Cattle Products, Animal Slaughter, History of Science, Regulation & Red Tape
The Weaver Refining Co Ltd and British Glues & Chemicals Ltd manufactured, advertised and sold a host of useful & nutritious by-products ... it seemed every part of the animal carcase was valuable ... there was little polluting waste, waste was a cost ... everything had a use except perhaps the eyelashes!
The original the focus was on using water power for grinding bone for manures, then collagen was recovered from hide scraps ex the tanneries which led to glue production and then gelatine. Bone gelatine and hide gelatine were distinct processes. Glue and gelatine were the priorities for BG&C in 1920 as an attempt to rescue the industry from German competition. Fats for soapmakers were of ancient importance and slaughter house waste increasingly involved collections of fatty tissue and offal as well as bones.
In the nineteenth century with the advent of steam rendering of slaughter house waste was a wet process by 'tanking' in a steam 'digester' or pressure cooker in which live steam was injected into the material. Technological innovations came rapidly in the 20th century and a batch dry rendering process was invented which involved a steam jacketed horizontal drum. In the absence of the rendering and bonecrushing industry, the cost of disposal of waste animal material would be very high and would place a significant economic and environmental burden on slaughtering.
1901 was a propitious moment for historians of The Weaver Refining Company and all students of technology, at the time Edward Hindley ventured into the bone business Thomas Lambert publish his tome - 'Bone Products and Manures: An Account of the Most Recent Improvements in the Manufacture of Fat, Glue, Animal Charcoal, Size, Gelatine and Manures' -
'This branch of industry is undergoing a great change. Old and wasteful methods of working are giving way to newer processes based on the teachings of chemical science'.
The bone business was big business as Dr Ballard noted in 'Enquiry as to effluvium nuisances' in 1882 ... second only to the alkali trade ... many families earned a good living from the cattle products business ...
Monopolies & Mergers Commission: Animal Waste, 1985 -
'By the 1950s the dominant company in the animal waste processing industry was BG&C. The company, in fact, produced mostly edible gelantin and animal glue from bones rather than rendered products. Alan Jobling, BG&C primary activity was the manufacture of gelatins and glues from bones, hides and leather wastes. Rendering was to some extent a secondary activity to process materials not suitable for glue & gelatin manufacture and to facilitate raw material purchasing. Abattoires and meat plants preferred one contractor to remove all animal wastes. BG&C were also importing dried bones from India and West Africa for glue manufacture'.
For sure the animal by products business can claim an important place in the History of Science.
Chemistry and the animal by products industry probably started with ancient
processes - tanning, soapmaking, urine and gunpowder but the science had a
fillip in England in 1813 when Sir Humphrey Davy published 'Elements of
Agricultural Chemistry' and recommended on the use of ground bones as a
The Open University suggested that agricultural analysis led to the founding of The Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1887.
The industry developed from local manures, to imported guano & sodium nitrate and on to glue and then gelatine as value was added to the cow carcase. The industrial processing of waste led to a double whammy, a solution to environmental pollution and the provision of edible refinements for hungry folk.
In 1886 there were 60,000 in London which were poisoning fish ... The Farmers Gold Mine and the Storehouse of Life ... was on the button
The industry made a meal out of a battle against degradation and the second law of thermodynamics!
Fredk G Page, a chemist and former Croda employee, is an enthusiast and a writer of the occasional academic paper on the History of Science. His efforts include an article on animal glues - Fredk G Page, Animal Glue: A Traditional Technological Product, Royal Society of Chemistry, Historical Group Newsletter, no. 68, 2015, pp 16-18.
Hopefully there will be more to come?
Nevertheless animal slaughter was a tricky issue ...
The animals died so they could live, each one a honed thoroughbred, each one cherished and known by name, animal husbandry was a fine art & then a science ... cows simply wouldn't exist without the focused attention of husbandry over extensive centuries and centuries ...
In a strange macabre symbiosis, cows & folk became locked into an unravelable interdependence ... neither would exist without the other ... think about it ...
