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The Silence of the Lambs

Many years ago, in my days as the bachelor tradie in my twenties, I was subbied as a contractor to do “shut-down maintenance” on the old Metro Meats abattoir at Old Noarlunga over the Christmas holiday break. It was my job as the carpenter to fix and make good a list of jobs from office doors to the replacement of thick wooden slats on the sheep slaughter conveyor line.

In the progression from one sector of that place to another … from admin’ offices to different sections of the “factory”, I got to know other trades involved in the maintenance schedule and they explained the workings of their particular section … like the cattle killing box and the equipment used and the hydraulics that handled the carcass etc … I won’t go into it here … it is a brutal procedure even in its necessity. I was proudly told that the time from the beast entering the killing pen to the cold room was so short that some carcasses could still be seen quivering with nerves reaction after being skinned and on their way to the cold-room.

But it was the sheep killing system that most intrigued me … the wooden slats that I had to replace were on this twin conveyor system set in a “V”, where two “belts” of these wooden slats, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom to let the trapped legs go through when the animal was driven onto it, so that the slats carried the animal in a least resistance method with it’s legs penned and the animal’s body supported by this “V” combination toward the person who then slit the animal’s throat … a concise, predictable and perhaps considering the requirements of the deed, a neat conclusion. And given that what we have heard about the absolute brutality of live sheep export these last months, the quick dispatching of those beasts in the most “humane” manner would be the most acceptable method.

There was a day toward the end of the contract where I stood in the approximate centre of the killing-floor operations and did a 360-degree turnaround to just absorb the complete methodology of operations … it sent a chill down my spine, and I thought of those pics one sees of the Nazi years of concentration camps, where the human hand and mind exercises its natural bent toward the most efficient method of “getting a job done”. I saw the mechanised procedures as a metaphor of the politics of management and while I was unsophisticated then, I can now look back and compare that killing floor of flesh and blood with the kind of “killing floor” of right-wing economic rationalism, where a large section of the working population is “sacrificed” to the profit-motive of banking corporations and now has no chance to become an owner of their own home, yet is still driven at breakneck speed with deluded illusions of perhaps … perhaps being able to one day … one day … and those managers of corporate business and politics, in their concern to not ( very much like those animals to slaughter ) create nervous apprehension or awareness in the populace of their hopeless inevitability, lest they get too excited and cause themselves and society damage.

There is so much “killing” being done, one must become insensitive to the slaughter, both on the abattoir floor and the economic houses of the world .. There must be a brutalisation of both the butcher of the animals and the financial speculator toward their environment … there MUST be.

The manager of operations, when I went to sign off on the last day of the job, sat back in his chair and asked me my personal opinion of what I thought of the efficiency of the operation … I answered truthfully that it seemed to work in a most efficient, streamlined way … and then he asked if I would like to stay on in a full-time position as a maintenance staffer …

I politely declined, claiming (again, truthfully AND thankfully) other pressing engagements. And I have to add, that all the while I worked there, in whatever capacity, and although the abattoir was completely shut down so that the only sounds were the mechanical clatter of maintenance work being carried out, I was continually haunted by what I imagined was the cacophony of bellowing of the fearful animals being sent to slaughter … yet there I was at those very conveyor belts that carried the poor things to their inevitable doom with nothing about me but silence … the silence of the lambs.

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19 comments

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  1. Jack Cade

    It makes me ashamed to eat meat, to be honest. Terrible hypocrisy.
    One hot summer day I was driving along Hampstead Road in Northfield, in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. Stopped at traffic lights at Grand Junction Road, I heard a child crying, pitifully, a heart tending sound.
    Looking around, I found that the wailing was coming from a heavy haulage vehicle alongside me, carrying a packed load of pigs, one of which had fallen and could not rise to its feet because of the crowding of the other animals. The sound was quite unnerving, exactly like a terrified child crying. I know pigs are extremely intelligent (a neighbour used to go hunting in the bush and said that wild pigs were very cunning, and scary.) and this distressed animal clearly understood where it was headed, and why.

  2. Kerry

    Beautifully written Joseph thank you 🙂

    I had similar experiences of animal slaughter as a young person that affected me profoundly.

