The Human Cost of Animal Slaughter

The Psychological Impact of Animal Slaughter on Slaughterhouse Workers and the Spillover Effects in their Communities

Ryan Mahabir, Wake Forest University School of Law JD ’23

**This article was shortened to meet publication guidelines. The full version of this text can be downloaded at the bottom of the article.

It’s a hot afternoon. The grill is fired up, ready to cook some hotdogs and hamburgers. As you enjoy the food, have you thought about the cows, pigs, and other animals who had their lives cut short to produce the very meal you are eating? Have you considered the slaughterhouse worker who had the arduous task of ending the animal’s life so that it could be processed into ground beef for the burger? That same slaughterhouse worker is tasked with killing animals eight hours a day so that you can enjoy a cookout. Every hour, “1,000,000 chickens, 14,000 pigs, and 4,000 cows are slaughtered for human consumption in the United States.” These workers perform a job that, by its very nature, puts them at risk of psychological disorders.

This commentary identifies the occupational hazards of slaughterhouse work, exploring how they create a uniquely stressful, dangerous, and violent environment. Specifically, this commentary analyzes how the routinized killing of animals affects slaughterhouse workers’ physical and mental state and the spillover public health effects on their families and their community, comparing incidences of serious psychological distress and alcohol abuse between slaughterhouse workers and non-slaughterhouse workers and domestic violence and violent and sexual crime in communities around slaughterhouses and in communities elsewhere. It concludes by proposing educational initiatives and reallocating government subsidies to incentivize a vegan lifestyle.

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Letters From an Angel

Teala Volkamer, Wake Forest University School of Law JD ’23

Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women 

8966 US-231, Wetumpka, AL 36092 


I don’t even know why I’m writin’ you, I guess I don’t have anyone else to write to. I’ve been put in the hole and don’t have anythin’ better to do than write. The cage is so small if I stretch my arms out real wide, I can just touch both walls. Ain’t even got anythin’ but a mattress. The only reason I even have some paper is cause there’s a newjack workin’ the hole. I don’t think he’s figured out it’s just supposed to be me and my thoughts in here. 

It’s funny, my first memory is visitin’ you in prison. Some karma. I remember Gran and I hopped a bus at 2:45am to make it to the prison. Gran didn’t want to risk her old clunker breakin’ down on the three-hour drive, so we took a community bus. I remember the bus makin’ tons of stops along the way to pick up other kids visitin’ their parents.  

I remember the bus pullin’ up in front of the main entrance, you know the one, with Julia Tutwiler’s name hung low over the metal bars. I remember standin’ outside in the freezin’ air tryin’ to sound out the letters. I had just started learnin’ to read, though ‘prison’ hadn’t shown up on a spellin’ test yet. Gran wrapped her arms around me from behind spellin’ out Julia Tutwiler Prison for me.  

I remember walkin’ through those front doors. However cold it was outside, it must have been ten degrees colder inside. Between the mean stares of C/Os lookin’ down on me mixed with the feelin’of sadness that sits thick in the air here, I was chilled through. I sat silently as someone read out the long list of rules: don’t touch the prisoners, don’t give the prisoners anythin’…the list went on for what felt like hours. 

I remember you. You looked happy to see me, but you still seemed sad. Even at five years old, I could tell you were beaten down even though I didn’t understand why. I’m startin’ to understand, mom. I feel like I’m bein’ chatted out with no one to talk to. The only thing that brings me any peace is knowin’ my daughter is safe. 

When we left the prison that day I cried. Gran said you couldn’t come home with us because you made a mistake, but I didn’t get what mistake could be so big that it kept you from me. I remember that night Gran prayed for you. Gran spent a lot of time prayin’ that God would forgive whatever mistake you made. And I know she prayed that I would live up to my name and not make the same ones.  

I guess it’s too late for prayers now. 


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Mary’s Battle 

Jacqueline Kasemsri, Wake Forest University School of Law JD ’22

“Please, God. Please, forgive me for my sins.” 

Mary kneeled on the cold tile of her bathroom floor with her elbows propped on the toilet lid. Her knuckles turned white from squeezing her hands tightly. She could taste salty tears running down her cheeks. She was praying harder than she ever had. The toilet was the altar and the little white stick sitting on the toilet lid was the cross. Her mind began to wander, and she thought about how angry her mother was going to be. Her mother was going to kill her. Then she would have to call Jackson. She would have to call Jackson and tell him that she had ruined both of their lives. The last time she had spoken to Jackson was when she had FaceTimed him to see his new dorm room.  

