‘We Should Stop Using Euphemisms For Animal Exploitation And Abuse’


by Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze


When non vegans say things like ‘But plants have feelings too’ they are generally being disingenuous.  If someone says it to me I usually answer along the lines of:

‘Would you prefer to take your child strawberry picking or to a slaughterhouse?’


“If a dog runs out in front of your car, would you swerve into a bed of roses, or save the roses and run over the dog?’

Disingenuousness aside, it is entirely possible that in the future we may learn that plants do experience pain using different mechanisms.   But at our present level of understanding, and as they have no nervous system or pain detectors,  we are justified in stating that plants do not feel pain, and our common sense tells us that equating animal and plant sentience is not a credible position.

Humans and non-human animals share a long, common evolution, and anyone who keeps animal companions know that they are more similar to us than dissimilar.     Dogs even have prostates I was told yesterday by a vet.  When I look into my dogs’ eyes I can recognise myself.  When I look at a cauliflower –  not so much!


“Dogs even have prostates I was told yesterday by a vet.  When I look into my dogs’ eyes I can recognise myself.  When I look at a cauliflower –  not so much!”


Animals are our kin,  our planetary comrades. Despite being different species, they share our ability to feel, and they value their lives just as much as we value ours.

If your child were to visit a slaughterhouse it is unlikely that they would escape without trauma by witnessing the gruesome violence that goes on there.  Most adults too would be wounded to witness innocent, terrified animals being stunned, gassed, knifed, decapitated and dismembered.  It is a horrible business, and little wonder that the terms used in these places sugarcoat the reality. Even the word ‘slaughterhouse’ is not used by the Industry.   In some parts of the world they are called ‘factories’.  Here in New Zealand they are called ‘meatworks’.

We use euphemisms in our relationship with other humans to substitute for the stark reality that most of us find disturbing to think about.  Going after wild animals with a shotgun or spear is known as ‘harvesting’.  Destroying farmed animals’ lives when it is deemed the most ‘effective’ response, is known as ‘depopulation’.     The act of slaughtering billions of farmed animals every year, often when they are still little more than babies, needs to be sanitised to mitigate the horror, and to make us feel better about eating them.  For example ‘C02 stunning’ may sound as if the animal goes gently to sleep, but it is a cruel method that causes pigs to gasp for breath and hyperventilate, causing both pain and panic for up to sixty seconds.  Similarly, ‘thumping’ is the term used to kill piglets (and also baby goats) by swinging them around and pounding their heads against concrete.


“The act of ending the lives of innocent animals, often when they are still little more than babies, needs to be sanitised to mitigate the horror, and to make us feel better about eating them.”


We should stop using euphemisms to describe the horror of animal slaughter, and tell it as it is.

That way we may wake up to the suffering we cause every time we eat dairy products, or eat a meal of meat.




Antemortem inspection:  The examination of live animals prior to slaughter to check for disease.

Blood Pit:  The area of a slaughterhouse where animals are bled out.

Bloodsplash: The rupture of capillaries in muscle tissue during electrical stunning which causes unsightly blood spots in the meat.  Bloodsplash hemorrhages are problematic from an aesthetic viewpoint, and cause a reduction in meat value.

Bung:  A slaughtered animal’s anus.

Captive bolt gun:  A gun, powered by compressed air or gunpowder, that drives a bolt into an animal’s forehead to render the animal unconscious.

Carcass: The skeleton and musculature of an animal, minus after decapitation and removal of the legs.

Chain: The overhead conveyor that carries shackled animals from worker to worker through the slaughter and dressing processes.

Chain speed: How fast the chain is moving, measured in number of animals per unit of time. (Aka Line speed)

Chitlins: The intenstines of hogs (pigs) used in prepared foods.

Chutes: Enclosed passageways that lead animals from their pens to the stun area.

CO2 stunning (carbon dioxide anaesthesia):  A method used to render an animal unconscious for slaughter.

Downer:  A sick, spent, or disabled animal who cannot stand or walk.

Dressing:  Removal of the hide, appendages and viscera.

Gutter:  A worker who takes the guts out of slaughtered animals.

Hot shot: An electric cattle prod.

Kill floor: Where animals have their necks or chests sliced.

Legger: The worker who cuts off and skins an animal’s legs.

PACing  (also called ‘thumping’):  Method of killing piglets whereby the piglet is picked up by the hind legs and slammed against the floor.  This causes massive head trauma, resulting in death (not always instantaneous).

Render: The process whereby animal parts are cooked down, to separate fat from protein, and then sold for use in animal feed, fertilizer, oils, plastics, cosmetics and a host of other household and industrial products.

Ritual slaughter:   Religious slaughter done according to the requirements of either the Muslim or Jewish religious faith. The animal is slaughtered, often without being stunned, with a razor sharp knife.

Scalding tank:  A long narrow tank containing 140 degree water through which pigs are dragged to loosen hair for dehairing.

Shackler: A worker who places a chain around an animal’s hind leg so that it can be hoisted and hung on the overhead rail.

