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Reminiscence On Abattoir And Slaughter Reforms

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Slaughter House

Slaughter houses that process meat not intended for human consumption are sometimes referred to as Knackers’ yard or knackeriers, used for animals that are not fit for consumption or can no longer work on a farm such as work horses that can no longer work.

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Slaughtering animals on a large scale poses significant problems such as animal welfare problems, public health requirements, and environmental problems. Due to much public aversion in many cultures, determining where to build slaughter houses is also troubling. Frequently, animal welfare and animal rights groups and sometimes academicians raise concerns about the methods of transport, preparation, herding and killing within some slaughterhouses.


Until modern times, the slaughter of animals generally took place in a haphazard and unregulated manner in diverse places. An early map of London shows numerous stockyards in the periphery of the city, where slaughter occurred in open air. A term for such open-air slaughter houses was shambles, and there are streets named “the shambles”, in some English-Irish towns (e. g. Worcester, York Bandon) which got their name from having been the site on which butchers killed and prepared animals for consumption. Fishamble Street in Dublin was formerly called Fish-shamble.

Reform Movement

The slaughterhouse emerged as a coherent institution in the nineteenth century. A combination of health and social concerns exacerbated by the rapid urbanization experienced during the industrial revolution, led social reformers to call for the isolation and regulation of animal slaughter. As well as the concern raised regarding hygiene and disease, there were also criticisms of the practice on grounds that the effect that killing had, both on butchers and the observers. “Educate (d) the men in the practice of violence and cruelty, so that they seem to have no restrain on the use of it. An additional motivation for eliminating private slaughter was to impose a careful system of regulation for the “morally dangerous” task of putting animals to death.

As a result of this tension, meat markets within the city were closed and abattoirs built outside the city limits. An early frame work for establishment of public slaughterhouse was put in place in Paris in 1810, under the reign of Emperor Napoleon. Five areas were set aside on the outskirts of the city and the feudal privileges of the guilds were curtailed.

As the meat requirements of the growing number of residents in London steadily increased, the meat markets both within the city and beyond attracted increasing levels of public disapproval. Meat had been traded at Smithfiel market as early as the 10th Century by 1726, it was regarded as without question, the greatest in the world” by Daniel Defoe. By the middle of 19th century, in the course of a single year, 220, 000 head of cattle and 1, 500, 000 sheep were forced violently into an area of five acres, in the very heart of London, through its narrowest and most crowded through fares.

By the early 19th century, pamphlets were being circulated arguing in favor of the removal of livestock markets and its relocation outside the city due to extremely poor hygiene conditions as well as brutal treatment of cattle. In 18433, the farmer’s magazine published a petition signed by bankers, salesmen, aldermen, butchers, and local residents against the expansion of livestock market.

An act of parliament was finally passed in 1852 under its provision, a new cattle market was constructed in Copenhagen Fields, Islington. The new metropolitan cattle market was also opened in 1855, and west Smithfield was left as waste ground for about a decade, until the construction of the new market began in the 1860s, under the authority of the 1860 metropolitan meat and poultry market act. The market was designed by architect Sir Horace James and was completed in 1868. A railway was built beneath the market to run between the Black friars and Kings Cross. This allowed animals to be transported into the slaughter house by train and subsequent transfer of animal carcasses to the cold store building, or direct to the meat market through lifts.

At the same period, the first large central slaughterhouse in Paris was constructed in 1867 under the orders of Napoleon HIII at the Pare de la Villete and heavily influenced he subsequent development of the institution throughout Europe.

Regulation and Expansion

These slaughterhouses were regulated by law to ensure good standears of hygiene, the prevention of the spread of disease and the minimization of need less animal cruelty. The slaughterhouse had to be equipped with specialized water supply system t effectively clean the operating area of blood and offal. Veterinary scientists notably George Fleming and John Gamgee, campaigned for stringent levels of inspection to ensure that epizootics such as rinderpests (a devastating outbreak of the disease covered all of Britain in 1865) would not be able to spread. by 1874, three meat inspectors were appointed for the London area, and the Public Health Act 1875 required local authorities to provide central slaughter houses (they were only given power to close insanitary slaughter houses in 1890), yet the appointment of slaughterhouse inspectors and establishment of centralized abattoirs took place much earlier in British colonies such as the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria. In Victoria, for example the Melbourne Abattoir Act 1850 (NSW) confined the slaughtering of animals to prescribed public abattoirs, while at the same time prohibiting the killing of sheep, lamb, pigs or goats at any other place within the city limits.

Attempts were also made throughout the British Empire to reform the practice of Slaughter itself, as the methods used came under increasing criticism for causing undue pain to the animals. The eminent Physician, Benjamin Ward Richardson, spent many years in developing more humane methods of slaughter. He brought into use no less then fourteen possible anesthetics for use in the slaughterhouse and even experimented with the use of electric current at the Royal Polytechnic Institution. As early as 1853, he designed relatively painlessly, and founded the Model abattoir Society in 1882 to investigate and campaign for humane methods of slaughter.

The investigation of refrigeration and the expansion of transportation networks by Sea and rail allowed for the safe exportation of meat animals around the world. Additionally meat packing millionaire Phillip Danforth Armour’s invention of the disassembly line greatly increased the productivity and profit margin of the meat packing industry. According to some, animal slaughtering became the first mass-production Industry in the United States. This expansion has been accompanied by increased concern about the physical and mental conditions of workers along with controversy over the ethical and environmental implications of slaughtering animals for meat.

15 July 2020

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