    I think it is true that the brutalisation of life at the level of our dinner plates does desensitise us into readily accepting the brutalities to the human species such as predatory capitalism, opportunistic racism and perpetual war.

  3. Joseph Carli

    Thank you Kerry..yes, I too am a meat eater, though I am always conscious of the fact that it requires the organised abbatoir to supply the meat…But then it always was a case of kiling a beast to survive…and if one extends the principle out, we can see that the entire universe is one of creation and destruction in an endless cycle…Those big B-double trucks go past our place with a load of livestock heading toward the Murray Bridge abbotoirs…and I have to slow-blink on their passing to not dwell on the animal’s fate..
    Some Bukowski..:
    when you wait for the dawn to crawl through the screen like a burglar to take your life away– – Charles Bukowski
    the snake had crawled the hole,
    and she said,
    tell me about
    yourself.

    and
    I said,
    I was beaten down
    long ago
    in some alley
    in another
    world.

    and she said,
    we’re all
    like pigs
    slapped down some lane,
    our
    grassbrains
    singing
    toward the
    blade.

    by
    god,
    you’re an
    odd one,
    I said.

    we
    sat there
    smoking
    cigarettes
    at
    5
    in the morning.

  4. Joseph Carli

    There now is a weakness in the wall..a blind-spot that the right-wing has found and is exploiting to entrap the more gullible and naive of the working class to trust them to lead the nation..The entrepreneurial middle class has taken a leaf out of Greek mythology and used a “Trojan Horse” to break through the innermost defence to plant their disease of divide and rule within the heart of the nation. It has used the stupid to attract the stupid, much like one uses a cut piece of bait from the one fish to attract and catch another of the same species. The Right-wing has used those now familiar fools so clumsy in their knowledge of chicanery, politics and social needs, and to apply that oh so rat-cunning in their use of phrasing of tongue so that it appeals to the most gullible..the almost incoherent imbecility as appealing to the most uneducated knowledgeable group as also to the most educated knowledgeable “don’t-want-to-see” group..one may be more savvy than the other , but in the end both as dangerous and as gullible as each other.

  5. johno

    When I was about 15 I used to go on long rides here and there (Auckland, New Zealand). One of my rides took me past a large abattoir and the smell with the thoughts of the killings helped my decision to go vegetarian. Apart from the odd regression I haven’t looked back.

  6. Joseph Carli

    Yeah but, Johno…when I look at Cosi’ and his people on Gardening Australia, how they uproot and divide or just tear those old plants out of the ground without so much as a “beg your pardon” to the plant, so you can almost hear the plant scream in agony…but there they are, smiling away like ademented executioner… I have to turn my face away and wince in horror!…are all vegetarians that cruel to their sustaining plants…?

  7. johno

    Well if you think cutting off a head of broccoli is murder you could always go fruitarian like this bloke…
    http://www.fruitnut.net/about-me

  8. Joseph Carli

    Mango Wodzak…..now there’s a name to conjure with!…but even there, johno…y’know, I was down the old supermarket the other day and I picked up a whole coconut..I stared at it for a while and by God…I could swear one of it’s “eyes” gave me a wink!…now after THAT…how could you?

