Sunday October 15, 2017

Former slaughterhouse worker says job reinforced his violent behaviour

Scott Hoskins worked at a chicken processing plant in his early 20s. He’s since converted to veganism.

Scott Hoskins worked at a chicken processing plant in his early 20s. He’s since converted to veganism. (Courtesy of Scott Hoskins)

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Scott Hoskins was in his early 20s when he started working at a chicken processing plant.

His first job there was on the "boning" department, removing a specific bone from a dead chicken every three seconds. He then moved to the kill floor, hanging live chickens on shackles. 

"It goes so fast that there is no connection to what the chickens are experiencing," Scott says now, looking back on the job. 

Scott Hoskins 2

Scott Hoskins now takes part in vigils at the slaughterhouse where he used to work. (Courtesy of Scott Hoskins)

But it was a good job, with good pay, at the time. 

Though the "kill backup" position gave him some pause. If a chicken got away or was too small for the machinery, Scott would have to pick it up and either cut its throat or break its neck himself.

"Something here wasn't quite as comfortable as just quickly grabbing a chicken and hanging it on a shackle."

Scott now believes that job contributed to an unravelling of his personal life. His marriage fell apart. He became angry and aggressive. "There was a lot of alcohol consumption, regularly and excessively," he says.

He doesn't remember being a violent person before working at the slaughterhouse. But over time, he became one. 

"The connection that I'm seeing throughout this is a positive reinforcement of a violent behaviour," he says. By day, he was being paid to kill. And that thought pattern, he says, spilled over into his personal life. 

At one point, he was charged criminally in what he calls a "mutually violent" relationship.

Canadian meat producers have been experiencing a labour shortage in recent years, leading to increased reliance on temporary foreign workers. 

Meanwhile, research has suggested a link between slaughterhouse employment and violent crime.

Scott's now in his early 40s. It's taken some time for him work through his own violent behaviour. 

As part of his healing, he's adopted a vegan diet. He's even taken part in vigils at the plant where he used to work.

"I don't even see an argument about it being violent any more," he said of what goes on inside a slaughterhouse. "By definition, violence [is] a physical action with intent to harm, injure or kill something or someone. 

"There's no argument there. It's exactly violence. I and others have justified that or minimized that for a very long time."