Wake Up and Smell the Bacon: The Nightmare of Pig Slaughter and You the Serial Killer

Authors: Claire Calfo, Chelsea Conroy, Jacob Crown, Shima Dadashzadeh, Zoe Dulchinos, Michele Garlit, Isabella Giannini, Grant Gordon, Katie Hagan, Maxime Heerinckx, Katherine Jack, Madeline Kileen, Grace Mcdougal, John Nunziati, Charles Odei, Jonathon Redmond, Spencer Sins, Samuel Wheeler
Authors: Claire Calfo, Chelsea Conroy, Jacob Crown, Shima Dadashzadeh, Zoe Dulchinos, Michele Garlit, Isabella Giannini, Grant Gordon, Katie Hagan, Maxime Heerinckx, Katherine Jack, Madeline Kileen, Grace Mcdougal, John Nunziati, Charles Odei, Jonathon Redmond, Spencer Sins, Samuel Wheeler

Many of us students at Santa Clara University know at least one individual who loves to go on roller coasters, has been skydiving, or is always driving far above the speed limit. We call this individual an “adrenaline junky.” Just as the roller coaster gives a feeling of euphoria to the adrenaline junky, a murder often delivers the same feeling to the mind of a serial killer.

Jeffrey Dahmer was an infamous serial killer who claimed 17 victims between the years of 1978 and 1991. Dahmer had a strange behavioral history, and although he was viewed as a polite individual in his adult years, he was always considered very bizarre. Dahmer began his killings in 1978 when he murdered a transient that he had lured into his home. Dahmer’s first murder was messy, and not at all similar to the method of his later crimes. It took Dahmer years of killing to develop his calculated and disturbing killing technique. Dahmer claimed that initially, he did not set out with an intention to commit murder and that the incidents just occurred. However, after Dahmer was no longer riddled with guilt, he went on to kill for over a decade.

The process by which Jeffrey Dahmer escalated from a bizarre alcoholic to a serial killer is not unlike the transition that modern day slaughterhouse workers experience. Many workers are at first shocked by the conditions the animals are subjected to, and disturbed by the process of killing the animals. Initially, workers are hesitant and do not understand the desensitized behavior of other workers who have been on the job for a longer period of time. However, many workers admit that their treatment of the animals escalated from an already disturbing systematic killing process. The workers go from one extreme to the next, on one end barely wanting to engage, and on the other promoting the violent physical abuse of these animals. Whether it is watching others, or being forced to confront a living animal and then kill that animal, these workers begin to seek violence against the animals.

It is not just factory workers who seek this violence, but the consumers as well, though in a subtler manner. Walking through the grocery store, there are approximately 40,000 product choices available to every customer. Many of these choices are meat products. A customer may walk up to the deli counter, or even just a refrigerator, and gather an assortment of meats, available to them from a plethora of animals cut into any shape they may desire. The consumer is exercising their power over animals just by rolling their cart through this section of the supermarket, surveying all the options, and imagining the ways to prepare and enjoy these animals. Everyone who is capable of driving to a grocery store and purchasing meat is also fully aware that it is an animal that has been killed. As consumers of meat products, people wish to feel superior to the animals that they eat at their leisure, without having to do the dirty work themselves. Animals are there for the consumer’s enjoyment, both to eat and satisfy their need for superiority.

Kato, Tetuji. “8/19 To Eat Human Body.” – Tetuji Kato Blog. N.p., 24 Aug. 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

This enjoyment of carnage and superiority complex can stem from a feeling of inadequacy that develops over the course of added daily stressors. Your coffee spills all over your shirt, you’re late to work due to traffic, you’re laid off from your job due to budget cuts, you’re yelled at by your significant other—you just feel like everything is out of your control. And what can you still choose in the midst of all this chaos? Your food.

This constant feeling of stress leads the average consumer to turn to “conventional” ways of dealing with their stress so that our carefully constructed lives don’t begin to crack around us.

