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Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  370 ratings  ·  55 reviews
This is an account of industrialized killing from a participant’s point of view. The author, political scientist Timothy Pachirat, was employed undercover for five months in a Great Plains slaughterhouse where 2,500 cattle were killed per day—one every twelve seconds. Working in the cooler as a liver hanger, in the chutes as a cattle driver, and on the kill floor as a food ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 18th 2011 by Yale University Press (first published November 8th 2011)
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Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It’s been quite a while since Gail Eisnitz ventured into the jungle of the meatpacking industry for her book Slaughterhouse, and in this world of massive meat recalls and ag–gag laws, it’s clearly once again time for someone to take a critical eye to the places where live animals are turned into tomorrow’s dinner.

Pachirat obtained employment at an enormous beef slaughterhouse in order to write this book, a time-tested reporting tactic which may be on thin ice if the ag-gag bills continue their
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Every Twelve Seconds will be of interest to anyone concerned about food safety, the exploitation of workers in modern industrialized society, and the abuse and mistreatment of animals.

Every Twelve Seconds is a first-hand account of the gruesome operations of an Omaha slaughterhouse. The author, Timothy Pachirat, is a professor in the Department of Politics at The New School University, and he obtained an entry level position at the slaughterhouse in order to see and document exactly how cattle a
Melissa Harlow
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For some of us, upon reading the synopsis of this book I’m sure the question arises, why read it? If you don’t want to know the truth, don’t read it. If you want to remain blissfully unaware of where some of your food comes from, definitely Do. Not. Read. It. It is horrific, and should make you think twice before you go through the drive-thru and absentmindedly get yourself or your kids a burger. It's an excellent, well-written account of the actual slaughterhouse where the author Timothy Pachir ...more
Emma van Inwegen
If you want to be convinced of the value of qualitative social science research, look no further than this incredible ethnography of a slaughterhouse and it's workers. This book is ostensibly about a meatpacking plant but really it's about the people who work there, and how and why they are able to do the horrifying-from-our-perspective work they do. It is about who really kills the cows, the worker who puts the gun to their heads, the workers who only ever see cow livers, the workers who only e ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I could probably write a whole 'nother book detailing my thoughts on this book. Instead I'll just keep it succinct.

Yes there are big problems with industrialized ANYTHING and big corporate EVERYTHING. However that people choose to focus on sensationalistist topics without looking at the whole picture really grinds my gears. At least Tim makes his thesis and point very clear from the begining and anyone intelligent, educated, and able to clearly evaluate academic arguments can easily see it. That
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
There are two things that are extremely valuable in this book: Pachirat's incredibly meticulous recounting of every single aspect of killing and production that goes on in the slaughterhouse, and what I think is a very good (albeit too brief) discussion of the "politics of sight." The former is crucial if for no other reason than that most of us have little idea what goes on in slaughterhouses. The work of killing animals may be the worst work in our entire society: it does real violence to work ...more
Jeffrey Cohan
May 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: veganism
“Every 12 Seconds” is a damning depiction of the dynamics in a typical cattle slaughterhouse, where management, labor and USDA inspectors operate in a state of perpetual conflict and cross-purposes.

Pachirat, who was undercover in the slaughterhouse for several months, demonstrates how plant managers routinely falsify documents to hide violations of food-safety and animal-welfare standards, while line workers routinely ignore sanitation and hygiene rules.

What makes this book so powerful and so au
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Reads incredibly well - often find myself wishing I could write like this. Story is engaging. Read in one sitting, but not before a large meal at a steakhouse. Well reported and great voice. Ends in solid political theory.
Pearse Anderson
We read this for Animal Biocapital! And then when it was over and I had only read some sections, and I kept it beside my bed and read it every night before slept until I finished it. This is one of the best food books I have read. Pachirat is really good at telling you what you need to know, but making this information-gathering and dissemination seem flawless and without moral judgement. He trusts the readers to come to their own judgements about the knocking line or the lactic acid concentrati ...more
Martin Rowe
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This immensely informative and wonderfully written book is part sociological analysis of the physical, class, racial, and power structures that define the modern-day slaughterhouse and part memoir of the author's six months working in a Omaha slaughterhouse, as both worker and "management." Pachirat (whom I know socially) is a conscientious and meticulous recorder of what he sees and experiences, and I found his station-by-station description of what it takes to turn a living, breathing being in ...more
This book is two things.

1) Every Twelve Seconds is an excellent, very readable, absorbing personal account of Pachirat's experience, documenting the conditions and the lived reality for both human workers and non-human victims in the slaughterhouse. His perspective is written both with a novelesque personal flair and the objectivity and detail of a researcher, which makes for a book that is both gripping and intellectually stimulating.

2) This book is also a fascinating work of political theory.
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow, that was an intense, fascinating read! Timothy Pachirat is a Yale-educated PhD and Poli-Sci professor at UMass. As part of his research on violence and power, he rolled up his sleeves and performed grueling work at an Omaha slaughterhouse for 5+ months. He (quite objectively) shows what it is like to work in various stages of the slaughter process, and sheds light on the real people who show up to do this work in an industry with a 100%+ turnover rate (***the majority are immigrants and ref ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found this book surprisingly good. It's a very readable account of one person's employment in a cattle slaughterhouse for several months. The author, Timothy Pachirat, got the job specifically so he could then write about the experience and tell the readers what it was like. He's been very successsful. But this book is more than just a witness report. It also raises questions about why we slaughter animals for food and even more, it reminds us that most of us, even those who eat meat and work ...more
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
What I appreciated about this book the most was that it brought to the discussion table the HUMAN oppression that coincides with animal oppression in slaughterhouses. Disturbing, graphic and very efficient at portraying the monotony and numbness of slaughterhouse work, Pachirat also talks about the little rebellions, communities and friendships that form working under such horrific conditions.
I thought the idea of a lottery system that would have every person that participates in this system (if
Maya Man
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
clearly & explicitly demonstrates how industrialized slaughter came to be so obscured from the public's vision. I'm very impressed by pachirat's methodology & his commitment to bringing the horrors that are usually hidden to light. I honestly don't understand how anyone with the proper means could ever eat meat after reading this. unapologetically forces you to see what you are supporting if you choose to consume such products. HIGHLY important read. ...more
Summer Wertz
Wow... I have just finished this book and can not recommend it enough. While leaning towards the subject of politics, I think its underlying economic arguments has significance as well in the way that it relates to labor division, specialization, the supply chain, and the challenges of regulation when government mandated USDA quality control and humane standards stand in direct challenge to the realities and requirements of routinized production.

