When I first started working in the laboratory animal industry, and got my first taste of the Machine, my immediate reaction was that I was hallucinating. I could not possibly be seeing what I was seeing, I reasoned, and I immediately went researching. Surely there was an explanation for the things I saw happening. Surely I was wrong!
It disturbed me beyond measure to discover that not only was I not wrong, but that I was only getting a miniscule taste of what was really happening. The more research I did, the more horrified I became, until I eventually had to put things down and walk away. Every time I tried to write something about a I would do research on a and then learn about x, y, and z as well. Then I would have to research them, and….
These days I’m a little calmer, and I can pick up books and do research again. My most recent acquisition, Slaughterhouse, by Gail Eisnitz, is the closest thing I have so far seen to what happened to my brain when I saw the laboratory animal industry for the first time. Due to the “shock value” cover and title, I’d been avoiding it, but it turns out to be a well-written, rational, well-researched volume which makes its statement simply and reasonably (well, as reasonably as it’s possible to be in this case). It follows Gail, a journalist for an animal welfare group, from the moment a USDA inspector writes her saying “Something’s wrong here” to her struggle to get someone, anyone, to break the story, and through it you see, through her eyes, her unbelievable, terrible discoveries. Every piece of awful information leads to two more pieces of awful information, and the higher she climbs in the bureaucracy, looking for the source of it all, the more distressing it becomes as she realizes that the people in charge know, and they don’t care.
This is a book you will read with your mouth open, drop at the end, and say, “No.” No, this isn’t true. This does not happen. She’s a journalist; she’s being sensational. She’s biased. She’s just selling a story. Speaking as someone who’s seen another facet of the Machine at work — the laboratory side — Eisnitz is not lying. The things she is describing are real. They are happening right now.
It’s such a relief, and it’s so scary, to know that someone else sees it too. Through my research, I’ve actually amassed quite a collection of books over the past few years, and most of the books actually corroborate to varying degrees what I personally saw, but Slaughterhouse is the first to describe the entire eye-opening journey of discovery.
I strongly recommend it, although I would suggest not reading it while eating a hamburger.