at words – ‘slaughter’

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  25. veg4life says:

    Most of society is what we call brainwashed – in some form or another. People have been misled to believe that by buying free range, grass fed and organic is healthier and more humane. This is simply nothing more than a ploy to make people feel better about their choices so that companies still profit without losing public support. The reality is it is no different than factory farming practices. There is no such thing as humane slaughter!! People need to seriously wake up and find their compassion! Also animal agriculture is not a sustainable way to feed the world, something’s gotta give sooner or later unless we change our ways and views. http://humanemyth.org http://humanefacts.org http://carnism.org


  26. cushpigsmum says:

    Thank you – I re-blogged. With many of my friends now attending slaughter house vigils, as part of the growing Save movement and posting pictures and videos, it’s abundantly clear that the idea of ‘humane’ being applied to any part of the slaughter process is a mockery and a very sick joke. The journey into the abattoir is about as inhumane as it gets – crowded into trucks, with no food or water, the atmosphere loaded with fear. Human beings have no humanity when it comes to farmed animals. It’s high time most people were compelled to confront the atrocities they fund.


  27. cushpigsmum says:

    Reblogged this on iliketowritewhatithink and commented:
    Compassion in World Farming made popular the oxymoron ‘humane slaughter’ when it attempted to bring some ‘compassion’ to industrial scale animal farming. I assume the intention was good – to abolish factory farming in favour of more humane methods that would end in a more humane death. At the time, as an omnivore, this all seemed perfectly reasonable – this is how damaged our thinking powers are when we are stuck in the habit of eating animals. Alas I had no vegan friends to take the scales from my eyes back then, in the 1980s and 90s and during the first decade of the 21st century. We can’t make enslavement, confinement, exploitation and slaughter ‘humane’, no matter what mental gymnastics we attempt to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Powerful, moving post. Words are used too easily, without thought and people are so habituated to hearing them they just become white noise as it were, they don’t really connect with them anymore or think about what they really mean. But many people nowadays think of very little at all, certainly in any meaningful way.
    I too have held animals while they died and it is haunting, even more so in comparison to the lost, lonely ones who die with no hand to hold them.
    Good words, I wish more people would listen to them and wake up.

    Liked by 2 people

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