Advancing a sustainable, humane, plant-based and slaughter-free food system through grassroots direct action.

Slaughter Free Network is an international network of everyday people who care about our food system and want to change it for the greater good. Our efforts range from helping small, local communities fight off unwanted slaughterhouses to challenging massive food conglomerates to do better. To learn more about these campaigns and how you can get involved, join now. Looking for help to defeat a proposed slaughterhouse or hold an existing slaughterhouse accountable? Get in touch!

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14 top reasons why slaughterhouses are bad for everyone: communities, animals, workers and the planet?

  1. Violent crime. Local crime rates go up, especially violent crimes, wherever and whenever slaughterhouses open, according to professor of criminology Amy Fitzgerald who discovered a direct link between slaughterhouses and violent crime. 911 records also have revealed high call rates in areas around slaughterhouses.
  2. Property values. Numerous studies show that home values decline significantly near animal operations, and selling and renting properties can become more difficult.
  3. Hidden Tax Burden. Taxpayers often pay the hidden and increased costs of municipal services (police, fire, disaster management, paramedics) resulting from a new slaughterhouse. Since most locals don’t want the slaughterhouses jobs, labor is often brought in, increasing the tax burden resulting from the need for more low-income housing, medical facilities and schools.
  4. Public Opposition. Residents and businesses in both large cities and small towns — and across all ethnic backgrounds — overwhelmingly oppose slaughterhouses for these and other reasons. In one survey, 49% of US adults support a ban on factory farming and 47% support a ban on slaughterhouses.
  5. Hazardous Waste. Slaughterhouses dispose of wastewater (containing feces. blood, harsh cleaning chemicals, etc.) in three ways: piping it directly into waterways, spraying it on land, or sending it to a nearby town or county sewage treatment plant. One recent study examined EPA enforcement and compliance data from January 2016 through June 2018 for 98 large meat processing plants and found that 1. most release large amounts of pollution, 2. three quarters of them violated one or more pollution limit and 3. penalties and enforcement are rare.
  6. Zoonotic Pandemics. Leading health authorities, including the WHO and CDC, have been sounding the alarm for decades that emerging zoonotic pandemics — beyond and far worse than COVID-19 — pose an existential threat to our way of life and that exploiting and slaughtering animals for food is the main culprit.
  7. The climate crisis compels us to rapidly transition to a plant-based food system. The U.S. population could cut it’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds and eliminate millions of deaths per year by transitioning to a plant-based food system, according to an Oxford study published in PNAS. Marginalized and lower income communities where slaughterhouses typically operate suffer the worst effects of the climate crisis.
  8. Animal abuse is rampant. After a years-long legal battle, the USDA settled a lawsuit by making all animal welfare violation records at slaughterhouses public, and the results indicate an abject failure by the USDA to properly protect animals from extreme forms of suffering and abuse. Contrary to the industry’s humane claims, animals are treated like cheap, disposable commodities whose deaths are far from “quick and painless.” From birth to death, their lives are filled with frustration, anxiety, fear, confusion and pain. Investigations reveal that animals unfit for market are often thrown or dragged into dumpsters or dead piles to suffer slow, agonizing deaths. The industry has no mercy for these victims. Conditions at smaller slaughterhouses are often the worst, according to a recent report called Custom Exempt Slaughter: A License to Neglect and Abuse Farm Animals.
  9. Nuisance. Based on our own research, slaughterhouses commonly violate nuisance, sanitation, zoning, environmental and public health laws that, if properly enforced, would effectively shut them down. Neighbors commonly complain of noisy, late-night deliveries, foul odor, excrement on roadways, sounds of animals and even escaped animals.
  10. Workers suffer high rates of PTSD, substance abuse and domestic violence and are three times more likely to suffer serious injury than the average American worker. Amputations, fractured fingers, second-degree burns and head trauma are among these serious injuries, according to a report published by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
  11. Child labor. In late 2022, media reports started surfacing of a suspected smuggling scheme in which children from Central America were being brought in to clean hundreds of slaughterhouses in numerous states. In the words of a manager at one of these facilities, “In this industry you have a lot of people who are undocumented workers. A lot of times it’s because they’re not going to pay well enough to hire people in America…”
  12. Hunger. If U.S. farmers took all the land currently devoted to raising animals and used it to grow plants instead, they could feed more than twice as many people as they do now, according to a study published in PNAS. Hunger could be eliminated.
  13. Chronic diseases. We have no nutritional or biological need for animal products, according to the American Dietetic Association. In fact, an animal-based diet is associated with higher rates of heart disease and cancers, hiking healthcare and insurance costs even higher.
  14. Prejudice. Those who believe in human supremacy and dominion are more likely to also hold prejudicial views against other historically oppressed groups, including women and people of color.

For society at large, the slaughter and consumption of animals desensitizes us to those victims to the point that we don’t even recognize them as victims. In other words, slaughterhouses cultivate our apathy while blocking our empathy. As Leo Tolstoy famously wrote over one hundred years ago, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”

What is our strategy, in a nutshell?

Most people object to having slaughterhouses in their communities. With changing neighborhoods and residential development moving into areas where the business of slaughter once thrived, many city slaughterhouses have closed up shop or relocated elsewhere. A small number remain in the city limits.

In most countries and states, the current system of regulation is corrupted by animal agriculture special interests and therefore broken, resulting in lax or even non existent oversight. Sometimes the industry just polices itself. Our strategy is to rally communities, activists, local media and public officials to put pressure on powerful targets in our food system to transition to a slaughter-free, plant-based system.

A Brief History of Modern Animal Slaughter

Historical accounts of the Industrial Revolution credit the Chicago Union Stockyards as the birth place of industrial agriculture. The Yards, as it was known, was the largest meatpacking and slaughtering complex in America for decades, starting in 1865. From the Civil War through the 1920s, more meat was processed in Chicago than in any other place in the world. The district was operated by a group of railroad companies that acquired over 450 acres of wetlands and turned it into a sprawling slaughter and meatpacking complex.

A typical postcard showing how Chicago promoted the Union Stockyards as a tourist destination. Credit: Curteich-Chicago “C.T. Art-Colortone.”
Aero Distributing Co., Chicago.

Souvenir postcards from the era show how proudly the city promoted its reputation as “hog butcher to the world.” Yet, even then, there were those who sought to expose the ugly truth of their enterprise. Like undercover investigators today, Upton Sinclair spent seven weeks working undercover in Chicago’s stockyards before writing his landmark novel, The Jungle, using material he had collected firsthand. His intent was to expose the nightmarish conditions of immigrant workers in this environment, but in the process, he also exposed the nightmarish conditions of the animals that were trapped inside. While The Jungle may have done little to stop the booming animal slaughter business, it did trigger President Theodore Roosevelt to enact a series of food safety laws shortly thereafter.

We leave you with a passage in which Sinclair describes with sensitivity the experience of the animals:

“… they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly; and they were so very human in their protests – -and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury,”… “swinging them up in this cold-blooded, impersonal way, without a pretence at apology, without the homage of a tear. Now and then a visitor wept, to be sure; but this slaughtering-machine ran on, visitors or no visitors. It was like some horrible crime committed in a dungeon, all unseen and unheeded, buried out of sight and of memory.”

— Upton Sinclair