Animal agriculture has a devastating impact on billions of animals slaughtered and exploited every year. The horrors of slaughterhouses, in particular, centre around the animals who suffer utterly terrifying and violent deaths. In addition to this immense destruction of life, there is an enormous human toll – which often goes unnoticed and overlooked.

Within slaughterhouse walls, workers are at the mercy of harmful working conditions, such as exposure to chemical and airborne hazards, increased risk of injury and chronic pain from unsustainably fast line speeds, and psychological distress and mental illness from the act of killing animals who are fighting to stay alive. Workers in slaughterhouses are at increased risk of a number of mental health symptoms including post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions, and substance abuse disorders. 

Beyond these direct impacts to workers themselves are the indirect harms to neighboring communities. The mere presence of slaughterhouses is associated with higher crime rates, particularly of violent crimes such as assault and rape. What’s more, this phenomenon appears to be unique to slaughterhouses, as it is not apparent in other industrial communities such as those surrounding packaging or metalworks.

Communities around slaughterhouses are also vulnerable to the same chemical and airborne hazards faced by workers, affecting their general health and overall quality of life. The health impacts are exacerbated by the fact that slaughterhouses are disproportionately located within marginalized communities (primarily non-white or low-income) who already experience reduced access to healthcare. 

More broadly, there is a wider health impact of animal agriculture and the promotion of animal products as food, particularly dairy products. These products are often advertised across communities without regard for the unique health needs of specific groups, such as the high prevalence of lactose intolerance within Asian and African populations. The health impacts of dairy consumption despite lactose intolerance can be widespread, chronic, and debilitating amongst those who may already experience reduced access to healthcare. 

Globally, the raising of animals for slaughter consumes a vast number of resources which alone constitutes an enormous carbon footprint. Animal agriculture, in particular, also produces a monumental amount of waste, which is often too copious to dispose of properly. Animal waste is a significant pollutant, contaminating ground and surface water, destroying ecosystems, and creating aquatic dead zones. The excessive use of antibiotics amongst crowded feedlots passes into the environment via animal waste, where it enters waterways and contributes to dangerous antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that pose a major public health threat worldwide.