September 27, 2018

The History of the Slaughterhouse

The Slaughterhouse was once a livestock farm, owned by a man of the name William Roche. Famed for his plump and docile pigs often found snuffling amongst the hedgerows, he trusted the land, fearless of the alligators and bandits which threatened his stock. In 1850, Roche died peacefully in bed, and the delightful pastoral came to an end. His stepson took over the farm. Little is known of William Roche's wife, but she had died some years before, leaving him the guardianship of her son.

Peter Roche, known as “Young Roche," was a reformer. Before moving to the farm, Young Roche had apprenticed as a butcher in New Orleans, there exposed to all the latest innovations in the industry. He was of the belief that public slaughterhouses were preferable to private. Traditionally, sheds, outbuildings, and backyards were employed for the slaughter of livestock. Young Roche considered this old-fashioned, having seen for himself the hygienic benefit of moving the messy business of animal slaughter out of the public eye.

Many locals were unconvinced; they were rural folk after all, not averse to the grim realities of slaughter. Undeterred, Young Roche pressed forward, converting the farm to an abattoir. An old friend of his stepfathers accused him of lacking his predecessor's essential qualities: compassion and a gentle hand. He defamed Young Roche, declaring that he was only interested in the killing, rather the nurturing, of animals.

The Young Roche put his skill as a butcher to use and grew successful, though unpopular, in the community. Through the Civil War, he alienated himself further by supplying the Union occupation. He suffered for it, and in 1866 his home was burnt down, alleged to be arson. It would not be the last time he awoke to flames. Following the war, he became a recluse. It was said that in his isolation he took to gorging himself on prime cuts of meat, growing immensely fat.

The final blow to Young Roche was legislative and occurred during the Slaughter-House Cases of 1873. In 1869, the Louisiana State Legislature granted a monopoly of the New Orleans slaughter business to a single corporation. The city had been in the midst of a public hygiene crisis, the river was clogged by “intestines and portions of putrefied animal matter." The effect on Young Roche's small business was irrevocable.

The legal status of the “Slaughterhouse," as it was now chiefly referred to, was dubious. The conglomerate itself was a behemoth, stealing business away from Young Roche. A significant deal made with Henrik Graf, a good customer of Young Roche, was a devastating betrayal.

It is unknown how the Young Roche lived out the final days of his life. For the next twenty years he got by as best he could. He was regarded as a dangerous recluse, absorbed in his own gluttony and paranoia, eager to carve up whatever he could get his hands on…

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