Craig Whitney grew up in rural Australia. His father was a third generation farmer. At the age of four, Craig had already witnessed the killing of dogs and saw how cattle were branded, castrated and cut off the horns. “It kind of became the norm in my life,” he admitted.
As Craig grew older, his father began thinking about passing the farm on to him. Today this model is common among many Australian farmers. According to the Australian Farmers Association, most farms in Australia are family run. Whitney managed to avoid this fate when he was taken into custody due to family problems.
At the age of 19, Whitney was persuaded by several friends to go to work with them in a slaughterhouse. He needed a job at the time, and the idea of ”working with friends” sounded appealing to him. “My first job was as an assistant,” says Whitney. He acknowledges that this position was a high security risk. “Most of the time I spent near the corpses, washing the floor from the blood. The corpses of cows with bound limbs and slit throats were moving along the conveyor towards me. On one occasion, one of the workers was hospitalized with serious facial injuries after a cow kicked him in the face due to a post-mortem nerve impulse. A police statement said the cow was “killed in accordance with industry regulations.” One of the worst moments in Whitney’s years came when a cow with its throat slit broke free and ran and had to be shot.
Craig was often forced to work faster than usual to meet his daily quota. The demand for meat was higher than the supply, so they “tried to kill as many animals as possible as quickly as possible to maximize profits.” “Every slaughterhouse I’ve worked in has always had injuries. Many times I almost lost my fingers, ”recalls Craig. Once Whitney witnessed how his colleague lost his arm. And in 2010, 34-year-old Indian migrant Sarel Singh was beheaded while working at a Melbourne chicken slaughterhouse. Singh was killed instantly when he was pulled into a car that he needed to clean. The workers were ordered to return to work a few hours after Sarel Singh’s blood was wiped from the car.
According to Whitney, most of his work colleagues were Chinese, Indian or Sudanese. “70% of my colleagues were migrants and many of them had families who came to Australia for a better life. After working for four years at the slaughterhouse, they quit because by then they had obtained Australian citizenship,” he says. According to Whitney, the industry is always on the lookout for workers. People were hired despite a criminal record. The industry doesn’t care about your past. If you come and do your job, you will be hired,” says Craig.
It is believed that slaughterhouses are often built near Australian prisons. Thus, people who leave prison in the hope of returning to society can easily find work in the slaughterhouse. However, ex-prisoners often relapse into violent behavior. A study by Canadian criminologist Amy Fitzgerald in 2010 found that after the opening of slaughterhouses in cities, there was an increase in violent crime, including sexual assault and rape. Whitney claims that the slaughterhouse workers often used drugs.
In 2013, Craig retired from the industry. In 2018, he became a vegan and was also diagnosed with mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When he met animal rights activists, his life changed for the better. In a recent Instagram post, he wrote, “This is what I’m dreaming of right now. People freeing animals from slavery.
“If you know someone who works in this industry, encourage them to doubt, to seek help. The best way to help slaughterhouse workers is to stop supporting the industry that exploits animals,” Whitney said.