Here's the list of some of the goodies from cow which Edward Hindley used to recite to his grandchildren -
acid phosphates - soluble fertilisers
albumin - from serum for clarifying wine and cider and as a mordant for fixing the colours in dyes
blood - black puddings and concentrated manure for agricultural & gardening
bone china - pottery
bone marrow - Jello
bone meal - animal feeds
bone shanks - cutlery & buttons & knife handles and other articles
Calfos - calcium phosphate nutritional supplements
casings - sausage skins
catgut - tennis racquets, violin strings
charcoal - bone black, paint, inks & dyes, animal charcoal for water filters & sugar refiners
dairy products - cheese, milk & butter
fertilisers - agriculture manures & balanced nitrogen, potassium & phosphate
glues - adhesives an cements, hundreds of different grades of glues for fabrication, cabinet making, furniture & aircraft
gelatines - photographic films, abrasive papers & cloths, coatings, books & corks bindings, edible medicinal capsules, nutrition, confectionery, table jellies and crystals, pastilles, ice cream, salad creams, baby foods, packed ham & bacon, fish & meat paste, pies, cider & wine clarification ... and exotic sculpture from Kim Wilson -
Title: what huge effort to move through this silence
Materials: peat ash, water and bovine gelatine
Dimensions: (l) 113cm (w) 30 cm (h) 75 cm
Exhibited at Old St Paul's Church, Edinburgh.
greases - lubrication & preservation
greaves - animal feeding stuffs
hair - insulation, fabrics, paint brushes & mortar
hides - leather
horns - buttons, shoe horns, drinking horns & receptacles
horn pith - specialised gelatines
lanolin - extensively exploited by Croda
match heads - phosphorus extracted for matches, binding and then foaming for controlled ignition of chemicals
manures - spreading richness from S H one T
meat - sweet breads & butchery products
neats foot oil - light yellow oil from feet & shinbones, used as a light lubricant, for saddle soap and to dress leather
offals & tripe - nutritious food for banquets & feasts
oils & fats - dripping, suet, margarine, candles, fish & chip frying, fatty acids, soap & cosmetics
paints & dyes - thickeners and Prussian Blue from ox blood; iron ferrocyanide, for paints & printing inks
pharmaceuticals - calcium phosphate, a prepared bone meal used as a source of calcium and phosphate in foods under the Calfos trade name
saltpetre - from the nitre beds for gunpowder & sulphuric acid
size - coating of paper, textiles & rayons
tallow - margarines, soap & candles
bleaching process ... stucco ... bone ash ...
... anything missing from the list?
Nevertheless animal slaughter was a tricky issue ...
Did public distaste of animal slaughter impede the production of cows, cheese, saltpetre and other by-products of the carcass?
The co-evolution of man & animals produced a relationship fraught with emotional entanglements. Human dominion over animals was essential for survival but clashed with a deep empathy for living creatures and an instinctive aversion to slaughter. This ongoing evolutionary battle has mixed & messed many contentious issues over the years - from life sustaining protein & horse power, to killing, butchery, religious sacrifice, vegetarianism, vivisection, environmentalism & all manner of waste disposal problems ... masses of economic externalities ... and costs ...
Folk had been farming animals for thousands of years, dating back to when animals were first domesticated. The ability to keep and control animals allowed people to turn their focus away from the vagaries of predatory hunting and towards the building of settlements & civilizations. Farming also changed fundamental attitudes about animals. Domesticated animals lost the characteristics of their feral ancestors as independent free-roaming creatures and they became pieces of manufactured property ... essential for survival.
Humans devoted a great deal of effort into increasing the value of their new property. Control over breeding was particularly important. Only promising animals were mated in an attempt to increase the value of their offspring, while animals with undesirable characteristics were eliminated from the gene pool.
In most communities the aversion to slaughter led to prejudices and a rejection of these economic innovations. Deep down in the skull human empathy for others was spreading from immediate family to larger groups and eventually to all living entities ... the 'bad conscious' was stirring. 'Taboo' foods were prohibited & regulated for various religious, cultural and health/hygiene reasons. However if cultures were to be successful they had to reconcile the necessity for concentrated protein food with the emotional mess of slaughter. Jewish laws for the slaughtering of animals, Shechita, were strictly enforced; a religious Jew was duly licensed and trained. Islamic laws, Dhabihah, followed a similar ritual. Was all this intrigue and emotion raising the costs of survival? Or was it minimising suffering & disease and aiding survival?
The intensification of farming and butchery involved new difficulties as slaughtering on a large scale posed significant new logistical, public health and animal welfare concerns -
animal herding, transportation, corralling, stunning, hanging, blood letting, skinning, halving & quartering, removal of valuable heads, hooves, hides & horns, evisceration (drawing the internal organs for food), steaming, inspection (faecal contamination & smell), looking & feeling for soapy textures, waste & effluent, smells & drains ...
In England & Cheshire there was a word for the open air locations for the slaughter of animals - 'shambles' - but the shambles, as the name implies, was far from satisfactory!
The economics of slaughtering, butchering & consumption were totally interdependent and speed & close proximity were essential to maintain quality and avoid degradation, and similarly once the value of the inedible bits was recognised, the refiners had to be close at hand as well.
