A political scientist goes undercover in a modern industrial slaughterhouse for this twenty-first-century update of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle
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.
Through his vivid narrative and ethnographic approach, Pachirat brings to life massive, routine killing from the perspective of those who take part in it. He shows how surveillance and sequestration operate within the slaughterhouse and in its interactions with the community at large. He also considers how society is organized to distance and hide uncomfortable realities from view. With much to say about issues ranging from the sociology of violence and modern food production to animal rights and welfare, Every Twelve Seconds is an important and disturbing work.
"The book is superbly written, especially given the grimness of the subject."—Mark Bittman, The New York Times, Opinionator column
"A firsthand account of various kinds of slaughterhouse work [in which] Timothy Pachirat did it all. . . . We can count ourselves lucky that Every Twelve Seconds is a very good book if not a flawless one. . . . It forces upon us an unacademic yet profound question: How can something be right, if it feels so horribly wrong?"—B. R. Myers, The Atlantic
"From June to December 2004, Pachirat (politics, New Sch.) worked at a cattle slaughterhouse in Nebraska. During his tenure, he worked in three distinct areas: in the cooler as a liver hanger, on the killing floor herding cattle to the knocking box, and in quality control. Through these disparate positions, he gained a thorough understanding of the formal and informal rules that govern American slaughterhouses. His conclusions are grim—bureaucracy and ineptitude combine in a way that does not bode favorably for food safety. He argues that industrialized slaughter is a hidden world tolerable only because it is invisible to most. Repugnant tasks like the ones associated with processing cattle should be more transparent and would perhaps be duly transformed as a result. Complete with meticulous diagrams showing each worker's position in the slaughterhouse, descriptions of each worker's job duties, and an appendix detailing cattle body parts and their uses, this compelling documentary work illuminates in great detail the workings of an industrial slaughterhouse. VERDICT For anyone curious about the origin of beef in America or those interested in the politics of concealment."—Diana Hartle, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens, Library Journal
"[Pachirat’s] descriptions are vivid without being sensational. He allows for ambiguities and contradictions without losing sight of his topic: the organisation of the mass slaughter of cattle for profit."—Debra King, Australian Review of Public Affairs
Singled out as "one of the best scholarly books of the decade" by Chronicle of Higher Education
"Pachirat’s extraordinary narrative tells us about much more than abused animals and degraded workers. It opens our eyes to the kind of society in which we live."—Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation
"You may not want to know what happens behind the walls of a modern slaughterhouse; but Pachirat’s extraordinary narrative tells us about much more than abused animals and degraded workers. It opens our eyes to the kind of society in which we live."—Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation
"A truly stunning achievement. Every Twelve Seconds takes us into the slaughterhouse and asks: Why do we work so hard to conceal the daily routine of industrialized killing? The result is a masterpiece that is as sophisticated as it is hard to put down."—Steve Striffler, author of Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America's Favorite Food
"By far the most thorough and immersive accounting of slaughterhouse operations in contemporary agribusiness."—Erik Marcus, author of Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, & Money
"Pachirat’s prose and tone are readable, horrific, and compelling. The documentary spell it casts recalls the steady, unflinching eye of Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier. Astonishing."—John Bowe, author of Nobodies: Slave Labor in Modern America and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy
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