Sunday, June 14, 2009

The business of death. (Graphic content)

Bazil Raubach spent time in the military as a conscripted photographer , is a graduate graphic designer and news photographer, currently operating in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

A visit to a local abattoir in Eastern Cape, South Africa, forced a couple of questions for me to answer.

I have grown up eating meat; my mother came from a farm and my in-laws family much from the same type of background.

I have being buying meat from butcheries and supermarket ever since my very first salary cheque. However, I have never considered the process of how my steak lands up on my table, or even where my hamburger patty was processed.

I eat chicken, fish and enjoyed a Bar-B-Q for most of my adult life. (We call a BAR-B-Q, a 'BRAAI' in South Africa). But when I photographed the process, at a local abattoir my perception was changed somewhat.

I now struggle a little when faced with a steak, after witnessing the off-hand manner in which these animal were dispatched and the sheer numbers that were 'killed' in one working day – I was shocked by the wholesale business of death.

I have an old school friend that is currently a state advocate and a vegetarian, he had this to say:
"Why do we cause such suffering when we can live happy and healthy lives without inflicting such misery on other sentient beings? Habit can never be a substitute for thought! I have been a vegetarian for over 20 years and would like to challenge my face book friends to question the ethics of what they eat. Bon appetito!!"

As I work at a newspaper, I deal with the press 'togs' all the time. A collegue and a brilliant press 'tog' - looked at the images and said, 'can I have chips (potato) with my steak please!'

So the question I was faced with is this: Life altering or commonplace?

I often shoot with a really good friend and fellow 'tog', Terrence Mtola; he's African and one of the most pragmatic people in my circle of friends. He said me – 'Beaf (sic) does not come from Pick & Pay mate.'

I can't get away from the vision of these workers, dispatching these sentient beings in such an off-hand manner. I saw one of the mangers enjoying a cup of coffee, among the carnage of dead and dying animals, and telling me how he enjoyed a decent cup of coffee. Two steps outside the 'kill-room', my description not theirs. I met a young farmer enjoying a sandwich and a cup of coffee chatting to one of the principals of the business. The entire process was commonplace and their discussion was ghoulish to the uninitiated.

My children have no idea how their steak arrived on their plate apart from that a visit to the butcher is the start of their meal. But the process of how the steak gets to the butcher is a complete mystery.

South Africa is a country slowly being destroyed by crime, the lack of political will and sheer greed of politicians – certainly in my area of the country makes me fear the future of my children. Rape statistics are horrific and the local population lack of respect for life is mind numbing. The though that grown men, raping baby girls under the insane assumption, that this cruel act will cure you of Aids/HIV is aberrant to me.

Workers at this facility have been dismissed for stealing, but within the context of grinding poverty not all that surprising. But, before I sound like a communist I must qualify that the South Africa, the ANC (the current ruling regime) promised voters, has in fact never materialised.

But my point,quite simply is here are these trained 'block men', butchers if you will, with the skills to strip down a 200- 300kg cow in minutes, who understand the power of a sharp knife, basic anatomy and a complete disrespect of life.

... what if after a visit to a local sheebeen (African tavern), in a drunken fight pull out a knife and …

Well, the reason this crossed my mind is that I work as a sub-editor at the local newspaper. I read the news, edit the news and often take pictures in some of the more dangerous sections of the city I live in. I have been stabbed by four 12-years olds and had my camera stolen. Two days later I read that a local man had his throat cut by a young group of youths less than 20 meters from where I was attacked.

When I tried to identify the youths from the mug-books given to me by the local over-worked police department, I was horrified to find out that it was commonplace for 12 year-olds to be charged with capital crimes such as first degree murder. I must have looked like a walking ATM (auto teller machine) to these young, desperately poor youths.

‘Life’ in Africa has little or no meaning to large portion of South Africans. It seems life wheter it be livestock of human, has no value.

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