An Intriguing Correlation: Slaughterhouses and Violent Crime

 

Does exposure to systematic animal slaughter predispose workers to commit violent crimes? This question has long preoccupied social scientists, most of whom have struggled to pin down a convincing answer. Recently (2009), however, a study published by Amy Fitzgerald, a criminologist at the University of Windsor, has tipped the balance toward the likelihood  that such a connection might in fact exist.

There’s little doubt that a correlation does. The gist of Fitzgerald’s study is that the presence of a slaughterhouse leads to an increase in a county’s crime rate. Naturally, one might object that the increasing presence of a poor, working-class, largely male population might also cause an uptick in crime. But Fitzgerald controlled for this possibility by comparing her data to counties with comparable populations also employed in factory-like operations.  It was the abattoir, she suggests, that stood out as the lone factor most likely to have spiked the crime statistics.

Whether or not slaughterhouses make people violent or attract those already prone to violence is, of course, another relevant question.  On this point Fitzgerald treads lightly, noting that witnessing the violent death of so many animals “might result in some kind of desensitization.” I would throw caution to the wind on this one. Not only does common sense suggest that such desensitization would be virtually inevitable, but I’m hard pressed to believe that there are thousands of jaded lovers of violence out there who go so far as to seek out employment in a slaughterhouse to feel at ease. Plus, the manic turnover within abbatoirs further suggests that the violence is, as Fitzgerald’s excellent study suggests, a learned behavior.

Here’s the citation:

Fitzgerald, Amy J.; Kalof, Linda; Dietz, Thomas, Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates: An Empirical Analysis of Spillover from ‘The Jungle” into the Surrounding Community, Organization and Environment, 22, 158-184, 2009.

 

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About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

3 Responses to An Intriguing Correlation: Slaughterhouses and Violent Crime

  1. Rachel says:

    There may be a correlation because those that work at slaughterhouses are most likely to be poor, exploited and illegal, thus having no voice to stand up for themselves. They don’t have the option to unionize like most other factory workers do, thus opening themselves up to even more exploitation. And because they are illegal, OSHA regulations are much less likely to be enforced (no reporting of injuries due to being illegal) and it’s very dangerous work.

    It’s hard to draw the line that crime rates and the actual killing of animals have a causative relationship though. After Sinclair’s The Jungle came out, the meatpacking industry cleaned up it’s act and became a respectable profession. Over time, however, the industrialization of slaughterhouses has become worse. Also, crime rates remained unchanged among smaller farms where animals were also killed and in other countries, such as Canada.

  2. Pingback: Backyard Slaughter: Localizing Violence and Suffering | One Green Planet

  3. Pingback: US campaign against urban livestock production « world news for life

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