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The Charred Remains of the New York Pork Slaughterhouse

Posted by Jonathan Castellino / December 11, 2009

New York Pork torontoAt the far edge of Toronto's Junction rests the charred carcass of New York Pork. An unassuming boarded facade masks the remains of a terrifying abandoned slaughterhouse, left to rot.

Since the fire of 2006, I had heard various rumors of its unsettling innards (a basement so contaminated a friend had to have chest x-rays done after a visitation, machinery so cruel as to make even the most carnivorous individual cringe), that I simply had to go check it out for myself.

I am no stranger to this neck of the woods, especially when it comes to its abandonments. This turned out, however, to be a fundamentally different encounter. Walking through the grizzly grisly remains and observing its contents, I was able to gather a fairly decent sense of the activities that went on in this building before the fire took it down.

The stark, wide herding room led to a narrow crossing, filtering into a narrow set of gates which would allow the gruesome process to begin...New York PorkRusty hooks still hang in all directions, casting menacing shadows in the darkened rooms...

"I've done work in another facility that handled pork, it was an eerie feeling to have to push the hogs apart to squeeze between them to move through the facility. They hung from the conveyor constantly and you couldn't move anywhere without pushing through them. I had to work on the 'singer' (singe-er) that would burn-off the hair from the hog after death and before processing" (~ fellow explorer)

New York PorkSlightly overwhelmed by this spectacle, we headed to the offices where we were immediately embraced by what seemed a frozen image of the chaos and frenzy which must have ensued in the last moments of this place.

Looking at the remaining elements -- the scattered tools, clothing and personal artifacts from the workers -- a very sensitive and personal element seemed to re-enter this building. New York Pork

Walking through the rooms, I was reminiscent of Polidori's Prypiat. The now silent remains spoke volumes...New York Pork

New York Pork

At times, it seemed as if the workers had left only moments before. Raccoon-prints in a briefcase filled with sediment, however, quickly grounded these thoughts...New York Pork

Heading back to the former animal death-arcade, one of my sojourners pointed out some of the more gruesome elements of the facility: examination of the guillotine was shortly followed by glimpses of the massive device which would literally rip the skin off an animal...New York Pork

The play of shadow and light in the building was at the same time stunning and terrifying; every horror movie came to mind. New York Pork

With every shot I struggled to take, my nostrils were filled with the rancid reek of charred blood; every step I took further stained my pants and sleeves with the mark of unspeakable acts...New York Pork

Perhaps it was the unnerving perpetual silence of a place once brimming with life and death, or maybe it was the black stuff I sneezed-up later on, while (somewhat ironically) eating a bacon-cheeseburger -- either way, this is one space I will unlikely re-visit. Like so many truly disturbing things, the pot seems clean on the outside, but it was the murky depths which disturbed me.

As a fellow explorer commented recently, recalling his own experience there after seeing my photos, "it really was an industrial factory of death ".

(To see the rest of the shots, as well as high-res. versions of those above, you can check out my flickr slide-show below.)

Discussion

32 Comments

James / December 11, 2009 at 09:45 am
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Mmmm . . . bacon cheeseburger.
Hamish / December 11, 2009 at 09:48 am
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Nice pics... anyone who thinks the meat business is pretty should give their head a shake - it should be noted however that while the machinery is still there (in varying states of disrepair and decay), the whole facility looks nothing like it did when it was a functioning abattoir - i.e. the interior was well lit, clean, paint on the walls, etc... Years of dust and rust covering soot and burn marks, to say nothing of the mud and water damage from the 'cleanup' operation that followed, all combine to make the place look far more sinister than it ever did before the fire.