One of the most common ways people deal with massive stressors are by simply shutting it out, or by psychologically blocking out their normal reactions to them. To put in more simplified terms, the victims “numb” themselves as a coping mechanism to these stresses. Using numbness as a means to help deal with daily struggles is clearly seen in victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a common emotional disorder that affects individuals such as military troops coming back from service, or those who have experienced a major trauma like 9-11. Similar to those working on the kill floor of slaughterhouses, troops lives for many months are consumed by killing living things: to think that emotional issues would not come from the action is unrealistic. In the studies conducted by the American Psychiatric Association on Marines returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most common symptom among PTSD sufferers was a numbness to the violence that they’d experienced only weeks before. The troops responded so little to the violent imagery they were exposed to in the study that a new conclusion on PTSD has been suggested—that their morals have been in fact altered by the events (Zoraya).

Numbness to prevalent violence is applicable to more than just a person who has experienced combat or has taken life with their own hands. At times, ignoring brutality can be so passive that it is entirely pushed out of the mental frame, not even considered when making decisions. This is seen in the average meat-eater throughout the nation. Consumers shut out the violence that arrives on their plate every time he or she goes to a steakhouse or burger joint, seeing it as a meal rather than something that was once alive. If one really looks at our dependence on meat as a main source of protein, it is almost sickening: in America alone, we go through 69 million pigs per year to feed our need for pork. However, we do not stop because consumers do not think about the nitty gritty of what is on our plates. (Michele Garlit)

What is more American than the cheeseburger with bacon? At Wendy’s, a famous fast-food joint, they even have a cheeseburger with so much bacon that they named it, “The Baconator.” This added item caused sales across the board of the restaurant chain to raise by 11%–a massive increase to say the least (Williams). But no one likes to talk about how many cows make up that burger or how many pigs are killed each year to feed America’s “bacon trend”.

What about a good, old-fashioned, backyard barbecue, complete with sausages, baby back ribs and chicken wings? Why do American consumers not see it as a massive display of various pieces of animals lathered in seasonings and sauces, being cooked until their fat has melted?

But you’re not likely going to hear people discuss any of these killed animals around the grill and at the dinner table. Why? Because it is something that is shut out. The moment anyone brings up something remotely disgusting, the first thing out of your mother’s mouth is, “Not at the dinner table,” because we don’t want to spark the knowledge that we’re eating something that was once alive. The only way the omnivore consumer can cope with the violence in our meat industry is by shutting it out of our minds completely.

Although many believe that people are numb to the inhumane treatment of animals in the meat industry, especially the pig-farming industry, Americans are actually completely aware of the violence inflicted onto these poor, innocent animals.  High-stress work environments, Americans’ need to feel superior, and Americans’ tendency to succumb to the bystander effect allow this cycle of brutality to continue in our food system.  Our treatment of pigs is so extreme and deranged that it actually resembles the life and crimes of the serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer—a man who inflicted cruelty as a result of his borderline personality disorder.

The high-intensity, stressful work environment that factory farm employees toil in each day perpetuates the violence towards the animals.  Workers use the violence as a sort of therapeutic release for their frustration in their powerless positions in the pig-farming industry.  Because there aren’t any taboos or laws preventing them from taking their stress out on the animals, workers use violence as an outlet for all of the stress that builds up in a high-stress environment, like a slaughterhouse.

Workers also feel inferior in the pig-farming industry, so they seek superiority amongst the pigs in the slaughterhouse.  They feel detached from the animals they are killing and rationalize their violent behavior to feel powerful in their workplace.  This is similar to Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders in that he craved superiority in a society that shunned him for his homosexuality.

Americans have also fallen victim to the bystander effect, the social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which the presence of others hinders an individual from intervening in emergency situations.  In the pig-farming industry, the horrors of the kill room perpetuate the violence and prevent new employees from standing up for what is right.

When confronting the issue of the consumer’s mentality towards eating meat and pigs in particular, a lot comes into play regarding what motivates a buyer to purchase and consume pig products.  One aspect that influences a pork purchase is whether or not the package gives information regarding the origins of the meat.  Since meat companies are not required by law to give details about the farms that their meat comes from, many companies choose not to reveal their origins.  This is a huge indicator of whether or not a consumer will purchase the meat.  While some consumers may feel more comfortable with locally grown meat that identifies the specific farm space the pork comes from, others may be more apt to buy meat from a larger company like Tyson.  And although Tyson packages may not give the specific origins of their meat, a consumer may feel more comfortable with a familiar brand name like Tyson. (Quagrainie, 202) For example, a package of bacon that shows the address of the farm that the pig was raised on may be more easily sold to a consumer interested in locally grown pork products.  The decision is relative based on the consumer’s mindset.

