Slaughterhouse workers are more likely to be violent, study shows
- by: Tory Shepherd
- From: news.com.au
- January 23, 2013 1:10PM
- Meatworkers are as prone to violence as prisoners
- Women have higher levels of aggression than men
- But farmers are more laidback than the general population
Reseachers say more work needs to be done to find why abattoir workers are cruel to animals. AFP PHOTO / Juni KRISWANTO Source: AFP
People who work in abattoirs are more likely to be desensitised to suffering, which in turn could make them more likely to be violent towards humans, the research published in the Society and Animals journal found.
Overseas research has found that towns with abattoirs have higher rates of domestic violence and violent crimes including murder and rape, which prompted the Australian team to investigate the situation here.
Flinders University senior sociology lecturer Dr Nik Taylor said it had been established that the more positive a person’s attitude to animals, the lower their aggression levels, and that the reverse is also true – if you’re cruel to animals, you’re more likely to be violent to humans.
She found that meatworkers’ aggression levels were “so high they’re similar to the scores… for incarcerated populations”.
“They’re a pretty angry bunch and that anger shows,” she said, adding that one of their “jawdropping” findings was that women in the meatworking industry were even more aggressive than the men.
“We’ve got some very, very angry women. Maybe they need to prove themselves by being more macho,” she said.
The study included meatworkers and farmers, and they found that while farmers had “utilitarian” attitudes towards animals they were less aggressive than the general community – and meat and dairy farmers had better attitudes towards animals than wheat farmers.
The authors used a “propensity for aggression” scale.
“This study essentially showed that farmers are a pretty nice lot,” Dr Taylor said.
“They take care of their animals, they’re laidback and not at all aggressive.
“For the meatworkers, on the other hand, it wasn’t so positive.”
Dr Taylor said while their sample size was small – comprising 41 farmers and 26 meatworkers – it builds on existing research that has established a link between working in a slaughterhouse and being more aggressive and violence prone.
A 2010 study by Canadian criminologist Amy Fitzgerald found violent crimes including sexual assault and rape increase in towns once an abattoir moves in.
The University of Windsor professor compared statistics from 581 US counties to prove the link, and says labourers become desensitised to violence. She ruled out factors such as the influx of young men and immigrants, whom communities sometimes blamed.
Prof Fitzgerald said it wasn’t the nature of repetitive and dangerous work, but the act of slaughtering an animal that was to blame for the increase in violence.
“The unique thing about (abattoirs) is that (workers are) not dealing with inanimate objects, but instead dealing with live animals coming in and then killing them, and processing what’s left of them,” she said.
Dr Taylor said the Australian findings showed more work needed to be done to assess the effect of working in abattoirs on both employees and the community.
News.com.au has contacted the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union.