The Other Victims of Factory Farms


Photo: Food Empowerment Project

Undercover factory farm videos reveal people committing truly evil acts.

A 2-minute clip features more violence than most viewers will witness in their entire lifetimes. These videos contain image after image of workers beating pigs, stomping on chickens, and excessively shocking cows with electric prods. The workers shout expletives at the scared and confused animals, forcing them to march towards their slaughter. The sheer cruelty of it all cannot be unseen. 

Viewers are often quick to condemn the workers for such horror. And why not? It's the worker who is committing violence against the innocent animal, and those animals deserve justice.

But on factory farms, animals aren't the only ones suffering injustice.In fact, factory farm workers are victims, too.


Many factory farm workers in the United States are undocumented immigrants who have either escaped violence in their home countries or are trying to find adequate work in order provide for their families. There isn't much opportunity for someone who is seen as "illegal," and therefore they have to take what they can get.


Photo: Mercy for Animals

Working at a factory farm provides them with an opportunity, but at a great cost. Workers labor for long hours and make very little money. They are expected to work continuously without breaks, and are sometimes forced to  wear diapers just so they can relieve themselves. And the environment is extremely dangerous; factory farm workers spend all day inhaling dirty air and are in constant contact with bacteria, and often have fingers, hands, or arms amputated by the sharp equipment.

Their health problems aren't just physical. Female workers are often subjected to sexual harassment and even rape by their superiors. Their undocumented status makes it dangerous for them to report the crimes.

Since the nature of the job requires the workers to brutally raise and slaughter countless animals, many workers also suffer from symptoms of trauma and PTSD. In order to justify hurting and killing innocent animals, some workers tell themselves that the animals deserve the cruelty, and work up a hatred towards them that can lead to violent abuse. In Gail Eisnitz’s book Slaughterhouse, a worker describes: “Pigs on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them – beat them to death with a pipe.” It is an extension of the inherent violence of the slaughterhouse. 

Without question, the animals suffer immensely, but the struggles of the factory farm worker are also real, and they cannot be ignored or belittled. Factory farming is a threat to both animal and human rights.

The next time you see a video or a read an article about animal abuse on factory farms, try to contain your anger towards the workers. They may be administering the blows, but their behavior is driven by fear, desperation, and mental illness caused by the job. 

It is possible to both condemn the action of the worker and feel sympathy for their situations. We can embrace both workers and animals as we work to make factory farming history.


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