Above: English slaughterhouses exposed: 10 minute overview from Animal Aid on Vimeo.The British group Animal Aid has spent years fighting for the welfare of animals in the UK's slaughterhouses. Their efforts have paid off. Thanks to their undercover videos, the horrific treatment of animals awaiting slaughter - including workers beating and kicking animals and carrying at least one sheep unable to walk in a wheelbarrow - has been exposed to the public and resulted in a widespread outcry for reform. According to The Guardian (October 8, 2010), the government is "calling on nearly 370 slaughterhouses in Britain to install surveillance cameras to help enforce legislation against cruelty to animals, following a controversial campaign run by animal rights activists."
The success of this reform owes everything to Animal Aid, a terrific organization, founded in 1977, that has waged many a noble battle on behalf of the animals. They deserve praise for their efforts. They've worked hard for more than thirty years now to improve the treatment of factory farm animals. Animals are better off because of their efforts.
That said, placing video cameras in slaughterhouses misses the point. The worst part of the slaughterhouse is not the pig that is kicked in the stomach, the cow that is not properly stunned, or the diseased sheep thrown into a wheelbarrow and wheeled to the floor to have her throat cut. No, the worst part of the slaughterhouse is the slaughter itself. The worst part of the slaughter is severing the cartoid artery or the jugular vein of the cow or sheep or pig. The worst part of the slaughter is standing back and watching the life drain out animals, whether they happen to be stunned or fully conscious and kicking fiercely.
True, it is better not to torment an animal on his or her way to death. But what really needs to be changed is the mindset that tinkering with the system and improving conditions in factory farms and slaughterhouses will somehow address the root of the problem. Abusing animals is not the root issue here. The root of the problem is the belief that it is moral and appropriate to murder living, breathing, feeling, sentient beings. As long as this level of ultra-violence forms the basis of the slaughterhouse, then no matter how many video cameras are installed, no matter how many pieces of legislation are passed, no matter how many people sing the praises of "happy meat," nothing - nothing whatsoever - will change.