Every Twelve Seconds: Animal Suffering and Normalized Violence

On Monday I wrote about the horrific conditions for laying hens, which reminded me of this Opinionator piece by Mark Bittman from a few weeks back.

He draws attention to this new book by Timothy Pachirat, out from Yale University Press–Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight.

Perhaps the cover says more than the title:

From the Yale Press description:

This is an account of industrialized killing from a participant’s point of view. The author, political scientist Timothy Pachirat, was employed undercover for five months in a Great Plains slaughterhouse where 2,500 cattle were killed per day—one every twelve seconds.

Working in the cooler as a liver hanger, in the chutes as a cattle driver, and on the kill floor as a food-safety quality-control worker, Pachirat experienced firsthand the realities of the work of killing in modern society. He uses those experiences to explore not only the slaughter industry but also how, as a society, we facilitate violent labor and hide away that which is too repugnant to contemplate.

I’m really intrigued by the phrase in the subtitle: “the politics of sight.”

I would rather not see the sweatshop workers sewing my jeans.

I would rather not see the landfills filled with the crap I’ve thrown away.

I would rather not see how the people who pick the grapes I eat are treated.

What other things would we prefer be invisible? How does relying on invisibility contribute to an increasingly violent and less empathetic world?

{Then there’s that lunatic farmer somewhere in Virginia who has an open-air slaughterhouse…huh. Got nothing to hide, I guess.}