In some cases, the consumers may be encouraged to buy brand name meats because they aren’t aware of the system that the animal has gone through to get a complete packaged ham.  However, if the consumer is educated to the extent that they know and are affected by the factory farming production system of pork, they may choose to seek locally farmed products instead.  And even further, if a consumer is so deterred from the meat production line that further action is necessary, often a buyer may convert to vegetarianism, or veganism (Pluhar).  Basically, the decision to buy a certain kind of meat is relative in the eyes of the consumer.  A combination of past experiences, personal preferences, and internal opinions on factory farming all play a significant role on the consumers decision to buy meat.

This disturbing image shows the way many humans in our modern world view meat.  Although when we think of eating meat we may not think of the picture above, the stripped down reality is basically just that.

Most people understand that it is not okay to harm another human being, especially if it is a way to relieve stress. It is also a known fact that animals share a majority of their DNA with humans, and pigs are one of the most similar animals to us. However, factory workers can separate themselves enough that they can justify hurting animals, based on the idea that they are vastly superior. This dissociation is also commonly found in serial killers. Jeffrey Dahmer was able to inflict pain and ultimately kill his victims because he could separate himself from them.

Jeffrey Dahmer felt marginalized throughout his life. He was homosexual and possibly suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, which made it difficult for him to connect with others, leaving him feeling lonely and angry. He would get upset if one of his victims tried to escape, because he felt entitled to them. After he would kill them, he would almost idolize them, keeping various body parts in his house. Dahmer was able to look at the remains of his victims without remorse because he felt superior to them, which is evidenced by the fact that he continued to kill until 17 young men were dead. Obviously, the case of a serial killer is not an exact mirror image to the slaughter of farm animals, but the roots of their violence are the same.

This is similar to what was found in Jeffrey Dahmer’s freezer when he was arrested. It is interesting to think that this is a horrifying image to everyone, yet the carcasses of animals in the form of steaks, ribs, pork chops, etc. in our freezers doesn’t phase us.

Violence can stem from many factors, and those who are involved in high stress situations may experience agitation or frustration, that can propel them towards aggressive behavior. Phil Arkow, coordinator of National Link Coalition, has clearly drawn a connection between animal abuse and adult maltreatment. He assists in the realization that abuse is transferrable, and people can harbor those aggressive feelings and desires, to take it out on someone or something else. Those who may not physically harm their spouses or children may easily harm animals at work. For example, if a rational person realizes that domestic abuse is illegal, but senses no repercussions to kicking around a pig at the slaughter factory, then the thought of releasing stress and built up tension seems reasonable to them. The mental state and anxiety felt by the workers pushes them to harm the animals unnecessarily, to release themselves of unwanted frustration. Dr. Phil, world-renowned professional in mental health, presents his findings on animal abuse with high regard to anxiety. He states, “So when kids have anxiety, which they do, instead of soothing themselves, calming themselves, talking about it, expressing it to someone, or even expressing it emotionally by crying, they tend to externalize it. They can attack something, they can kick a wall, they can be mean to a dog or a pet.”

A crucial root of this externalizing problem, according to Dr. Phil and multiple other researchers, is violent video games. In this vicious virtual world, you are applauded and rewarded for aggressive behavior or killings. When you shoot and kill a person in a game such as Call of Duty, you are likely to receive extra points and a “Nice Shot!” from any teammates. With all of these positive connotations connected to violence and aggression, people are prone to tie in this virtual world with the real one. Additionally, video games are known to be a leisurely activity. When you’re overworked, stressed, or filled to the brim with anxiety, sitting on your couch with a controller in hand- giving you full control over your life for just a little- is relaxing, almost therapeutic. If the idea of violence is calming and therapeutic in the virtual world, it is almost expected that one would transfer that emotion in their physical life. For instance, picture a home scenario where your parents constantly nag you, your brothers constantly fight with you, and screaming is now basically white noise. This would push you to lock yourself in your room, join your friends on Call of Duty to kill every last enemy and blow off excess steam. Paralleling this concept is pig factories. Workers and employees may use aggression towards the animals as a coping mechanism for the frustration they’re encountering. The picture below depicts the mental state of someone who plays video games. One cannot expect a person to simply play in these virtual worlds and retain none of their experiences; the brutality and weapons/aggression are just as prevalent in their minds as the controller. Many people exhibit this violence in the real world through hunting. Hunting is a way to gain power, to feel control, and to feel superior. You can take a small weapon and defeat animals that may be twice your size. How do people feel this power? Through the thrill and excitement of the kill. Many psychopaths work this way as well, and although people feel uncomfortable comparing themselves to serial killers, or animal abusers, those who indulge in these violent behaviors experience the same emotions.