    Worth a repost..:
    Down the aisle..
    your shopping correspondent.
    They’re taking the mickey out on us, of course..by “us”, I mean us baby-boomers.. The good lady has the March edition of a cooking magazine open to the page showing a vegan pizza!…a vegan pizza do you mind..
    “Oh well,” I reflect as I stir the proffered cup of “ginger zinger” tea..(I almost added milk!) “I suppose you could use the recipe there and just throw the salami on top as well to cheer it up”..
    “It says to use “cauliflower mince” as the topping..” she read out.
    “Cauliflower mince!!??” I exclaim…” WTF is cauliflower mince??” But of course it is a wasted protest..you see, we are both getting to that age where the medicinal diet is an imperative if you want to make 100 years with still a bit of lead in the pencil..and now it is only in sentimental daydreams of a wasted youth in Darwin that I can “taste” that “super-size” take-away meal of “Porky’s spare ribs” with side bag of chips and sauce, washed down with many cans of that gentle beer and a television replay of “Father Knows Best”!…Ahh!,,they knew how to make sit-coms in those days.
    I remember a past marriage when we were mixed up with an “alternative education group” and my then partner adopted what could best be called “alternative protein” foods with fanatical zeal, and tofu and tabouli was a fixed item on our weekly menu..Tabouli goes well with a nice cut of lamb..a nice juicy cut of lamb..NOT tofu..tofu goes well sitting in its plastic packaged wrap in the rack of the fridge door..and staying there until it goes green.
    It got to the stage where I would cunningly seek forewarning of such meals and stop off at a known small-town bakery on my way home from a hard day’s work and fill up on their renowned protein enriched pies and perhaps a macaroon or two..they had wonderful macaroons.
    Needless to say, that marriage failed on the grounds of gastronomical cruelty.
    But then when I was last at the mega shopping emporium, I had to park up the trolley while the good lady perused the selections of flours..besan, lupin, f#ckin’ spelt, buckwheat…is there a hemp flour?…because there oughta be!..there’s hemp everythin else!..: Hemp seeds, hemp oil, hemp protein..and I believe you can even get..wait for it!..: hemp beer!..it’s cruel, isn’t it!?..and of course there nothing you can do with the hemp except, I’ll bet, plonk it on some vegan pizzas or something..Though you can’t tell me some wide-eyed hop-head hasn’t bought a pack of seeds and tried to grow his own, just on the off chance. . .
    Ah..I’ve just about had enough of it..all this growing old and healthy is about as bad as growing old and sober..there’s little to recommend it, it’s like that episode of “The Hollow Men” where the garrulous old politician flings the capers out of his sandwich..
    “Why do they want to continually try to re-invent the f#ckin’ sandwich!!?”
    I’d say the same with pizza..: “If it aint broke, DON’T f#ckin’ vegan it !! “

  9. lawrence winder

    A well told tale…. and when does such political butchering fashion a similar riposte?

  10. Joseph Carli

    ” and when does such political butchering fashion a similar riposte?”….(looks in mirror…turns his best side to reflection..) ” you talkin’ t’ me?…..are you talkin’ t’ ME???”

  11. johno

    Sorry Joseph, but I loooove vegan pizza. Travelling through Italy they put tooo much fooking cheese on everything, gross is an understatement. And tofu, yum, ever since discovering tofu and tempeh they are now a staple.
    (I did find some decent pizza near the Pantheon)

  12. helvityni

    Loved Joe’s article, and laughed at the responses… A nice change from Trump, Boris, and our own bumbling leaders…

    I went on hunger-strike after timidly tasting hubby’s overly salted ( overly ‘ anchoviced’) Pizza on Friday night…it was shop-bought for starters….

    Where are my Human Rights, I’m still thirsty….

  13. Michael Taylor

    Anchovies are evil little fish.

  14. helvityni

    …no, no, Michael, fish are innocent; this was a payback for me insisting that the family eat my beautiful looking home-baked cheesecake…even I had forgotten to add ANY sugar into the mix…

  15. Joseph Carli

    Can’t take anchovies!…and as for cheesecake…When I was courting Irene (my partner and the most wonderful cook), I was invited to attend her place and sit down to a home-cooked meal with her and her grown children…I, of course accepted provided I could at least bring along the desert…not being aware in those early days of our relationship that “shop-bought” pre-cooked food was anathema to their taste buds…I went to my favourite “Cheesecake Shop” and purchased the most gauche/baroque cheesecake in the display window..wrongfully thinking..like Daffy Duck choosing between the 10 cent and the 20 cent tray of engagement rings..; “It MUST be the best!”…upon my “Ta-Da!” presentating of the desert, I was met with silence and a ..to me then..remarkable reticence to partake of the “colourful and sticky sweet”…and in the following weeks of my coming to dinner there, I was offered a piece of that cheesecake until it was consumed…and I have to confess, that after these nearly twenty years of relationship with my dear Irene, and the glorious foods she has laid in front of yours T..if I was presented with that or a similar cheesecake, I too would now turn it down in preference to a good home-prepared dessert!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSDyiUBrUSk …..( goodnight Irene )
    Though there is this brand of Spanish anchovies with a print of three men pushing a sail-boat into the water..and for some reason that pic I find so attractive and intrigueing..I even feel like writing a story around it..perhaps I will one day.

