• The Psychological Consequences of Killing

    Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing

    I rise today to extend the discussion on the deleterious effects certain occupations have on our personal well-being.  Our first thoughts, naturally, turn to our emergency services such as our police, ambo’s, fire fighters, and the like. But what about the less ‘visual’ jobs, the less traditional jobs that, when we pause to think about, have very serious trauma attached to them. One such occupation that has, to my knowledge, never been considered seriously in this country, is that of the slaughterhouse worker.

    In the study In Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing Rachel MacNair gives rise to the term Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS). PITS, MacNair states is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However the distinction between the two is that PITS is caused not by being a victim or rescuer in trauma, but by being an active participant in causing trauma.

    Take the Martin Place siege for example, according to MacNair the survivors and witnesses would be sufferers of PTSD. The police, who stormed the Lindt café and killed Man Monis, on the other hand, would be sufferers of PITS.

    Sufferers of PITS, argues MacNair, is extended to slaughterhouse workers, where it is socially acceptable and in fact expected for them to cause trauma, including death. MacNair describes the symptoms of PITS as including drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression, increased paranoia, a sense of disintegration, as well as dissociation or amnesia.

    This less publicly discussed or understood psychological trauma suffered by slaughterhouses workers is not accidental. In fact, one would say it iss intentional as society becomes increasingly distanced from the realities of modern day food production and the business of killing animals for food. A study conducted recently in the U.S found that 85% of the meat-eating participants stated that if they personally had to kill an animal to obtain meat, they would not be able to do it. However, they were happy to pay another person to perform the task of killing, thereby acknowledging the trauma associated with such an occupation placing the burden on the shoulders of the slaughterhouse worker.

    As Paul McCartney once said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian”. The business of killing living, sentient beings on mass scale is a violent, bloody task. Not only do these slaughterhouse workers face serious physical health hazards daily, but they also experience large-scale violence and death that most of us will never have to, nor want to encounter.

    In our society, we have a common understanding that taking pleasure in the cruel death of a helpless animal is an antisocial and potentially psychotic characteristic. In fact, its widely know that offenders that commit acts of animal cruelty often use it as a stepping stone to cruelty inflicted upon humans. A most notorious example of this is in the case of Anita Cobby’s killers, who enjoyed committing atrocious acts of bestiality, torture and killing on sheep, goats and other animals.

    A research paper published in 2008 by Jennifer Dillard titled A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees set a precedent by calling for legal redress for slaughterhouse workers due to psychological trauma. This trauma is directly caused by their daily experience of “large-scale violence and death” within an institutional culture that does little to reduce animal or human suffering.

    This is an interesting notion, if we think about the successful class action against James Hardie in relation to asbestos related suffering and deaths.  It’s not unreasonable to consider that just as soldiers fighting in wars suffer PTSD deserve acknowledgement, support and assistance, that slaughterhouse workers too should have this level of support. Will we see a class action brought forward against the wealthy corporations by those paid to commit violence on animals for PTSD, PITS, alcohol abuse or drug abuse?

    The social effects of slaughterhouses are harmful and far-reaching, and the legal regime and the general public must act to reduce those deleterious effects on society. It affects families, communities, and relationships. The strongest message we as citizens or consumers can send is that we do not want to participate in an industry that profits from suffering, pain and death. We owe it to the people and the animals caught up in the business of killing.

  • Mark Pearson team staff

    15/10/2015: Speech in support of workplace flexibility

    I support the principle of flexibility in the workplace. It is important to address the mental and physical health of employees in a workplace where the work is difficult, the stress level is high and there are many deadlines. Often people do not merge their work lives and home lives, for different reasons. At home people may have to deal with illness of a partner, a child or a family member. That and other factors make life complex and it is impossible to live a regimented life. At the same time their workplace may be rigid and regimented, and does not provide flexibility, which results in more stress. That can have deleterious impacts on their wellbeing and their capacity to manage their lives, both at work and at home.

    Read the full speech HERE

  • 04/02/2015: Adjournment speech on homelessness

    With my previous experience in the mental health and community service sectors it is clear that the two major causes of homelessness are mental illness and domestic violence.

    I raise the issue of homelessness in New South Wales as again the root causes and underpinnings of our society are being ignored. 2½ blocks from this Parliament several people are living in a terrible situation one block behind the courthouses where their walls are blankets and their protection is old doonas and filthy clothes. They are living in impoverished conditions right under our watch.

    Read the full speech HERE

  • 20/10/2015: Question Without Notice, Mental Health Funding

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water, representing the Minister for Mental Health. As raised in my discussions with the Minister for Health at a recent budget estimates hearing, I was advised that in its strategic plan for mental health, called Living Well, the Government made a commitment to fund early intervention, community-focused health and social support services. Such services will assist people who suffer from mental illness to return to living in the community sooner but in a supported way. Examples include the Professor Marie Bashir Centre at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the new community mental health facilities at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. Will the Minister advise the House of the timetable for the rollout of such community-based, early intervention mental health services across New South Wales?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I know that the Hon. Mark Pearson has a particular interest in mental health. The question asks for details and time lines. I will refer the question to the relevant Minister and come back with a detailed response.

    Hansard link – HERE

    No answer has yet been provided.

  • 06/05/2015: My Inaugural speech

    I felt truly privileged to give a voice for the voiceless in parliament. Many dear friends and supporters joined me in the public gallery for the history making moment. I contemplated the significance of this speech and for the foundation it will set for my work in NSW parliament.

    Read the full speech HERE

    Watch the full speech below.

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