Stunner: The worker who stuns the animals before they are shackled and hoisted.

Sticker: The slaughterhouse worker who cuts the animal’s throat open to bleed it.



We’re sorry, Dr Drip….

The story of Dr Drip highlights what is wrong in the horseracing industry, write Lynley Tulloch and Sandra Kyle.

Dr Drip was an American multi-stakes winner, a racehorse with an impressive pedigree, bred for big things.   During his career he earned a barrel of money for his owners but when he was no longer profitable they got rid of him.    Many ex-racehorses go unceremoniously straight  to slaughter at a fraction of their natural life span, but Dr Drip changed hands between owners until he ended up with Jermaine Dewayne Doucet Jr, an 18-year-old from an impoverished Louisiana community.   The day he was discovered Dr Drip had no water and the pile of hay in his pen was molding and inedible.  He was so weak and skinny that he didn’t even have the energy to swish the flies off his tail, and his underside was covered with maggot-infested sores.   The ex-thoroughbred was too far gone to save, and was euthanised the next day.

Dr Drip had been a magnificent specimen in his prime, a perfect  example of equine athleticism.   Yet even though they are large, strong animals horses are very easily hurt, especially when they are being whipped to run at dangerously high speeds on hard ground.   

That racing hurts horses should be obvious.   Those who think a day at the races is harmless are either uninformed, or don’t care about horses.        No doubt it’s great fun for people who attend race meets in their thousands, wearing slinky dresses and stiletto heels, derby hats and bow ties,  and sipping champagne.  It’s an opportunity to see and be seen, get a little tipsy, and if you’re lucky go home richer than you arrived.   What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with having a bit of fun? 

There’s no problem with having fun so long as your fun does not hurt other beings.  In horse racing as in so many other cases, we think nothing of exploiting animals for our benefit.  Whipping a horse on to go at ever more dangerous speeds is just one  example.   Another, widespread in the industry, is to begin training horses at the age of just two years old when their bones have not stopped growing.   Intensive training at this stage can cause tendons to break and bones to chip and fracture.    Burst arteries is another injury that is more likely to happen to a juvenile horse.   A number of  racehorse deaths are  caused by forcing a horse to perform on pre-existing injuries, which are not always obvious. Horses, like many animals, are very stoic.  They could be in constant pain and you might not even know it.  The problem of horse injuries and deaths is further complicated by the use of drugs .   A racehorse who is laid off because of injuries is not profitable for the owners, so unscrupulous veterinarians and trainers administer drugs to mask the effects, resulting in the injury being aggravated and worsened. 

 International animal rights organisation, PETA claim that studies show one in 22 horses fail to finish a race due to injuries sustained and that three thoroughbreds die every day in North America from race injuries.  In the past eighteen weeks, there have been 28 horse deaths at just one racetrack, Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles. 

Like many other racehorses, so long as he was winning Dr Drip was safe, but the moment he started finishing further back in the field he wasn’t worth the effort, and was ‘retired’.   We often talk about ‘retired race horses’, as if there is some form of animal retirement that compares to human retirement. There is not – it’s a disingenuous way of creating the illusion that the animals we selfishly use get some kind of deserved rest after their hard work.

Let’s set the record straight. A survey funded by the RSPCA in 2002-2003 in Australia found that standardbreds and thoroughbreds were exited from the industry for a range of reasons – including poor performance, ill-health or injury, or unsuitable temperament and breeding. The fate of many of these horses remains unknown due to no tracking system. Some get rehomed for other equestrian purposes while 6% of thoroughbreds and 17% of standardbreds get sent to the slaughter house.

Horse arriving at a slaughterhouse

Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) revealed that in New Zealand 1962 animals were slaughtered in 2011. That is a lot of individual horses for a small country with a small population.   The  problem is we don’t see them as individuals when they’re earmarked for slaughter, but as a statistic.  We don’t look into their eyes and see the sadness, the terror.  For horses  bound for slaughter their trial begins on the truck, where they are sometimes transported for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest.  Such are the conditions of transport that horses are sometimes hurt or even killed in transit.  By the time they arrive at the slaughterhouse they are exhausted, stressed, bewildered and fearful.

When it comes to a quick and painless death, it is harder to achieve with horses than it is for  bovines, sheep, and other large mammals.  Horses are skittish by nature (owing to their heightened fight-or-flight response), which makes accurate pre-slaughter stunning difficult. As a result, horses can sometimes remain conscious during dismemberment. Before the last domestic plant closed in 2007, the United States Department of Agriculture  documented rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses. Gail A Eisnitz, in her book ‘Slaughterhouse’ interviewed one horse slaughterhouse worker who said:  “You move so fast you don’t have time to wait till a horse bleeds out. You skin him as he bleeds. Sometimes a horse’s nose is down in the blood, blowing bubbles, and he suffocates.”

It’s time to rethink our relationship to non-human animals and stop abusing and slaughtering them.   If you are in doubt about whether we should treat an animal like a horse as a form of entertainment and profit, and then send it off to slaughter, then try putting your feet in the horse’s shoes.

Would you like this done to you?