  16. Joseph Carli

    Here..a little “cheer me up” story…it’s nice to be in the “cheering up” business..

    Adam Jablonskis.

    I have to tell you of this bloke…particularly now that a very weird thing happened concerning my curiosity about him…You know that piece I put up last week about Mrs. Handcock and our haircuts….well, it got me thinking about people around there then and I remembered the Jablonskis family who lived across the road from Mrs. Handcock…then I remembered those kids never had the “Handcock basso” that we all had!…I rang my old mate Potter, up in Darwin to ask what happened to Adam Jablonskis and about those haircuts….well Potter answers the phone , abuses me as usual and says; “Here, guess who this is?”…and gives the phone to some bloke I didn’t have a clue of!…”It’s Adam Jablonskis”…the other bloke finally says….Hey!….Hey!….WTF!!…what’s going on here, I’m thinking…WOW!…I haven’t seen or heard of Adam for at least forty years…and just when I go to ask someone about him, he turns up on the end of the bloody line!!??….Hey?..Hey?..far out man!….now I’ll HAVE to tell you the story.

    The Jablonskis family lived in a fibro house over the road-one down from Mrs. Handcock. I suppose they are Polish..I never thought of asking..no-one seems to have..but then there were many weird names in that fringe district..: Leuschel, Skrypek, Aloia, Verstaphen, Hogben…now there’s a moniker..: “Hogben”…what is that?…Anglo-something?.. I sometimes wonder how they got along…I do remember the Jablonskis kids never sported the “Handcock Basso” that many others did…perhaps, being neighbours, so to speak…? Of all the people in the Jablonskis family, and there were a few, I only remember three…Adam…his brother Alex and old Mrs…..

    Adam’s brother, Alex, had extraordinary balance..or at least it looked that way…he could have equaled Travolta as Vinnie when he did that twist dance in “Pulp Fiction”…he (Adam’s bro’) would walk like he was forever facing into a force ten gale…I don’t know how he stayed upright, he seemed to be sloping backwards at least twenty degrees from the vertical!….some of us kids would try to imitate him on the railway station as we waited for the school train….no way !..Marlene Oxford, when she spotted him walking on the street, from her window, would hold a broom-handle vertical to see how many degrees from it he leant…she reckons if you made the handle at twelve o’clock, Alex sloped backwards at about one-thirty / two!….she was a wit was Marlene…she married Tex, the fisherman…I must tell you about him and Ingo Skrypek one day.

    But Adam was a strange one…he gives proof that one can show all the signs of conservative on the outside, but be totally unusual on the inside….he would accept most challenges…Once, Potter, Mick Oxford and some others scrapped their pennies together and bet Adam that for two bob he wouldn’t eat a caterpillar…he accepted..but they then stipulated that THEY would choose the caterpillar…ok…they chose the fattest, hairiest one they could find….he ate it…one bite at a time…..every kid there nearly vomited…Adam, non-plussed, nonchalantly remarked after finishing the job, that it wasn’t the yellow goo that he minded so much as the hairy bits getting between his teeth!…..more vomiting!!

    Adam worked for the old PMG.(post masters general dept’) till it got broken up into Telstra … He was one of those old time public servant eccentrics, who gave the service it’s reputation as an imaginative innovator…Adam was in electronics…I remember he showed us kids then how he had rewired his old man’s EH. Holden so he had a row of toggle switches on the dashboard that controlled everything from an electric aerial (novel those days!) to radio and lights and many other fascinating things…he was a marvel!…at least we kids thought so..I often wonder what his old man thought of it all?

    Another dare he took up was to drive his car in reverse from Brighton Jetty back to Marino Rocks (home) a distance of approx’ ten miles by road…a challenge he attempted..I say attempted, because he had got a fair way toward success when he was pulled over by the cops up near the top of Brighton road, by the war memorial and asked to “please explain”…he had some difficulty!

    Old Mrs. Jablonskis was a bent-backed old lady, who always wore black…we kids thought of her as some sort of witch….and would run from her whenever she came onto the railway station..poor old thing, when I think back on it now…she must have had some tragedy in her life to be wearing that black..as is the custom, I believe…kids are cruel things…I think we must have upset her some days with our insensitivities….little shits!

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