Pachirat's method of detailing his narrative of l
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended. Describes in detail the operation of an industrialized slaughterhouse, from the front office to the delivery of cattle and back again. While it is clear the process is inhumane and unsanitary, the working conditions of the employees are the focus. Even if the ethics of killing animals for food is not an issue for you, a system that has one person kill 2,500 cattle, every work day, in order to put meat on your plate has qualities reminiscent of the hypothetical posed in Le Gui ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
~ Let us now imagine, as an alternative, a world in which distance and concealment failed to operate, in which walls and checkpoints did not block sight...perhaps the citizen would have to leave the seminar room discussions of immigration and spend the day laboring beside undocumented workers planting flowers on the manicured campus lawn...buying a pair of jeans would require the purchaser to touch the hands that sewed the seams...and to eat meat would be to know the killers, the killing, and th ...more
Sage Kampitsis
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
I'm not a vegetarian, and to be blunt, I hate vegan elitism. That being said, that's not why I read this book, and it didn't "turn me vegan." For me, this book was a wonderful example of participatory observation research. The author goes into the factory undercover as a line worker, and moves his way up through the company, learning a great deal about it in the process. If you're interested in pursuing sociological research (and you're not squeemish), I recommend this book.
Nam Pham
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book offers a great account of concealment and distancing strategies in all of its forms, especially of linguistic nature. The fabrication of labels and rituals enables a fiction that allows the 'civilized society' to reinforce and perpetuate its existing structures while comfortably remove ourselves from any forms of accountability.
Natalia Scollo
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this a great book to include in my AR rounds because NOT a vegan theory book. It's more of a personal sociological review but it reads like a autobiography so it was easy to follow but beware, can be hard to read due to the graphic nature. I also recommend this book as it is written by a PoC, who's voices need to be heard more amongst the AR movement.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Should be required reading. A powerful look at what it takes to kill animals at an industrial scale for human consumption, and a fascinating analysis of the "politics of concealment" in modern societies.
Rae Sibbitt
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A perfect explanation of the politics of sight and how otherwise caring and compassionate people can work day-to-day in a slaughterhouse. Brilliant.
Emily Bragg
Jun 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting - would love to read something on a similar topic that was focused on the legal side of things! Interesting writing style, reads very quickly.
Rock Angel

Summary: Assistant Professor of Politics and Yale PhD went undercover to work 5.5 months in an Omaha slaughterhouse

First impression: The first 15 pages provide background and explains his motivation for the book. The reader is treated with his academic writing, along with a healthy dose of his robust politics (at least he is honest and upfront). Fatigue with conspiracy theories aside, learning that Monsanto successfully lobbied for a class D felony into law Vs trespassers of slaughterhouses shou
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Politics of Sight: this is Pachirat's posit. He spent some months working 3 different jobs in a slaughterhouse, to gain research for his dissertation. His observation that even in plain sight, humans will seek to obscure and deny what is facing them, when it is a subject of moral and ethical repugnance. So, even if slaughterhouses had glass walls, it would not serve to stop the current torture of animals eaten for food, but would, on the contrary, find more ugliness in humans, I.e. there wou ...more
Jun 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked this book, but I found myself disappointed that the author didn't include more analysis or, in the end, offer a real conclusion--I would have even forgiven the former had he achieved the latter (he was getting there; I feel like he just needed to go about one page further in his final section).

Overall though, worth the read. For better or for worse, from the description offered in this book, I was able to imagine in great detail every single job on a slaughterhouse floor.

Interesting fa
Marina Metzler
“Every Twelve Seconds” is an incredible book that goes into depth about what goes on in an industrialized slaughter house. Pachirat goes undercover for five months in an industrialized slaughter house that kills about 2,500 animals every day. It is a book about first hand slaughter and the things he encounters everyday. He creates a map that takes you through the slaughterhouse without actually being there. Pachirat describes the everyday work that the employees do and the differences between ea ...more
Christie Maloyed
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book has all the benefits and many of the deficits of a participant-observer study. Tim Pachirat gives an in-depth look at how one large slaughterhouse works in Omaha, NE. He surreptitiously gains employment and spends several months working there, moving between various jobs in the plant.

The best analysis he gives is of the effect the work has on the people working in the plant. He makes sharp observations about the floor workers and management, and the way that mass, routinized killing h
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional look at the industrial model of meat production. The author worked for 6 months undercover in the slaughter facility at jobs on the floor, herding cattle in for killing, and in QA/QC. This leads to a broad understanding of the processes and issues for the industrial meat business. This is a must read if you are interested in the current state of the art in industrial meat production and the many social costs that accrue to those who slaughter and process our food every day ...more
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Vegan ACT: Non-fiction book for January 2016 2 7 Dec 25, 2015 11:19PM  

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