An Intriguing Correlation: Slaughterhouses and Violent Crime
October 6, 2011 3 Comments
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.