International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


SLAUGHTER IN INDIA

Humanitarian Worker and helper to Srimati Rukmini Devi, Peter Hoffman gives a personal testimony as to his visits to various slaughter-houses in the large cities of India ; He has published leaflets with coloured pictures to show animal lovers the truth about slaughter.

I have visited slaughter-houses in a number of places in India and what I will describe here applies almost equally to them all. There are two exceptions :

In a few places there is a small proportion of slaughter done by the the Sikh method, called "Jatka." In this method, while the pre-slaughter treatment is much the same, the killing of sheep and goats is done by severing the head from the body in one stroke. The sights and smells of the slaughter-houses are no doubt equally terrifying to the animals, and certainly, the fundamental crime of slaughter, the deprivation of life, which is the most precious of all possessions, is the same for all methods of slaughter. Nevertheless. it is true that the pain of the actual process of killing is undoubtedly less with the Sikh method, as it is with the so-called "humane" method where the animals are stunned prior to slaughter. I am told that in some military stations the animals are stunned with a hammer before bleeding. However the over-whelming majority of slaughtering in India is done by simply cutting the throat while the animal is fully alive and conscious. This is the Muhammadan method, called "Halal." A very small amount of slaughter is accomplished by the Jewish, or Kosher, method, but this is essentially the same as Halal.

The other exception relates to the personnel of the slaughter-house. Probably women and children work in many of the smaller slaughter-houses throughout the country. But I have seen mainly the larger slaughter-houses, and of these, the only ones I saw in which women and children wore working as a part of the regular slaughter-house routine were the municipal slaughter-houses in Madras. When we asked why they were allowed to work in such horrible surroundings, the slaughterers
said that if their women and children did not join in the work. it was sometimes difficult to get their families to follow in the trade. This is a confession of the truth, seldom admitted by people in the meat trade, that any normal human being even if brought up in a slaughterer's family, is instinctively repelled by the brutal killing which goes on day after day in hundreds of thousands of slaughterhouses all over the earth. Billions of animals are slaughtered annually and their agonies collectively make a gigantic curse upon the human race, for it is all unnecessary, as science has indicated
long ago.

I will briefly describe the slaughterhouse I photographed, for with the exceptions mentioned above, it is typical of Indian slaughtering. There are generally two slaughter-houses, one for cattle and one for goats and sheep.

Goats and sheep are assembled for slaughter and literally dragged across the slaughter-house floor by one hind leg. They become apprehensive before they enter, and by this cruel method of handling they are rendered incapable of putting up much of a fight against the man who is bringing them in. He can take several at a time, and since the floor is slippery with blood it is impossible for the animals to got much of a foothold. They are dragged in, bleating and sometimes excreting from terror, trying to stand, but always falling in the slimy blood. They are dragged past newly dead carcasses, some being skinned, and swung into line over the blood gutter to await the knife. There a man sits on the struggling creature, who is now surrounded by dead and dying fellow-creatures, with their terrified cries in his ears, their blood and excrement all over him, and the horrible stench in his nostrils. Then comes the sharp pain of the knife cutting deep into his throat, and the terrifying feeling of doom and approaching darkness, with the sinking horror of being less and less able to fight against the enveloping blackness.

The cattle die in the same miserable way, but they are brought in large groups sufficient to fill the whole slaughter-shed and killed together. A crew of men rope the legs, pull the creature's feet out; from under him and he falls with a hard thud on to his side. The four legs are then bound up together. The slaughterer passes from one to the other cutting their throats. At his approach, two men will grab the creature's head and stretch the neck by twisting the head back with all their force.

The cows, bulls, and buffaloes sometimes begin to struggle as they are being roped,
although many do not. There is the most revealing expression on their faces, and if you have studied the faces of cattle in the slaughter-house you will never be able to forget the experience. There is a sense of approaching doom, often a hopeless resignation, yet the whole expression is suffused with terror - overwhelming, desperate terror. It is as if they know what is going to happen and they know man is too much in control for them to escape. Their eyes open wide in a sate of violent turmoil, whether they struggle or not. The violence of being thrown, the sounds of others dying, and the smell and sight of masses of fresh blood pouring out of fellow creatures being killed around them naturally contributes to their distress. Finally the stretched neck and the pain of the knife and after the last agonizing moment of intense horror as their blood spurts out - oblivion. Another victim of man's cruel appetites has met his miserable end.

Outside the slaughter houses in India, there are even more painful and torturous methods of killing for food, particularly with pigs. Some tribes spear them to death, some cook them alive, and many other terrible things are done. There is in some places the ghastly superstition that the pigs' meat is better the longer it has taken them to die, so the screams of dying pigs can be heard for hours. But there is no space to go into the details of these horrors.

No humanitarian could tolerate the existence of all this brutality and cruelty for a moment without fighting against it were he aware that it was taking place. One of the most difficult aspects of this problem is that so few of the decent people in the world know what is happening, so few want to know: But it is well to remember that, whoever may be doing our dirty work for us, it is really we ourselves who do it, besides degrading those who do it for us.