Graeme Wood


Elsie’s Revenge

Workers at the Westland-Hallmark beef factory poked very sick cows, prodding them into the abattoirs with with the prongs of forklifts.  What makes a cow non-ambulatory?  Mad cow disease, for one thing.  The dreaded kuru relative attacks the central nervous system and leads to immobility and a terrible demise.

When the cows finally reached the killing floor, workers probably dispatched them with a captive bolt pistol — which, as fans of Anton Chigurh will tell you, is an efficient but not entirely clean way to brain an animal.  Cortical tissue ends up smeared on the bolt, and can spread from one cow to the next, and perhaps into the meat itself.

We’ve been warned about the conditions of our slaughterhouses for years, and few of us have sought to protect ourselves, much less these poor diseased beasts.  This horror-show isn’t our last warning, but it’s not our first, either.  Get ready: after prions turn our brains into so much bubble wrap, the vegans will inherit the earth.

Originally appeared at


Filed under: Atlantic Monthly, , , ,

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