Progress was piecemeal & patchy as best practice had to be discovered & accumulated over time. Best practice always tended to reduce costly waste & spoilage and sustain quality. Best practice evolved, the science and understanding came later, there were at least three practices which disturbed the peace -
Stress - released sugars and lactic acids which effected appearance & taste quality.
Bleeding - killed the brain as quickly as possible with minimal damage to the carcass by removing the blood which carried the stress acids and also the blood which was an ideal medium for the growth of bacteria and associated degradation.
Hanging - helped put the muscles under tension to prevent shortening of the fibers during rigor mortis which resulted in an improvement in tenderness.
The economics were straightforward; producers always received a better price for better quality. And, for certain, every butcher knew suffering of stressed animals & poor hygiene produced bad meat ... and every butcher knew discerning customers didn't buy bad meat ... tough & rotten meat and food poisoning were the kiss of death to the butchers ... and in any case foie gras didn't make any sense in England where mass production was essential to feed exploding populations!
Of course there were abusers, sharks and conmen who tried to dupe customers but short cuts on quality & service were always a quick way to bankruptcy ... ask your Gran ... she had discerning nous ...
There was competition around and competition & diversity established best practice as hard pressed customers always seemed to vote with their feet. Bankruptcy was not only a powerful antidote to the conmen but it also rewarded best practice ... customers loved good meat and they flocked to the good suppliers ... ask George Edwin Hormbry ... he had nous ...
And there was another problem confronting the cattle products industry ... CHOLERA.
In 1853 The Chemist succinctly outlined the problem. The industry which provided the manures to increase the yields on the farms which fed and nourished the burgeoning populations in the cities was blamed for the filth which harboured cholera which was killing people.
The twin dilemmas -
how do you feed folk and look to their welfare without manures?
how do you abate the filth which was associated with manufacture? ...
It was really really difficult to suggest things were getting better when wretched urban populations succumbed to cholera ... but ...
populations & life expectancy were rising and rising dramatically; more & more people were living healthier & healthier lives and
technology was solving more & more problems every day; and interference & regulation were not helping the rise of real wages
Nevertheless it was clear to most folk that unscrupulous profiteers were destroying life as well as the idyllic tranquillity of the rural past ... the villains of the peace were obvious to most folk ... you could smell them!
Animal slaughter was a tricky issue ... and cholera was death ...
An avalanche of statutes & regulations was assumed by the powers that be to be a better alternative than bankruptcy. In the nineteenth century reformers campaigned to abolish private urban slaughter houses and establish public abattoirs as killing was industrialised and mechanised. More and more laws were enacted in England and the United States in an attempt to protect animals from abuse, neglect and mistreatment. Further restrictions were motivated by the congestion created by livestock in city streets, the nuisance of refuse & odours in residential neighbourhoods and public health concerns about diseased meat & contamination ... here we go ...
1822 Martin's Act - established cruelty to domesticated animals as a crime ... clarified the law on public nuisance.
1835 The Protection of Animals Act - bull, bear, badger baiting, cock and dog fighting were made illegal.
1848 Public Health Act - Local Boards of Health were formed in response to cholera epidemics with powers to control sewers, streets, slaughterhouses and water supplies.
1876 The Cruelty to Animals Act - clarified, but excluded wild animals.
1847 Towns Improvement Clause Act - clarified unsanitary practices.
1873 The Twenty-Eight Hour Law - the first US law clarified livestock transportation welfare.
1874 Slaughterhouses (Metropolis) Act - clarified welfare in slaughterhouses.
1875 Public Health Act - inspections by veterinary surgeons.
1890 Public Health Amendment Act - clarified the original Act.
1911 The Protection of Animals Act - clarified the concept of 'causing unnecessary suffering'.
1926 Markets & Fairs (Weighing of Cattle) Act - clarified weights & measures standards.
1958 Humane Methods of Slaughter Act - clarified humane methods, by requiring animals to be rendered insensitive to pain before slaughter. But excluded chickens and all animals slaughtered using techniques associated with religious rituals!
The debates were echoing round the council chambers throughout the land, and on October 20th 1855 the Cheshire Observer reported a typical meeting ... what then was to be done?
Oh my ... what an emotional quagmire ... why couldn't everyone survive without killing? Maybe the vegetarians had a point? Why domesticate animals in the first place? ... and on it went ...
Of course ... in the end ... the cholera problem was solved by science and water treatment technology.
Hats off to John Snow, a medical scientist, who, through hard work and nous, discovered the truth in 1854.
The water born cholera bacterium imported from the East was found only in humans and shellfish ... the cow was a red herring ... and chlorine bleach was the answer! And, don't forget, the quaint English habit of drinking tea helped enormously!
