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Making Animals Kill-able: The Apparatus of the Slaughterhouse

Dr Mara Miele, Cardiff University
Tuesday 17th December 2013 - 4:00pm
Glamorgan Building Council Chamber

Public Seminar hosted by the Environment Research Group

Slaughterhouses act as the starting point of the meat industry, where animals are killed to enter the food chain. They have been invented when human settlements became too large for individuals to rear and kill their own animals for personal consumption.

Nowadays slaughterhouses are equipped with an array of technological innovations, such as mobile shackle lines, electrical stunning baths, gas chambers, stun guns, electric prods, hoists,  mechanical restraining pens and so forth. These technological artefacts in part embody social, cultural and economic considerations of what constitutes a humane and lawful ‘kill’ (Higgin, Evans and Miele, 2011) and in part help to form novel landscapes through which such questions are re-worked and potentially re-formulated (Vialles, 1994).

In this paper I draw on ethnographic work undertaken in Egypt and in the  UK slaughterhouses to address the geographies of killing animals and to examine the emerging techno-ethics of the slaughterhouse by focusing on issues and techniques of stunning. I adopt a material-semiotic approach  to look at the slaughterhouse as an apparatus of material, symbolic and technological resources and I examine the ways in which technologically mediated slaughterhouse practices enact certain versions of humanity and animality.

Furthermore, in conversation with Haraway (2008), I explore the ways in which animals are not only killed but  are ‘made kill-able’ within this apparatus.