“But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of the proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.”
— Plutarch, On the Eating of Flesh
Down a country road, across from a nursing home high on a hill, is the factory hog farm, surrounded by acres of soybeans. The “farm” is several low, windowless aluminum buildings that contain about a thousand pigs. Except for the stench from the manure-filled slurry lagoons, no one would know there are animals here.
Our guide, let’s call her Beatrice, is working her way through college and says she loves animals and the life sciences.
How much does she love animals? This much: she chops off their tails, castrates them, cuts their ears (”notching”) and pulls their teeth — all without any anesthetic. And, of course, the ultimate expression of her love for creatures as intelligent as dogs: she eats them. Over 110 million pigs are killed every year in America.
She flips on the light switch and we see dozens of breeding sows in metal crates on either side of the aisle. They are kept in a lifetime state of pregnancy, birth and lactation, never to turn around, never to see the sunlight or touch the earth — except when they go to the “rape rack” to be artificially inseminated, the farrowing crate to give birth, or the day they lose their productivity and are put on the truck for slaughter.
We come to a sow who has apparently been dead for several days. Flies buzz around the death. Big and black with a huge flat belly, where the skin is taut and ripped apart from side to side, she’s seemingly been growing into the steel rails of the stall and has a deep four inch gash in her side. Like all animals, this animal has a story and Beatrice tells it: One time no one remembered to move her from the gestation crate to the farrowing crate and she gave birth to her piglets but because there was no room, she crushed and killed them all.
Beatrice casually tosses off comments as we walk: She dragged out 20 dead ones yesterday. Last week, another pig was so sick that one of the other workers vowed to come back at night and shoot her against the owner’s wishes. He didn’t, and when she died, she was so wedged into the stall that they had to hack her up and carry her out in wheelbarrows — and they found a bellyful of dead piglets. The owner is a “Hitler” because of the way he treats the employees, Beatrice says. She wouldn’t think that she oversees a concentration camp of a thousand beings, even though the Nazi holocaust is the first thing that many people think of when they see this kind of industrial brutality and killing, this shameful desecration of life.
“In their behavior toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might makes right,” wrote Isaac Bashevis Singer. Better still, the right Reverend William Ralph Inge: “If animals were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.”
We come to some farrowing crates where the sows still can’t turn around but adjoining them is another crate where the sow’s piglets can crawl underneath the lowest bar and nurse. A metal interrogation-like lamp hangs above them. Eight little pink and red heartbeats, laying next to each other, hot, striving, fighting for their mother’s milk. Soon, for faster weaning, they will be placed with “Pig Mama,” a mechanized teat so the sow can be impregnated again.
We come to some 10 x 10 pens where 25-plus pigs are stomach to stomach, all over each other, fighting to get their mouths on the lone water spigot. These are the nearest to “graduating,” to getting their first glimpse of daylight on the day they are taken out and killed. One pig stands up on his hind legs with his front legs on top of the pen, wanting attention. I rub his nose and forehead. We walk on. I turn around at the end of the barn and he’s still watching us.
This pig prompts Beatrice to relate other notable pig stories: the pig who, at night, stood up on his hind legs and turned on the light switch with his nose. Another who stood up and turned on the automatic feeding machine — the owner thought it was a human prank until waiting in the dark one night and seeing the intelligent animal in action.
We pass another group pen and they become afraid of me which I hate. They stampede into the corner, trying to hide, stepping on each other, stomping the floor. Some slip and fall. I won’t forget the last one to make it. He gets knocked down, looks right at me, terrified. His legs splay out, he flips, thuds on his side, then gets up and jumps into the pile in the corner.
A young boar is out of his pen. Beatrice says he’s always doing this. She tries to capture him. He walks down the aisle to me. It’s narrow. The others are grunting loudly and knocking against their crates. Talk about “mind in the waters” with whales and dolphins… these pigs know exactly what’s happening to them, the injustice we inflict on them. I turn sideways to let him pass but he stops before me, looks up and cocks his head, as if not understanding me letting him go. He hangs his head, looks away from side to side. He tries to turn around but he can’t so he keeps backing up and tripping, unsure of where to go. Beatrice finally gets him into a pen.