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Living (and Dying) on Your Terms: End-of-Life Decision-Making Before and During COVID-19

Hannah Norem, Wake Forest University, J.D./M.Div Dual Degree Candidate ’23

Preface: Chaplaincy and End-of-Life Decision-Making

As a hospital chaplain, you have the privilege of experiencing the best and worst parts of patients’ lives.[1] You bear witness to the beginnings of life that take place in a hospital, like births and successful organ transplants.[2] However, you also are in the room when people are experiencing the worst days of their lives. Unspeakable tragedies and accidents, patients coding, and other traumatic events dot a chaplain’s shifts. Hearing a pager go off in the middle of the night and having to rush down to the emergency department to comfort strangers is not uncommon. While this is a normal day in the life of a chaplain, it is not a normal day for the patients and families the chaplain encounters. The difficulty and the ritual found in a chaplain’s everyday life and work do not detract from the sadness of any particular patient encounter but rather attune you to the rhythms of beginning and ending that are integral to the human experience.

From my first days as a chaplain, I heard the same sorts of things again and again. Entering the patient rooms in the ICU, I often found an unresponsive patient teetering in the liminal space between life and death. However, the family that gathered around the bedside, as this was before COVID, painted a robust picture of who this patient was before they found themselves laying in a hospital room, hooked up to countless machines and monitors. So many times, the families that I spoke with said they would have never wanted to be this way.  Speaking to families of veteran farmers, resilient teachers, and other pillars of their community, the spouses, siblings, and others portrayed how self-reliantly this person lived but how dependent the patient now was on machines and other people for every facet of their continued existence. How could someone who never needed anything in their life from others now be so helpless? Grieving families looked me in the eyes with their tear-soaked faces time and time again as they explored this painful juxtaposition taking place in front of them.

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Playing God: Making the Impossible Choices

Charlotte Robinson, Wake Forest University School of Law JD ’22

The room feels darker than most. It is cold and uninviting. For someone who works in a hospital, you’d think I would be used to this environment. I should have adapted to it. After all, no one has ever described a hospital as sunny and welcoming. I look around the waiting room of the psychology wing, taking in all the textbooks and self-help books, stewing. As I wait, I can hear every beat of my heart. My ears feel muffled, like when you swim underwater. I finally understand how patients must feel waiting for their doctor to show. Why make an appointment if you can’t commit to the time you offered? The door to her office creaks open, and I hear the small click-click of the doctor’s heels as she walks out to grab me. We walk the three feet back into her office. It’s even darker than the waiting room. Dr. Markin sits down at her desk and opens a folder. It’s thick. I know it’s my patient master file – a simple manilla folder than contains all my patients and their stories. For such a simple folder, it’s mere presence makes me nauseous. 

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The Tiger and the Lamb

Christian Schweitzer, Wake Forest University School of Law J.D. Candidate ’23

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 

In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, 

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?



“Alright, time’s up. Put your name on your exam and bring it to the front of the room please. Remember to read pages 288-304 for class on Monday. Have a great weekend everyone.” 

Hansen walked out of the classroom to join the sea of students cascading toward the school’s main exit. He brushed past obstacles, human and inanimate alike, with the grace of someone used to being among large crowds but never belonging to the group. 

Upon reaching the end of the hall, he took an abrupt right turn away from the exits and ventured into the silent corridor which contained the school’s computer lab. As he stepped into the lab in the direction of his usual seat, he gave a slight smile and a nod to the lab’s sole occupant, Mr. Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins was the high school’s computer science teacher. A kind, heavy-set man with a thin voice, Mr. Jenkins had become well acquainted with Hansen during the boy’s two-and-a-half years at the school. Hansen’s previous weekly visits to the lab informed Mr. Jenkins that Hansen would spend this Friday afternoon hard at work in front of the computer until their silent camaraderie was brought to a close by Jenkins’s familiar pronouncement,  

“C’mon kid, I think we both better get home.” 

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Strange Friend

Madison Boyer, Wake Forest University School of Law J.D. Candidate ’23

Department of Health and Human Services – Project Proposal & Request for Funding

Working Name: Project Talos

I. Proposal Summary

The Project Talos team has collaborated for six years to develop an artificially intelligent physician, or “AIP”. The AIP has the capacity to diagnose and treat all medical conditions complained of by adults. The AIP is a cost-conscious and effective way to ensure access to healthcare for all Americans, who otherwise may be unable to afford the services of a physician. Project Talos is requesting $15,000,000 to complete the necessary coding work, to install Project Talos “Dr. Touring”® AIP stations in pharmacies and primary care offices, and to offset the initial costs of providing healthcare. 

