The inside story of life and death in a French industrial slaughterhouse

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During the summer of 2016, journalist and Mediapart contributor Geoffrey Le Guilcher covertly gained employment as a worker on the production line of an industrial slaughterhouse in Brittany, north-west France. Le Guilcher infiltrated the lines to see for himself the infernal environment where, knife in hand, he was tasked with removing the fat from half-carcasses of cows at a rate of one every minute. He discovered not only the dreadful plight of the animals, but also the extreme duress placed on employees, whose relentless working rhythm drove some of those he befriended to drink and drugs. His experiences are detailed in a book, Steak Machine, published this month in France. Here he tells Rachida El Azzouzi about the horrors of the slaughterhouse.

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Geoffrey Le Guilcher was once a voracious meat-eater for whom there was never a good day without a slab of steak or a kebab. A saying from his grandparents had kept in his mind since his childhood: “Better to eat meat every day rather than take holidays”. Meat was a symbol of success and good health.