Routinized killing of animals: Going beyond dirty work and prestige to understand the well-being of slaughterhouse workers

Slaughterhouse workers face the reality of industrialized meat production on a daily basis, experiencing firsthand the routinized killing of animals. This occupation provides a window through which to view one key way in which animals and organizations intersect in modern society. Given its proximity to death and undesirable required tasks, working in a slaughterhouse is classified as ‘dirty work'. Current theorizing, however, does not address how the intentional killing of animals may impact workers beyond its inherent dirtiness and low prestige. In this study, we draw upon and extend dirty work theory to further understand the unique nature of work that involves the intentional killing of animals. Regression analyses of data from 10,605 Danish workers across 44 occupations suggest that slaughterhouse workers consistently experience lower physical and psychological well-being along with increased incidences of negative coping behavior. Our findings hold while statistically controlling for occupational prestige and overall dirtiness. Additionally, we compare the pattern of results with a comparable occupation that does not involve animal killing, suggesting specific outcomes associated with routinized killing of animals. Building upon extant research and considering our findings, we discuss the theoretical implications regarding dirty work and the intentional killing of animals in organizations.

Source: Baran BE, Rogelberg SG, Clausen T. Organization. 2016; 23: 351-69.

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