II. Project Description

Project Talos will revolutionize the American healthcare system. Currently, approximately one in four Americans (22%) are not receiving necessary medical care due to cost. Over thirty-one million Americans under the age of 65 do not have health insurance. Project Talos will allow those Americans to access excellent medical care at little to no out-of-pocket cost, whether or not they are insured. 

III. Goals and Objectives

The Project Talos AIP was built with three goals: (1) to promote health on an individual level (“individual health goal”); (2) to promote the overall health of the American population (“public health goal”); and (3) to promote health across generations (“future health goal”). All three goals are constantly monitored by the AIP. If the AIP detects health issues arising, it is independently capable of correcting for error. The AIP was trained on high-quality medical data that was graciously donated by Harvard Medical School. The data was stripped of all identifying information so that the AIP cannot reflect any possible bias concerning age, race, sex, or gender identification. The primary objective of Project Talos is to provide the highest possible quality of healthcare to all Americans at affordable prices. This will encourage patients to seek preventative healthcare services before their condition leads to a medical emergency. The AIP will help millions achieve better health outcomes and lead longer, happier lives.

IV. Conclusion

With the support of the Department of Health and Human Services, and with the eventual approval of the FDA, Project Talos is hopeful that millions of lives will be improved at an extremely reasonable cost to the United States taxpayer.

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By Austin Coates, WFU JD Candidate ’22

About mid-day on a Tuesday, Mera sat on a bench, weary and tired, yet relieved. She’d been up late the night before, studying for her computer science final exam into the morning hours. A senior in college now, it was the last final exam she would take as a student. As she sat on the bench, she couldn’t help but be proud of herself. The first in her family to go to college, she’d worked tirelessly to get to this point. She held a 3.89 GPA, would graduate at the top of her class, and had a job lined up with a leading ancestry analysis company, Family Tree, as a biometrics analyst.  She knew very little about her own family history and was fascinated by the opportunity to work at Family Tree while learning more about her ancestors. She would start the following Monday; her dreams realized and the world ahead of her. But for now, at least, it was time to celebrate.

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Three Black Stories

by Darrien Jones, WFU JD Candidate ’22


Black Boy has grown up in Over The Rhine, a small stretch of a booming city, Cincinnati. Over the Rhine, or as people call it now, “OTR,” is the “place to be”, the crowd is the youngest it has ever been, the restaurants that now line the streets are all between four and five stars, and the bars that accompany them are known for their local cocktail mixes. The crime has fallen to a minimal level, down from its top 25 ranking in “America’s Most Dangerous Cities,” and you can park without worry as you go to the Reds or Bengals game. Yet, as you come back to your car, you know to go towards Mason or Liberty Township, two of the biggest suburbs where most of OTR’s weekend visitors come from. You would not dare go past “The Wall.” Now, The Wall is not to be confused with a physical wall or any type of fencing. The Wall is where the city’s gentrification has stopped, maybe for only a month or a year as they continue to push Black people out of the area, but for now it has stopped. The construction certainly hasn’t, but the evictions, for some time, have taken respite. The difference between “good OTR” and “bad OTR” is so stark. One minute you are driving past The Eagle and Taste of Belgium, two “staple” expensive restaurants in the city, and drunk white college students and young professionals on paddle pubs.  The next minute, you are in a territory of homelessness, dilapidated and vacant buildings, graffiti everywhere, and trash unattended. It is a different city beyond The Wall, and this is where Black Boy lives.

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COVID-19 Has Laid Bare Our Inhumane Treatment of Incarcerated People and Their Families

by Kristen Kovach, WFU JD Candidate ’21

Michael opened his email on a dreary Tuesday morning. Casually scrolling through the spam messages between sips of coffee, his eyes paused on one message sent to him in the early hours of the morning. “I think your brother is dead,” the subject line read.

Michael froze. His heart pounded in his chest. Sweat beaded on his forehead and dampened his palms. His brother, Todd, had been in prison for drug possession since 2018. The brothers had not spoken in a while. But that’s because it’s just hard to get in contact with prisoners, Michael thought. There’s no way he’s dead.

The email came from his brother’s cellmate, Greg, who said that Michael’s brother had been sick for a while. Todd had been coughing terribly, complaining that his chest hurt, and suffering from a bad fever. Todd thought he had COVID. Two weeks ago, the medics came for Todd. Yesterday, the guards came for Todd’s belongings. Todd never came back.

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