24 November 2008

Henry S. Salt (1851-1939) on the Degradation of the Butcher

But this question of Butchery is not merely one of kindness or unkindness to animals, for by the very facts of the case it is a human question of no slight importance, affecting as it does the social and moral welfare of those more immediately concerned in it. Of all recognised occupations by which, in civilised countries, a livelihood is sought and obtained, the work which is looked upon with the greatest loathing (next to the Hangman's) is that of the Butcher—as witness the opprobrious sense which the word "butcher" has acquired. Owing to the instinctive horror of bloodshed which is characteristic of all normal civilised beings, the trade of doing to death countless numbers of inoffensive and highly organised creatures, amid scenes of indescribable filth and ferocity, is delegated to a pariah class of "slaughtermen," who are thus themselves made the victims of a grievous social wrong. "I'm only doing your dirty work; it's such as you makes such as us," is said to have been the remark of a White-chapel butcher to a flesh-eating gentleman who remonstrated with him for his brutality; and the remark was a perfectly just one. To demand a product which can only be procured at the cost of the intense suffering of the animal, and the deep degradation of the butcher, and by a process which not one flesh-eater in a hundred would himself under any circumstances perform, or even witness, is conduct as callous, selfish and unsocial as could well be imagined.

(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 59 [italics in original])