The psychological effects of superiority has led to violent outcomes many times in history. In April 1968, Jane Elliott’s “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” experiment identified third grade students as inferior or superior based simply upon the color of their eyes. Her experiment caused the superior third graders to engage in discriminatory behavior towards the inferior ones. Similarly, In August of 1971, during the Stanford prison experiment, where twenty-four male students acted as prisoners and guards in a mock prison, the guard participants over adapted to their roles by enforcing dictatorial control and psychological torture on the prisoners. Violence caused from feelings of superiority has also been seen in human and animal interactions. In particular, pig farm workers at Murphy Family Ventures, who have full dominance over their livestock, have been fired for violent behavior such as cutting off piglets’ tails and pulling out piglets’ testicles. (source: http://www.peta.org/blog/pig-farm-workers-fired-abusing-animals/)

A Violent Addiction

In an increasingly violent food system plagued with injustices, workers have resorted to lashing out against innocent and undeserving farming animals to relieve their stress and are becoming addicted to this twisted therapy. New neurological studies indicate that exerting violence on other beings releases addictive chemicals that we — both average citizens and violent farm workers — are getting hooked on. Psychologists across the world agree that people use violence as a tool to help them feel superior to those around them. When we feel weak, helpless or stressed, we resort to tribal instincts that tell us to attack in hopes of restoring our safety and comfort. If the serial killer’s drug is murder, then our drug is violence and we need an intervention.

Violence among consumers and factory farm employees creates a continuous, unbreakable cycle due to the way our brains have generated an addiction to the violence as a stress-relieving source. Addiction is described as an intense craving for something where an individual loses all control over their actions and continues these addictive habits even with the knowledge of the consequences. Additionally, addiction alters the brain and the way it identifies pleasure. Although addiction was interpreted in many different ways in the past, today, professionals understand that addiction is a chronic disease that takes control of the brain by changing “both brain structure and function” (Understanding Addiction). The initial step of addiction is the voluntary action, which in some cases is smoking that first cigarette. The next is enjoying that action, interpreting it as pleasurable, and continuing to repeat it because of this. Many neuroscientists have linked some addictions to how our brain creates habits. They have “traced out habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal-ganglia, which also plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories, and pattern recognition” (Duhigg). All substances or behaviors of abuse release a powerful neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is the brain’s “reward” neuron. Dopamine is typically released when activities such as eating a cupcake, sex, or even pulling a trigger on a gun take place. This explains why so many people take part in activities like hunting or going to the gun range. The prefrontal cortex area also comes into play when it comes to decision-making. However, once a behavior becomes automatic, the prefrontal cortex no longer needs to be used. This relates to dopamine because once a pleasurable habit is interpreted as habitual, our decision-making goes down the drain. Dopamine not only contributes to pleasurable feelings but also plays a role in learning and memory—which is why addiction is so common. Placing ourselves in particular situations certainly contribute to large amounts of stress that cause addiction. This explanation of addiction and dopamine can make our heads spin; yet there is so much more to this complex system.