I wonder what became of the investigation into the circumstances of the fire - whether it was arson, an inside job or 'pressure' applied by disgruntled townhouse owners who disliked the reality of moving into a home in a meat processing district.
Sean Galbraith / December 11, 2009 at 09:49 am
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No New York Pork photoset is complete without Hamish Grant's series of awesome (not for vegetarians):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigdaddyhame/sets/72157594369883444/show/
Porker / December 11, 2009 at 09:51 am
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Nice shots.
I've checked this place out in the past, in the summer no less, and didn't smell any charred blood (or anything else to that matter). Not sure why the smell would have made a recurrence in the cold.
Hamish Grant / December 11, 2009 at 09:59 am
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Thanks for teh linkback Sean (and Jon who did link to the blogto article about the set) ... saw your vid giving a UE tour of the place a little while ago... this place is quite popular!
Neville / December 11, 2009 at 10:02 am
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"grizzly remains"

Really? Bears? Try "grisly remains"...

Every time I see a truckload of hogs heading to the abattoir on Tecumseth, I shudder.
steve lam / December 11, 2009 at 11:40 am
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so you had to wear a mask to wade through the building? are people actually allowed to do this or is it more of a hop-the-fence-and-take-a-swim-until-you're-caught type of thing?
Jonathan / December 11, 2009 at 11:49 am
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Neville - haha; problem edited ; P

Porker: When down on the sunken floor just above the herding racks, the smell is horrendous; my visit was just before the cold, though...so maybe its not so bad now...

jonathan@blogTO
Ryan Henson Creighton / December 11, 2009 at 12:25 pm
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This post is, for lack of a better word, pretty damned hammy. They did not conduct "unspeakable acts" in the plant before the fire. They killed pigs and prepared their carcasses as food. See? Not unspeakable. In fact, i just spoke it.

If they were kidnapping little 4-year-old girls and bringing them to the plant, and then using that machine to strip their skin off while they were still alive, now THAT would be unspeakable.

... no, wait. It wouldn't. Cause i just spoke that too.

Just watch the hypocrisy and sensationalism. You enjoy pork - you were eating a bacon cheeseburger at the end of the article - so please have respect for the methods we employ to make that food available to you.
Jonathan / December 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm
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Ryan: It was just meant to be a fun photo essay of an aesthetically bizarre place. Granted, I did perhaps over-sensationalize, but this was only meant as a mood-setting to accompany the rather dark / gruesome looking photos I took ; P

Thank you very much for your criticism -- I will keep this in mind in the future.

And yes, I love bacon : )

jonathan@blogTO



dip / December 11, 2009 at 03:11 pm
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i need to ask- who is the face in the third picture from the top? was that intentional? it looks really creepy. great job by the way :)
Anon / December 11, 2009 at 05:08 pm
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I love bacon too but the fact that I find stuff like this gruesome and unspeakable ("1 a : incapable of being expressed in words : unutterable b : inexpressibly bad : horrendous <unspeakable living conditions> <unspeakable evil>") made me become a vegetarian.

If you don't actually feel this way, it's neither respectful (to those on either side of the issue) nor sensible to use it as window dressing. If you do actually feel this way, then make up your damned mind already. Nobody likes a waffler and the whole "meat is murder but I like bacon ;)" thing is pretty lame.
Anon / December 11, 2009 at 05:09 pm
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PS. Them's some cool photos. Particularly the briefcase with raccoon prints.
Jonathan / December 11, 2009 at 05:48 pm
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Anon: I totally agree; I myself am by no means a vegetarian, but what I meant to imply was the gruesomeness / unspeakable elements of the process itself (a 'necessary' one to most non-vegetarians). The charred building in its derelict and rotting state is what I see as truly horrendous, but the (most of the time) unseen 'horrors' of the process of herding/beheading/ripping apart animals was pretty stunning to me - especially as a meat-eater...

Thank you very much for your comment!

Dip: Haha...unintentional! That's the person who had their chest X-rayed...and yet still came back with me!? I was shooting with an ultra-wide lens, so I guess she didn't think she'd be in the snap...heh.

Jonathan@blogTO

jameson / December 11, 2009 at 09:49 pm
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as a vegetarian, this is pretty weak attempt at shock value

the simpsons episode with troy mcclure at bovine university is a much better commentary
Jonathan / December 12, 2009 at 12:53 am
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Jameson: I happen to have graduated from Bovine University...

