Butchers

The bull's body creates a map of a peculiar sort – one that reveals organic but invisible connections between social, economic, and commercial organs within the city. The rendering of the animal's body, in our rather selective map, exemplifies the product-oriented dominion of the city in the industrial age; a zone in which raw materials are processed into value-added products, human labor becomes mechanized, and the natural world is the substance of synthesis. The hide goes to the tannery, the best meat to the upscale shops, the hooves to the glue factory, the waste to the Neva, the offal to the prisons, the blood to the sausage factories, and each product follows a path that strays further from the origin of the bull and inexorably towards the refined products of which the city is uniquely generative.

Here, then, industrial, commercial and social organs may be correlated with the body of the animal through its progress from the field to the dinnertable. Contemporary urban beef-eaters, like other consumers, had little notion of the origin of their meat; most had never killed, butchered or witnessed the butchering of livestock, nor ventured into the quarters of the city where the cottage industries around the abattoirs huddled.

This moral oversight of the bourgeoisie was addressed by Lev Tolstoy in his meticulous description of the slaughterhouse in a little-known tract on vegetarianism, "First Step," which you will be given an opportunity to read along the way. Here we endeavor to do our part to "return the skin to the bull" by demystifying the origin of the product and throwing light upon this stigmatized industry, its workers, its regions and its politics.

Begin: Nikolaevsky Station



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