To author Upton Sinclair, the hellish world of factory slaughterhouses was as dangerous to human beings as it was to pigs. He filled his 1906 novel The Jungle with meat-packing images that seem ripped from a slasher movie:
"... and as for the other men, who worked in tank-rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting -- sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!"
Sinclair's abattoir labourers get so desensitized to violence that rates of murder, rape and brawls among them rise. The book cemented the link between slaughterhouses and crime for decades to come -- long before pig farmer and serial killer Robert Pickton haunted headlines.
More than a hundred years later, a University of Windsor researcher may have proven the literary classic right. Criminology professor Amy Fitzgerald says statistics show the link between slaughterhouses and brutal crime is empirical fact.
In a recent study, Fitzgerald crunched numbers from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report database, census data, and arrest and offence reports from 581 U.S. counties from 1994 to 2002.
"I have a graph that shows that as the number of slaughterhouse workers in a community increases, the crime rate also increases," she says. Fitzgerald says she was inspired by The Jungle to study crime records in U.S. communities where slaughterhouses are located.
She became fascinated by studies of the environmental effects of slaughterhouses that mentioned crime rates, without explanation, seemed to go up when the factories opened in communities.
Fitzgerald carefully weighed the figures in order to see whether a link really existed. She found that an average-sized slaughterhouse with 175 employees would annually increase the number of arrests by 2.24 and the number of reports by 4.69. The larger the abattoir, the worse the local crime problem.