Humane (adj.): marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals.
Humane-washing (verb): the act of appealing to notions of that which is humane as a marketing strategy.
Scottsdale Pork are proposing the construction of a $2.5 million pig slaughterhouse at Springfield in the state’s north-east. The facility will have the capacity to kill at least 1000 pigs per week, producing an estimated 9 tonnes of pig flesh per day and 2-4 tonnes of organic waste including fecal matter and organic solids such as offal (the latter to be on-sold to Western Tiers Proteins rendering plant).
It is frequently said that nothing that happens in a slaughterhouse can ever be truly considered humane. However this does not stop businesses such as Scottsdale Pork from appealing to the broader community’s concerns for animal welfare as a means to package their product in a more appealing manner and to justify a premium price. Their website is glossy and picturesque, using phrases such as “paddock-bred”, “nourished and sheltered”, “eco-shelter” after which they encourage visitors to their website to “taste the difference”; by connecting higher “welfare” standards with the taste of the product itself, the company simultaneously cuts out the crucial step of slaughter, a reality which consumers rarely wish to confront. The pigs themselves are relegated to being a product.
In proposing this slaughterhouse, Scottsdale Pork have had to lay bare to interested members of the public the truth of the inner workings of a slaughterhouse. As part of the development application the full process for the slaughtering of the pigs, from unloading to killing, from scalding to packaging, has had to be detailed thus opening the processes to public scrutiny. The proposed method of stunning will be the electrocution of restrained pigs, who will then be tipped onto a conveyor belt where their throats will be cut (sticking) and they will be bled out before entering the scalding tank. It makes for harrowing reading.
Even here the company has attempted to present this process through a “humane” lens. Included in the proposal is a short paragraph detailing the considerations made for animal welfare. These include the design of the facility, the density of pigs in the holding pens, and the monitoring of stress through the levels of squealing observed. There is a vague reference to Scottsdale Pork’s “understanding” of humane handling practices, followed by claims the company will “consider the recommendations of the US livestock handling specialist Temple Grandin” in the design (note: they do not commit to actually implementing these recommendations, they will merely “consider” them).
Temple Grandin is best known for her work in redesigning slaughterhouses to minimise stress in non-human animals. She has asserted that it is ethically acceptable to use animals, so long as it s “done right.” However, Grandin has also stated that there are no differences between the core emotional systems in the brains of humans and non-human animals, exposing a glaring contradiction in even her conceptualisation of a “humane” slaughterhouse.
According to Scottsdale Pork, the holding pens will not be filled to capacity, thus the pigs will be able to turn around. But where will they turn to? They will still be goaded, potentially through the use of electrified prods, into a restraint to be electrocuted and then killed. Nor do claims of higher animal welfare due to shorter travelling distances hold water; the proposed facility will be used to provide a “reliable and efficient kill service for all pig producers.” (Development Application, P. 19). It is not exclusively for pigs bred and raised at the Scottsdale Pork farm; whilst the pigs they use will experience shorter travel times to slaughter, others across the state will not.
At the end of the day, for all the talk of welfare and ethics, the Ten Mile Track facility is just another medium-volume animal killing factory. The efficacy of the processes utilised will be wholly dependent upon human application and subject to human error. And as we have seen in the past, when human error (or outright maliciousness) in slaughterhouses leads to violations of animal welfare regulations, government departments are disinclined to act. Indeed, the Tasmanian Liberal government is more inclined towards funding the expansion of animal exploitation industries than investigating where necessary.
The Ten Mile Track proposal is not the state-of-the-art humane facility the proponents have attempted to promote it as. It is simply another addition to the increasingly successful humane-washing of an industry that is wholly dependent upon the negation of the inherent rights of non-human animals and the violent taking of their lives.