In addition to dopamine, stress is also a major part of our decision-making and motivation. Stress is essential in making sure we study for tests and are productive in our everyday lives. However, this perfect amount of stress is rarely the case. Especially in America, consumers live in a face-paced, hectic environment that not only increases our stress levels but also does allow us to relieve this stress. This causes a build-up that results in certain repercussions. This build-up usually produces an outlet and in this particular case, the outlet is violence. Serial killers are a group that is particularly studied in these areas as they are depicted to crave power and control. It is easy to infer that an addiction to killing or violence is related to serial killers. It is shown that even many people feel satisfied or even pleasure after killing in hunting or hitting the red spot at the gun range. Victoria Kim in her article The Link Between Serial Killers and Addicts finds shocking connections between addicts and serial killers. She even explains that withdrawal from killing builds and hits a trigger threshold that leads to sprees. She also explains that, “withdrawal from killing may cause a buildup of hormones in the brain’s amygdala, which point the only way to alleviate the very unpleasant feeling of withdrawal is to seek whatever the addicting stimulus might be” (Kim). This root of violence and addiction is very intertwined and can even be connected to violence towards animals with factory workers in pig farms and everyday consumers.

As factory workers are forced to turn to violence because of stressful working conditions, why is it that they continue to choose violence as an outlet for stress? Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy provides one possible explanation for this issue. Cuddy explains that when our mind feels confident and in control, our level of testosterone and cortisol in the brain biologically increase (Cuddy). So why is this so important? Cortisol is a steroid hormone that has a number of different effects on the body, but the one relevant for this issue is its relationship to stress. Cortisol naturally triggers anti-stress pathways, which in turn makes us less stressed. In other words, when our body feels in power, our mind naturally relaxes itself.

This explanation directly elucidates why violence is so addictive in the pork industry. Instead of being indifferent about violence, factory workers choose to be violent because of the psychological connection that is associated with it. Violence enables workers to be in control, which takes them away from the stressful working environment of pig farms. Workers are able to feel normal again. The issue, however, is that the sensation that comes with violence is only temporary. The stress inevitably comes back and workers end up craving the “high” that results from violence. Workers end up caving in and ultimately become addicted to being violent. Violence indirectly becomes a form of therapy for workers in the pig industry. They slowly see violence as the only means of feeling normal. Ultimately, violence is so addictive in the pork industry because it becomes a cycle of therapy. Violence takes the stress away from workers, making them crave the feeling of violence, and the cycle continues on.  But workers aren’t the only ones to blame.

Today, consumers obsess over trends.  These trends can span everywhere from new hairstyles, clothes, and even food .Consumers follow these food trends due to their craving to be a part of the overarching desire to fit in so as to not become an outsider.  All of the consumers who give in to these trends fail to think about the repercussions of them following this trend.  One trend that has become increasingly more popular is the bacon craze.  Bacon mania has become so popular that you cannot go anywhere without seeing or hearing something about bacon.  Bacon is advertised in stores, restaurants, TV, and the Internet. The popularity of bacon has created a consumer tendency to purchase bacon at higher rates than ever before.  In the past decade, bacon has grown into an industry generating more than $4 billion in annual sales.  This is more than cupcakes, ramen, or kale, bacon has become the defining food trend of a society obsessed with food trends” (Business Week).  All of this attention towards bacon means more pigs being raised on factory farms where pigs are constantly tormented by farm workers.

The terrible treatment of pigs is constantly overlooked by the everyday consumer.  Consumers get caught up in these trends and don’t think twice to about how these animals are being raised and treated.  Even when some people do think about how horribly treated these animals are, most consumers buy the food anyways.  This is because of the anxiety that consumers feel because they do not want to seem like an outsider who doesn’t fit in.  If we would all think a little more independently and didn’t care so much about what other people think, maybe the demand for these animals wouldn’t be so high and these animals wouldn’t be treated so badly.

Nobody’s hands are completely clean when it comes to violence in the industrial food system. Ignorance is no excuse for supporting the abuse that goes on every day behind the curtains of our food. Our addiction has created a vicious cycle of violence that seems near impossible to escape in the current state. Even if we as consumers can find healthy alternatives to factory farmed pork, workers must still change their ways. It’s becoming increasingly difficult, however, for pig farmers and killers to stand up and speak out against injustices since unnecessary violence is already commonplace in the world’s biggest pork farms.