As we near the exit, another little pig is out of a pen. I kneel. I motion for him to come to me. His nose is going back and forth, he’s curious and friendly. What’s all this about? Who am I? His backside is sore and red because his tail is chopped off. Happy trusting little being. Leaving feels like a giant betrayal. I’m already disgusted with myself for not obliterating this place from the face of the earth.
Outside the sunlight is sweet relief for the senses from the dark, stinking place — but not for the mind, no, that horror intensifies: the cars zip by unaware, the humans march on and, even if they knew what was happening in the barns, they still wouldn’t raise a finger, or lower a knife, to stop it.
And at the slaughterhouse the pigs will be beaten with 2 x 4’s and kicked and shocked with prods as they smell the blood and death and hear the terror of the ones who are fighting for life and being killed before them. Meat eaters, humane slaughter only exists in your weak-ass immature revolting cowardly minds. Life on earth isn’t compatible with your insatiable hunger for the flesh of the 100 billion land animals that are raised and killed worldwide each year, to say nothing of your voracious strip-mining of the seas. All you left wing meat eating poseur “environmentalists” are just like the right wing barbarians that you hate and think you’re superior to. You can go straight to the fucking hell that you’re making of the world: the waste of resources to feed, water, heat, cool, transport and “process” your victims, the desertification caused by overgrazing, the wearing out of the soil with chemical fertilizers and pesticides because most of the crops grown aren’t eaten by people, the rivers and streams polluted by the waste of veritable animal cities, the 136 million acres of rainforest cleared for cattle grazing and cattle feed, the release of more greenhouse gases than all transportation, the cancer, the heart disease, the strokes, the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the routine feeding of antibiotics, the whole monstrous evil, complete poison and enemy of the earth known as “animal agriculture.” You fucks are eating the world to death.
One day, to save yourselves, you’re going to realize that non-human beings are the gods, not you, and your blessed mission in life will be to protect and serve them, no pun intended. Once capitalism is overthrown and all production is socially-owned, truly free and intelligent conversations will be had about how, where and what to produce and whether some things should be produced at all. Congresses in the future will be devoted to finding out what is good for the honey bees and the earthworms, the wolves and the bison, and the constitution will be written by St. Francis: “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them: but to stop there, a complete misapprehension of the intentions of Providence. We have a higher mission. God wishes that we succor them whenever they require it.” (my emphasis)
Why will this be the way forward? Because human beings are lost — we either don’t know what we want or we want the wrong things and we’ll turn the entire world upside down and still not get satisfaction. Putting ourselves first doesn’t work. The answer is to live for others — the ultimate “others”: the furred, finned and feathered — and our own lives will take care of themselves. You gotta serve somebody — and the best masters are the innocents, the ones incapable of sin, the ones who are not moral agents.
In the meantime: impatiently you stand in check out lines, buying sausage and ham, like flies about to land on the wound of a dying pig. You’re Time’s flies. Everything goes down your drain-like eyes. Your ancestors had a thousand eyes. Your children have a thousand eyes. Still, they’re blind. What’s your hurry?
Oh, if only slaughterhouses had glass walls, if only the “average” person — how meaningless is an “average” Nazi? — could hear the cries and calls, all of this would stop, some say. But they do have glass walls and you pass them every day: the meat counters in every store where the innocents are dismembered, displayed and replaced in gargantuan numbers, “beings endowed with movement, with perception and with voice” (Plutarch again) — piles and piles of innocents showing you their blood, their very insides, screaming out if they could, while you pretend to be special and civilized, imagining yourselves deserving of justice and compassion when you won’t show it to them. You aren’t religious, you aren’t spiritual, you aren’t just. Denounce dog-eating in Korea while you eat cows, pigs and chickens? Fuck you. Save the tears. Nobody’s impressed. Think you have a spiritual” connection to your cat or dog while eating other animals? Get off the fucking planet. You’re living a lie. Self-mystifiers have no reason for being. Think your dog or cat has a soul but a chicken or a pig or a deer or a fish or a mouse doesn’t? Neither can be proved but it shows how petty and detestable you are, how ungodlike for lack of a better word. You’re not really present on earth and you’re definitely not in heaven. You’re nowhere until you cease to murder.
published 2/4/2017 dissidentvoice.org