; P

j->
cocoa / December 12, 2009 at 01:24 am
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oh man this was f'ing disturbing. no mcdonalds til january.
mike / December 12, 2009 at 01:52 am
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I'd be nice if more of these photos weren't so overprocessed. HDR for a shot of boots and helmets strewn on the floor? Really?
Kid Specific / December 12, 2009 at 02:36 am
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I too, am not a fan of the artsy, processed images. I like the documentary aspects of these pieces, but in that respect, also want to see the buildings, well, documented. As opposed to turned into fancy photos that look uber cool. I think the material itself does that on it's own.
Ninjer / December 12, 2009 at 02:51 am
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Everyone's a critic.
David Z / December 12, 2009 at 02:51 am
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I used to work at The Healthy Butcher as a butcher. I've cut up everything you can imainge, I've worked in abattoirs with steaming carcasses. The whole deal. I've never found anything gruesome about the way Canada, slaughters animals. It's already been stated in the comments, but ya, this photo essay is pretty sensationalist. The death of an animal, to be consumed for food, should have a death that is painless and quick. They don't see it coming. And that's a big deal. That regardless living conditions prior, a very humane death is assured, by law, in our country. It's alot of hard work to do what gets done in a place like that. And a dying trade. I know I can't start a campaign to debunk the myths of slaughter houses and change peoples opinions of them, but hamming up a pretty cool story like this for entertainment value kinda bugs me. I love abandoned buildings, and exploring a burnt down building remains is awesome, but turning the story into a grindhouse horror movie script is just off-putting.
istoica / December 13, 2009 at 08:17 pm
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We toured through this place in our halloween episode with local urban explorer Sean Galbraith (also above in the comments) you can watch it here!
http://www.latenightinthebedroom.com/

first segment, episode 5.
Palindrome / December 18, 2009 at 01:51 am
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I think it's a little naive and ignorant to assume that the animals "don't see it coming". You don't think that when they go into a building filled with the blood of their kind, they don't smell it and know exactly what is going to happen? Everyone knows that pigs are very intelligent creatures; there are many studies on this that show their great capacity for relational bonding. There's no question that before their death, these animals experience fear. They suffer. Maybe I'd feel more okay with this industry if there was some religious component to the process; if the workers bowed to each animal in thanks before killing it, and prayed as they did it...
David Z / December 18, 2009 at 03:27 am
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@ Palindrome

I worked in a Kosher abattoir for ONE day. I can tell you right now, that the RELIGIOUS method of slaughtering animals is barbaric and FAR infinitely more painful than the standard one. Being knocked unconscious versus squeezed in a box, having your head pulled back with chains and throat slit with a scimitar vertically while fully awake??? Canada's rules and regulations for slaughterhouses are far more stringent then those of the U.S. (if you've ever seen a video made by PETA it was made south of the border). I am not naive nor ignorant about what goes into making meat, I went into making meat and back vegetarian philosophy 100%, but understand, that in feeding a nation, there are people along the way who DO consider, and give a shit.
Palindrome / December 19, 2009 at 01:14 am
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Good to know. Thanks, David Z.
CAROLINE / January 2, 2010 at 04:22 pm
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HA! I happen to live close to this place. Not exactly Junction though.. Theres another abandoned factory near this area, too. Awesome read.
CAROLINE / January 2, 2010 at 04:27 pm
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P.S Does anyone know anything about the other abandoned (i believe it was) meat factory thats been recently demolished??
Morgan / January 16, 2010 at 04:45 am
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I was in this place recently, and I kept hearing people's voices on what sounded like walkie talkies like the type security people have, and yet i did not see anybody or hear anybody approach. The speech and the intervals between them made them sound like announcements being made. It was very strange. Is there some sort of a PA system in that place that is still on? Or is the building under regular patrol? There are some fans that are still working so it makes me wonder...
Jenn / February 4, 2011 at 11:01 am
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Great photos. My company did a lot of work for New York Pork. They owed us about $60,000.00 when the fire happened. Needless to say we never got paid.
Lots of rumors about the fire. Wonder if anything ever came of the investigation.
veggie / February 7, 2012 at 11:49 pm
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I think NY Pork were crooks and owed alot of people money, i am sure they got good settlement from insurance so the owners are sitting pretty not like their employees.
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