As much as we would like to say we are unaware of the inhumane treatment coming from animal farms, most consumers are aware of the fact that animals are treated far from what would be considered fair and humane conditions. However, people continue buying the same pork from the same factory farm at the same chain grocery store. In essence, the consumers of the food industry act as bystanders to the violence occurring. In fact, only fourteen percent of those who claim they know about the cruelty occurring in slaughterhouses change their meat buying habits (Vansickle).

The Bystander Effect

As the industrial food system has evolved, developed, and expanded, consumers have continued to stand by and act oblivious to the horrors occurring behind closed doors in the factory farm system. We consume the fatty bacon on our plates without processing the pain this individual animal went through before appearing on our dinner plate. The violence the pig was subjected to before consumption is unfortunately overlooked, and quite blatantly ignored by consumers. Theology professor Zuzworksy states in his scholarly journal From the Marketplace to the Dinner Plate, “food animals in the American market system are subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering before they make it to our dinner played” (177). As consumers we each have the responsibility to voice our opinions on the issue of violence and inhumane treatment in factory farming. By not voicing opinions, we enable to system to continue functioning in a violent and horrendous manner. Consumers not caring for the violence behind their food in the factory farm system is a classic example of conformity and the bystander effect. We stand by and continue to buy bacon at the grocery store because everyone else is doing the same thing. The mindset of “Everyone else is doing it so it must be okay” becomes the norm.

Photo: Peta Ad “PETA Applauds Horrific Maroon 5 Video Glamorizing Violence Against Women.” VEGAN FEMINIST NETWORK. N.p., 18 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

The bystander effect explains a lot about human behavior, specifically why we are so easily able to turn a blind eye to violence. The natural human tendency to let others take control of the situation or voice an opinion supports the idea of the bystander effect as well as the origins of violence.  The bystander effect that occurs among consumers appears in countless other aspects of life, specifically certain social and group situations. I would like to argue that consumers ability to easily watch animals being tortured directly correlates with bullying taking place in schools. Why do kids so often act as bystanders when they witness the act? Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences researcher and professor, Stuart Twemlow, attempts to explain the phenomenon of the bystander effect with bullying in schools. He explains, “The victim is the product of the bully’s social action on behalf of a group of abdicating bystanders” (290). It is a natural human tendency to wish to be uninvolved in a conflict and hope for others to figure it out.  The reason violence occurs in the factory farming system roots from people’s natural tendency to act as a bystander.

“Somebody Else’s Problem.” Those three words became highly popularized through the famous movie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Although the story is fiction, there is some real truth behind the phrase, “Somebody Else’s Problem.” The “Somebody Else’s Problem” phenomena falls under the psychological concept of “Diffusion of Responsibility.” Diffusion of Responsibility is the “reduction in feelings of personal responsibility in the presence of others” (Lilienfeld 516). This phenomena can be best seen in the murder of Kitty Genovese, who had as many as 30 people witness her attack and murder without any intervention (Lilienfeld 515). This bystander apathy has spread and poisoned the average pork consumer. Overall knowledge of the general public of the injustices that the meat industry commits has recently been on the rise. Media such as films like “Food Inc.” and exposes on the meat packing industry (Arora) have helped bring this topic to light. Despite many consumers knowing about it, people “…turn a blind eye and trust the artifice of bucolic imagery on meat packaging” (Arora). In addition to the apathetic attitude, consumers degrade those who have made the commitment to try to make a change in the system. People “[criticize] vegetarians and vegans for being self-righteous – or being moral opportunists in having found a new way of affirming their decency to themselves…” (Arora). With the lack of action from the average consumer and the criticizing of those who take action, it seems as if the average pork consumer simply wants to walk by the dying pig alongside of the road, hoping that someone else, someone unknown and unseen, helps it out. To the average pork consumer, the systematic torture and execution of pigs is, just like the homeless man on the side of the road.

As much as we would like to say we are unaware of the inhumane treatment coming from animal farms, most consumers are aware of the fact that animals are treated far from what would be considered fair and humane conditions. However, people continue buying the same pork from the same factory farm at the same chain grocery store. In essence, the consumers of the food industry act as bystanders to the violence occurring. In fact, only fourteen percent of those who claim they know about the cruelty occurring in slaughterhouses change their meat buying habits (Vansickle).

