Marc Trabsky, Lecturer at La Trobe Law School has recently published an article on the history of the public abattoir in a Special Issue of the Australian Feminist Law Journal, 2014, Volume 40, Issue 2. In ‘Institutionalising the Public Abattoir in Nineteenth Century Colonial Society’, Marc explores how law not only segregated slaughtering practices from urban populations, but instituted new technical understandings of what it meant to kill rather than live with animals in the nineteenth century. His article continues earlier research published in 2013 on the transformations of the Old Melbourne Cemetery into the Queen Victoria Market in ‘Law in the Marketplace’.
The institutionalisation of public abattoirs in colonial society in the nineteenth century transformed relations between humans and animals intended for slaughter. The segregation and confinement of slaughtering practices in the city of Melbourne was part of a suite of techniques for cleansing the urban environment. These techniques included processes of documenting, inspecting and policing the act of slaughtering and the premises in which those acts took place. This article explores a tension between techniques of inspection and confinement, visibility and obscurity and control and freedom in the administration of colonial slaughterhouses. It examines how this tension transformed technical relations between humans and animals. The institutionalisation of public abattoirs cultivated new technical understandings of what it meant to kill rather than live with animals in the civilising process of colonial society.