How Abattoirs Violate Human Rights

Posted by on June 15, 2020 | Permalink

Animals exploited for their flesh are subjected to unspeakable horrors at abattoirs. They’re often scalded to death or dismembered while they’re still conscious. And while those animals are tormented and butchered, humans in that bloody environment are suffering, too.

Abattoir workers are forced to witness and commit horrific acts, and the industry is riddled with abuse, bullying, sexism, and racism – including in the UK.

Animal rights and human rights go hand in hand.

Mental Health

Working at an abattoir has been linked to various mental health problems. Records show that many workers grapple with suicidal thoughts and depression. It’s no surprise that this kind of work takes a psychological toll – the animals workers are killing are, after all, terrified and fighting for their lives in the same way the cats and dogs with whom we share our homes would.

As one man working in a pig abattoir put it to The Guardian, “Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them – beat them to death with a pipe.”

In a BBC article, one former abattoir worker spoke about mental health:

“I personally suffered from depression, a condition exacerbated by the long hours, the relentless work, and being surrounded by death. … I felt like the horrific things I was seeing had clouded my thinking, and I was in a full-blown state of depression.”

The psychological impact of killing other living, feeling beings should not be underestimated. There’s a reason why most people don’t want to see what’s happening in abattoirs, even though they know that’s where the animals whose flesh they eat are killed. As Paul McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”

Dire Working Conditions

Workers often become ill or are injured because of the unsafe and unsanitary working conditions. In Ireland, COVID-19 swept through blood-soaked, offal-strewn meat-processing plants, endangering workers, their families, and the whole community.

Bullying, Abuse, Sexism, and Racism

An investigation into the UK meat industry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found evidence of widespread mistreatment and exploitation of workers – in particular, migrant workers – including discrimination, bullying, physical abuse by managers, and unsafe working conditions.

And it isn’t just abattoirs and factory farms – interviews with migrant workers on fishing vessels by Dr Jessica Sparks at modern slavery research platform Rights Lab revealed that 60% of those interviewed heard about or saw their fellow workers being abused – physically, sexually, and psychologically.


The investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission also found that some workers were forced to work 90 hours a week and pregnant women were made to stand for long hours and perform heavy lifting and were denied the right to go to the toilet. A research survey of migrant workers on UK fishing boats found that they were working 20-hour shifts. These workers are typically some of the poorest and most exploited people – because they’re doing jobs that nobody wants to do.

What You Can Do

If you can’t bear the thought of what’s happening at abattoirs, don’t support the meat industry. Animal agriculture is responsible not only for horrendous cruelty to animals and putting the lives of workers at risk but also for breeding deadly pandemics and destroying the planet. 

No one needs to eat meat. There are so many delicious and nutritious vegan options available that choosing a compassionate lifestyle couldn’t be easier. Order our free vegan starter kit now for meal plans and tips: