Confessions of a slaughterhouse worker

cow skull

About 100 million animals are killed for meat in the UK every month – but very little is found out about individuals doing the killing. Here, one previous abattoir worker explains her job, and the effect it had on her psychological health.

Caution: Some readers may discover this story disturbing

When I was a kid I dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. I pictured myself playing with naughty young puppies, calming down frightened kitties, and – as I was a countryside kid – performing check-ups on the regional farm animals if they felt under the weather.

It was a quite idyllic life that I thought up for myself – however it’s not rather how things worked out. Rather, I wound up working in a slaughterhouse.

I was there for six years and, far from spending my days making inadequately cows feel much better, I was in charge of guaranteeing about 250 of them were eliminated every day.

Whether they consume meat or not, the majority of people in the UK have actually never ever been inside an abattoir – and for good reason. They are dirty, unclean places. There’s animal faeces on the floor, you see and smell the guts, and the walls are covered in blood.

And the smell … It strikes you like a wall when you first go into, and after that hangs thick in the air around you. The smell of dying animals surrounds you like a vapour.


For me, it was because I ‘d currently invested a couple of years working in the food market – in ready-meal factories and the like.

On my very first day, they provided me a tour of the facilities, explained how whatever worked and, most significantly, asked me specifically and consistently if I was OKAY.

As I invested day after day in that large, windowless box, my chest felt progressively heavy and a grey fog came down over me.


There are things, however, that have the power to shatter the pins and needles.

At the end of the slaughter line there was a huge skip, and it was filled with hundreds of cows’ heads.

Whenever I walked past that avoid, I couldn’t help however feel like I had hundreds of sets of eyes viewing me.

skulls and bones

I understand things like this troubled the other workers, too.

I took him into a conference space to relax him down – and all he might say was, “It’s just not right, it’s not right,” over and over again.

Even even worse than pregnant cows, however, were the young calves we often had to eliminate.

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Many of its members, it states, “are at the forefront of abattoir style with centers designed to house the animals and help them move around the website with ease and without any discomfort, distress or suffering”.

Meat processing in the UK utilizes about 75,000 individuals of whom approximately 69%are from other European Union member states, the BMPA notes.

” The barrier to British people taking up functions in meat processing is an objection to work in what is viewed to be a tough environment,” it states.

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At the height of the BSE and bovine tuberculosis crises in the 1990 s, entire herds of animals had to be slaughtered.

We tried to keep them within the rails of the pens, however they were so little and bony that they could quickly avoid out and trot around, a little wobbly on their newly born legs.

When the time came to kill them, it was tough, both emotionally and physically.

Five calves

Later on, looking at the dead animals on the ground, the slaughterers were noticeably disturbed.

I seldom saw them so vulnerable.

A lot of the men I was working with were likewise moonlighting somewhere else – they ‘d finish their 10 or 11 hours at the abattoir before going on to another task – and fatigue typically took its toll.

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‘ I’m an animal lover’

A slaughterman at Tideford abbattoir, explained his method to his work, for The Food Chain on the BBC World Service:

” Basically, I’m an animal lover. Just be professional, do it, then switch off – and then, when we’ve finished work, go home and be a normal person.

Listen to The Food Chain: Inside the Abbattoir

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Abattoir work has been linked to multiple mental health issues – one researcher uses the term “Perpetrator-Induced Traumatic Syndrome” to refer to signs of PTSD suffered by slaughterhouse workers.

It’s uncertain whether slaughterhouse work triggers these problems, or whether the job draws in people with pre-existing conditions.

cow eye in the dark

After I left my task at the abattoir, things started looking brighter.

A few months after leaving, I heard from one of my former colleagues.

As told to Ashitha Nagesh

Illustrations by Katie Horwich

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