In 2003 a poll of British doctors ranked John Snow as the greatest physician of all time ...
Ruth Harrison published the book 'Animal Machines' in 1964 which described the brutality inflicted on livestock by the farmers ... in 1975 Peter Singer wrote 'Animal Liberation', which detailed similar problems in the USA.
During the 1960s and 1970s the vegetarian movement gained momentum. In the 1980s and early 1990s, several groups continued the campaign, among them the Farm Animal Reform Movement, Humane Farming Association, Farm Sanctuary, and United Poultry Concerns. By 2005 initiatives included -
no slaughter of horses for food
poultry to be included under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act
protection of animals at the slaughterhouse that had been injured during transport
outlawing the keeping of veal calves and pregnant and nursing hogs in small iron crates
publicizing the abuse and mishandling of animals at slaughterhouses
What a bureaucratic nightmare! Legislation was everywhere - in public spaces in 1822, 1835, 1849 & 1911 - in transit in 1869, 1894, 1927 & 1950 - and in slaughterhouses in 1954 & 1958 ... and then there was environmental legislation ...
The best practice of the skilled craftsmen, technologist & scientists in satisfying discerning customers was replaced by an expensive bureaucratic alternative with a string of unintended consequences which customers had to pay for -
costs escalated as quangos & small print proliferated
innovation was inhibited by inexperienced inspectors as change & flexibility were outlawed and better practice was confronted as well as the conmen
capital investment went overseas or underground as cost reduced farming returns
unemployment increased as growth slowed and employment costs rose
resources were diverted from satisfying customers by better practice to satisfying the ‘rules’
cartels had some legal protection from competition as costs of entry rose inexorably
caveat emptor & due diligence were replaced by a naive sense of security via regulation
responsibility was separated from control
opportunities were opened up for bribery, corruption & cover up
the delusion of central control was confirmed & cooperation & local knowledge were hindered
These were some of the formidable regulatory issues that Edward Hindley and his suppliers wrestled with when he invested in The Weaver Refining Co Ltd ...
However well intentioned Edward always resented regulatory interference in his expert trade. As a staunch Methodist he knew the road to hell was paved with good intentions! Edward wanted technology. While everyone ranted and raved he got on with the job ... technology worked ... technology solved the problems. His resentment was not because he wanted to sell inferior products or cut corners. He knew if he followed that route he would soon be bankrupt. Regulation added costs for his customers, thus reducing the growth of his business and reducing investment in improved technology. There were plenty of competitors around and his business profits depended on satisfied customers and best practice. Billy Lever paid top whack for 'top white' tallow and struck a hard bargain if Edward's tallow was underwhelming.
Quality & profit were not alternatives, when he went to work each day he didn't go to 'make a profit out of his customers', he always went to work to solve problems ... he solved problems by chasing what worked and cutting out failures ... and what a mass of problems he faced ... Edward was under pressure from an avalanche of daily problems ... some mundane some intractable all unwanted ... at 42 he realised 'life was a sod and then you die' ...
Shortly before Edward Hindley started his business at Acton Bridge The Medical Officer's Report of 1878 noted some particular nasty externalities for the bone business ... and the bone business was big business ...
In his 1882 'Report in Respect of the Inquiry as to Effluvium Nuisances Arising in Connexion with Various Manufacturing and Other Branches of Industry', Dr Edward Ballard stressed the 'importance of the industry, second only to alkali manufacture'.
All Edward's problems seemed to be compounded by petty regulations; red tape was diverting him from his task. His big failures included all waste and obnoxious decay, odours & drainings ... whether up the stack or into the river ... waste was a cost he didn't need The Medical Officer's Report of 1878 to tell him about that ... he was particularly aggrieved as local slaughter houses aroused public ire, yet centralised abattoirs increased the time between kill and process. And time meant rotten carcases and lower prices and more obnoxious waste ... for Edward it was commonsense, problems needed to be solved ... and if correctly organised with investment in innovative technology, 'Health & Safety' was profitable. But the proliferating red tape by amateur 'do gooders' just soaked up Edward's time and all such regulations had unintended consequences ... regulation was no substitute for innovative 'know how', entrepreneurial action & risk and no substitute for bankruptcy ... manufacturers had much more to lose from antagonised customers than from the bribery & corruption of malleable and inexperienced inspectors ... and Edward knew about technology ... the old water wheel at Acton Bridge had been replaced by a new steam engine ... technology ... and trade ... and torts ...
Nevertheless animal slaughter was a tricky issue ... for sure ... but then so was usury in 1571 ...
back to the Weaver Refining Co Ltd
back to Edward Hindley
back to chemical