Dead Meat

Dead Meat

Dead Meat

Dead Meat

Synopsis

Armed with her sketchbook, Sue Coe traveled across the United States, following the path from factory farm to feedlot, to the "killing floor" of the slaughterhouse. Her firsthand observations are rendered in her diaries and artwork - stunning, unforgettable images. Dead Meat graphically documents the castrations, debeakings, electrocutions, and decapitations; the skewing, flaying and dismembering; the pathos and tragedy. Coe made eye contact with a frightened veal calf awaiting execution and talked to the people who commit the sanctioned killing that supplies our meat-eating culture. Her illustrations evoke the dark, cavernous abattoir, slippery with blood, steam, and body heat. Workers wielding knives and stun guns slave in dangerous conditions, dehumanized by the brutality of their jobs, alienated by economic oppression. Like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Dead Meat indicts the system of corruption and consumption that exacts such a toll from its citizens.

Excerpt

This slaughterhouse is thirty-five minutes from the center of Montreal. We drive along the highway in a freezer truck, go through a housing estate, then onto a deserted road, along which are several meatpacking buildings. These buildings look typically innocuous. They are one-story link and corrugated structures, with no clue as to what goes on inside, except for the stream of trucks backing in and out. We go into the front office, and I wear a hard hat and white coat. I've heard stories about this place. The boss, according to all accounts, is a multimillionaire, who closed the plant down for three years sooner than have a union. This is the largest slaughterhouse in Montreal. In the end, the union and the boss came to an agreement. Workers in bloodstained coats come in and out of the office. They all have cellular phones. They are taking orders from jobbers. Cattle and veals are to be slaughtered in ten minutes, so advanced orders are being taken. The men have white hair nets on under their hard hats. One of the jobbers tells me to get rid of my hair and tuck it up under my hat. The boss's daughter glides by, looks at me and then says to my guide Ian, "What's she doing here?" Ian says that I am his new assistant, and he wants to show me the kill floor. All the white workers here are Greek, in fact Greeks control most of the meat production in Montreal. The majority of Greeks speak fluent English and are second generation. This differentiates them from French Canadians, who generally don't speak English. There are also many African Canadians.

New trucks drive up to the back, and Martin, my fellow assistant, says jokingly, "It's their last journey." Martin has a lot of physical work to do, carrying carcasses and "sweetmeats." We go into the main room, which has a vast conveyor belt. It has two levels, on the top are the cutup pieces of meat, on the bottom, rib cages and big bones. Along one side are workers, mostly Black, wearing hair nets and white clothes. They are cutting, chopping, slicing, and throwing the neat bits on the top belt. When I watch this, I can't believe humans are capable of this type of labor. It's just so hard. The conveyor goes so fast. I know they are making about 1,500 cuts an hour. I understand why these workers get carpel . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.