Animal Studies Bibliography

Herzog, Jr., H. A. and S. McGee. 1983. Psychological aspects of slaughter: Reactions of college students to killing and butchering cattle and hogs. Int'l Journal for the Study of Animal Problems 4: 124-132.

Students at the small Warren Wilson College in NC must work 15 hours a week on the college's farm to earn their room and board. This provided an excellent opportunity to see how inexperienced people would respond to the experience of slaughtering and butchering animals for meat. This is an especially interesting question since most people in modern society have no contact with meat until it is neatly packaged, and some have argued that if people were more involved in the process, they would be vegetarians. 27 (of 37) students involved in the work crew filled out questionnaires, and some were interviewed. 89% found slaughtering sometimes interesting and a valuable experience. 87% had discussed their feelings with peers, and 74% had felt queasy/ill during a slaughter. Half had had dreams about killing cows or pigs, half reported feelings of accomplishment from the work, and half admitted joking about the work. 19% had sleep disturbances after their first slaughter. 22% said they sometimes enjoyed it. Half didn't eat meat after a slaughter, and 41% said their ideas about meat had changed since they started working there. Rs who had greater experience (had slaughtered more cows) were more likely to report feelings of accomplishment, and inexperienced Rs were more likely to avoid meat after slaughtering. Differences were nearly significant on whether Rs joked about or felt queasy during slaughter. Asked for views on 10 animal uses, Rs approved most of meat eating, hunting for meat, and killing household pets and least of trapping animals for fur, cockfighting, and hunting for sport. Dividing Rs into two groups, hawks and doves, based on their score on the animal uses items, hawks were more likely to report feelings of accomplishment, and doves were more likely to feel guilty about slaughtering and to avoid meat afterwards. Hawk and dove designations did not correspond to experience levels. The only sex difference was that women were more likely to report queasiness. There was a nearly significant sex difference in women being more likely to feel guilty. There were no significant differences based on being raised in an urban or rural area. Of 10 Rs who had killed both cows and pigs, 2 reported pigs were harder for them and one said cows were harder. Most Rs initially bothered by slaughtering said it took them 2 or 3 times to get used to it. 6 Rs had changed their eating habits, 4 reducing their meat intake and 2 reporting better appreciation for good beef. Slaughtering is a voluntary part of the work; 15 had never refused to participate, 9 sometimes refused, and 3 always did. Some said refusals were because they didn't feel well or because enough people were already working on it; others said they felt uncomfortable with slaughtering and therefore avoided it, including because they felt badly for the cows. 63% volunteered aspects of slaughtering that particularly bothered them; most often given was hearing the animal being killed. Other aspects were cutting off the hooves and head, skinning, removing the viscera, putting the animal in the waiting pen, seeing muscles twitch on the carcass, and feeling warm flesh. A few dreams about the experience had story-like qualities (e.g. a cow with slit throat chasing the dreamer, or the farm manager slaughtering the workers), and many had more isolated images of cows with slit throats and missing heads. Most dreams were not nightmarish. Justifications given for slaughtering were that people eat meat so someone must do it (most often given)--i.e. human interests override animals', that's what the animals were raised for/religious dominion over animals, and that the animals were well treated and humanely slaughtered. Some reported guilt that meat production wasted farmland and perpetuated world hunger. Reasons Rs felt they had benefited from the experience included learning about cuts of meat, practical skills and knowledge about where meat comes from, learning anatomy, interesting process, clarifying moral values, help dealing with future gory events. One woman reported this was important for her because men are usually the only ones with experience in such areas. Observation by one of the authors shows that in fact, joking during slaughter is nearly universal and used to relieve tension, suggesting that Rs may have been giving socially acceptable responses by denying their joking. Responses to slaughter were clearly varied and most students showed some ambivalence about it. Responses support Burghardt & Herzog's (1980) assertion that moral evaluation of animal use is based on gut reactions and factors like size and cuteness.




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