The factory was massive. Shiny and chrome and white enameled walls, a model of modern efficiency. The World had turned a corner and had finally passed the population point where everyone could be fed, so the World governments approved cannibalism. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but eventually the riots and other problems that a lack of food caused forced people to act. Anyone was allowed to volunteer. Men and women alike would be paid a large sum of money and given two years to live a lavish life, then, they came here.
When she arrived at the plant she was already stripped and cleaned. The truck was equipped with spray nozzles and chemical baths that dissolved the clothing and removed the hair on the cattle. It was about a three hour drive from the import facility and by the time the animals were delivered to the entrance they’d been sanitized and tenderized. Each truck held about one hundred head, and all were standing shoulder to shoulder, crammed in pretty tight. Many urinated and defecated on the trip, out of fear or being made ill by the washing. There wasn’t enough room for anyone to fall down, so those that had fainted were still standing, even if not on their own.
The truck backed up to the arrival door and the doors opened without ceremony. The entire herd was pushed by machinery out of the van and into a chute that gradually narrowed to a point where only one could pass through. It was in this passage that each of the animals was scanned and graded, measured and barcoded on the right breast by a laser. She felt the burning sensation of the powerful beam as it permanently marked her as prime cattle, suitable for whole roasting. She, of course, had no idea what was happening, except that the fear she felt was becoming a little more than she could take.
The line of women turned a corner and one at a time they were stopped directly under a round tube about three feet across. Suddenly, as she was standing looking around wondering what was happening, a powerful suction lifted her off the ground and rapidly pulled her through a smooth and slippery tunnel where she was unceremoniously spit out headfirst onto a floor towards a large robot. Her head slammed into a post and she was stunned, but she felt the strong grip of clamps around her neck that lifted her up and held her there, hanging. She struggled and tried to break free but couldn’t, and without thought the machine rotated and held her as two clamshell doors closed around her, fitting snuggly to the disk around her neck.
A light turned green on the panel in front of her, and she felt intense pain that caused her to scream uncontrollably. Inside the tube that surrounded her, ultrasonic knives had reached out and precisely skinned her, removing the dermis which fell to the floor to be processed as leather. The pain was excruciating but there was no blood, and she was still alive and feeling as the doors opened and the machine moved her to another position, over a conveyer. The neck clamps opened and she fell onto the belt where she was moved further into the belly of the machine. She was completely unaware of anything else except the intense burning she felt, so she didn’t hear the other screams and cries of the others being butchered all around her.
The conveyer stopped her over a device that rammed a steel rod up into her ass, through her belly and out of the top of her head. Her eyes rolled back and she was silenced by the force and intrusion of the spike in her throat. Because she was a prime cut, the machine held her while it pressed her arms and legs in tightly, and a set of manipulators rapidly wove a tight net of strong cord around her. The web was tight and the thin cords pressed into her exposed muscle causing more pain. But, her life was fading so any sensations were losing their severity. When finished, she was neatly spun into a slab of beef that would easily have been mistaken for a fly caught in a web.
The prepared slab of meat was moved to a packaging area where strong plastic was wrapped around her and cut and closed. She went into a chamber and after a few moments, the thin, clear film was firmly vacuum sealed around her. She had long since stopped moving. With programmed precision the robots lifted her lifeless body onto a rack laden with several hundred other head. Her previously partying and dancing body was now nothing more than a serving of beef soon to be roasting over a charcoal fire, probably on some island paradise.
The meat was moved onto more refrigerated trucks and carried away to the waiting cargo ships bound for ports all over the world. Even as this shipment was loaded, thousands more women and men were funneled into waiting machines to be slaughtered. Day and night, 365 days a year, the cattle never stopped coming.
The UK birth rate is about 1.9. That means one in every five women could have another child and we’d still just be at the level for maintaining population size.
Alternatively, if everyone else stayed the same but 1% of women decided they were going to try and have as many children as humanly possible (about 20) then without immigration the population would still be declining.
So I honestly do not care about how many children someone wants to have.