To some, the lack of incentive may be due to indifference toward animal treatment. However the reason most individual consumers do not act against animal cruelty is because they feel powerless compared to the meat industry that is comprised of a few powerful corporations. Barb Kowalcyk is a rare example of an individual starting the fight against the meat corporations. Kowalcyk lost her young son due to an e. Coli tainted hamburger. She began fighting for stricter food regulations and received constant setbacks because it was so difficult to fight the United States Department of Agriculture that supports the meat companies (Food Inc.). Other people are discouraged in the same way. However, what consumers don’t realize is that a simple change in buying habits can eventually lead to a nationwide transition away from factory farm pork. Remaining a bystander and continuing normal routines essentially just perpetuates the violence occurring.

Employees of slaughterhouses numb themselves to unethical behavior and violence simply because they are constantly surrounded by it. This behavior may be explained by a phenomenon know as the “group mentality”. When people are part of a large group it is natural for them to abandon their usual inhibitions and adopt the mentality of the people they are surrounded by. Psychologists commonly refer to this as the Contagion theory. (James) Although group mentality is commonly seen throughout mobs and riots, it can also become present within consumers and employees of the food industry.

Imagine that you just got a new job at a slaughterhouse owned by Hormel Foods. At your first day of work you are shocked by the way employees treat the animals in their final moments, but when you try to speak up you are immediately ridiculed and shut down by the other co-workers. How long do you think it would take before these violent acts became a part of your everyday routine, or even before you conformed and joined in? Years, months, or even days? In a study conducted known as the Stanford Prison Experiment, a researcher recreated the environment of a prison and placed 21 students into the roles of “prisoners” and “prison guards”. In the experiment it took one day before the participants took on the roles they were given as prison guards, so if it took only one day for students to dehumanize their peers, imagine how easy it would be to degrade animals. (McLeod) The more surprising part of this study was that the prisoners allowed the guards to mistreat them with no questions asked. When a person is in a group, whether they give them power or take it away, they are likely to conform in order to fit in with the people they are surrounded by.

So, you might be asking yourself, “Why should I care about how my pork was treated when it still had a snout and tail?” Because you, as a pork-loving carnivore, are helping to perpetuate this cycle of violence with every slice of sizzling bacon you pop into your mouth. Every dollar you hand over to the bored cashier in exchange for a bloodied package of meat, every trigger you pull forcing a bullet into the skull of a fleeing deer, and every adrenaline filled kill you rack up in Call of Duty fuels your inherent need to be the most superior being on the planet. Although there is nothing unnatural with this hunger for superiority, when violence towards innocent animals becomes the way in which we feed our unquenchable thirst for power and dominance, we must also be aware of the striking similarities we share with the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer.

Our use of violence as a mechanism for control and an outlet for stress leads to deranged acts of aggression. The widespread mentality of “it’s someone else’s problem” is no longer acceptable. It is not sufficient justification for the harm we are continuing to inflict on powerless pigs. Abuse, stress, anxiety, and a desire to be in control may drive us to be carnivorous savages, but this cycle of unwarranted violence must end. It is not “someone else’s problem” anymore; it is ours.

The correlation between the mental process of consumers and serial killers is scary. The reliance on animal abuse as a stress outlet is so unimaginable that only someone with the psychopathic nature of a serial killer could justify the perpetuation of these acts. When people stop turning a blind eye to the violence and cease to condone acts of unwarranted aggression they begin to impact the way other consumers view their food choice. With this mentality, consumers create an unstoppable chain reaction that, over time, will make the comparison between carnivore and serial killer impossible. But for now, our supermarkets are littered with hundreds of Jeffrey Dahmers, lurking the aisles in search of their next victim.

One day, a policeman came to talk to a group of us at school as part of a safety educational program. After discussing how to get away from an assailant and avoid being struck by a bullet, he told us the most crucial piece of information for when you are out of options and must face the killer: look them dead in the eyes and dare them to shoot. The police officer said that 90% of the time, the attacker cannot pull the trigger after realizing they are going to kill an actual human being and not some character from a video game. So, next time you are at the supermarket, with all that fresh meat in front of you, picture yourself in the blood-stained floor of the kill room and force yourself to look that scared animal dead in the eyes and then see if you’re as quick to pull the trigger as you once were.




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