Doing the Deed on a Pig Farm

“Anyone who is not bothered by killing an animal has been trained not to be bothered.”
  • “Anyone who is not bothered by killing an animal has been trained not to be bothered.”

A few weeks ago, Hank, a businessman in his 50s, invited about 30 people out to his rural estate in Valley Center to take part in the slaughtering of two large pigs.

“My conclusion from [watching the film Food Inc.] was that I needed to either experience and acknowledge the entire food production process, including raising, slaughtering, and butchering meat animals, or become a vegetarian,” Hank wrote in the emailed invitation. “I want to eat meat but I also want to have an authentic relationship with it.... This conversation seems long overdue in our culture.”

The hogs gnawed on the enclosure’s two-by-four-foot frame.

The hogs gnawed on the enclosure’s two-by-four-foot frame.

We sipped beer and scotch by the pig pen, passing a tray of Su’s English sausage rolls and sharing stories about our relationship to meat while the two hogs rooted around their enclosure, gnawing occasionally on the two-by-four-foot frame.

“For me, it’s more of a health issue,” said one man. “It’s more about me than the animals. In the long term, eating meat that’s injected with 400 chemicals and hormones didn’t sound healthy. I just don’t trust the way things are regulated.”

“I’ve been a hunter for a long time,” said another. “It’s important to kill with one shot, or else you’ll stress out the animal and the meat won’t be as good.”

“I think anyone who is not bothered by killing an animal has been trained not to be bothered,” said a contemplative Hank. “I think God gives us a conscience that makes us feel bad about killing.”

“Who here has killed an animal themselves?” a woman asked. Three raised their hands.

Shortly thereafter, Paul, a butcher with 25 years’ experience, shot the first pig in the head with a .22 magnum rifle.

“They’ll kick for a while,” said Paul. “They’re just brain dead.”

“Does the shot stress out the other pig?” someone asked as Paul cut the animal’s throat.

“No. They’ll usually get in there and drink the blood from their neck.”

Paul’s 13-year-old son held the small brain in his cupped hands.

Paul’s 13-year-old son held the small brain in his cupped hands.

The maybe 250-pound hogs kicked violently for several minutes, their blood running down a hillside as Paul and his 13-year-old son (who began butchering with his father when he was 4) removed the hooves with swift, deft slices.

The skin soon off, the hogs became familiar forms from the meat market. In about 20 minutes, the animal had gone from a pig to pork to an anatomy lesson as Paul raised the first on a hook to drain and pointed out the major organs.

“Here are the intestines, here’s the pancreas, the liver.”

He blew up lungs and his son held the small brain in cupped hands.

The pigs were then bisected and loaded onto a truck.

Hank and a friend discuss the slaughter.

Hank and a friend discuss the slaughter.

“It’s been a rough couple of weeks,” said Hank. “I was really dreading it. I was prepared to be a vegetarian. But I found it pretty normal. Not a big deal. And I’m feeling guilty that I didn’t feel worse about it. I’m the kind of Christian I call radically compassionate. I think God calls us all to love everything. So part of my faith is to be disruptively compassionate, and I’m feeling guilty that I didn’t feel more deeply about the deed. Some people are so capable of turning off the connection between killing an animal and eating meat. When you try to connect it, there’s a visceral response that can really be maddening. Some people can be so protective of that disconnect, it’s amazing. I don’t understand how people wouldn’t want to make that connection. I’m going to continue to eat meat, but I’m going to eat less of it and I’m going to really consider where it’s coming from.” ■

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Most people who eat pigs do so in simple ignorance of want sort of creature they are consuming. They are perhaps unenlightened, but not typically wicked.

Hank is entirely another matter. He postures about "really dreading" his unnecessary killing of two pigs, but he does it anyway. He claims to feel "guilty that I didn’t feel worse", but the simple fact is that he doesn't feel worse. He claims to be "radically compassionate" and "disruptively compassionate", but in the event he isn't at all compassionate.

God help anything or anyone with whom Hank wants an "authentic relationship". He represents neither mental health nor honesty, but hypocrisy and dissociation brought to a higher level.

Visiting a slaughterhouse of any type might be quite a disturbing sight, this is true, but it is also based on our misconceptions and confusion over the difference between brutality and necessity. However, if there was a way to simply inject an animal with some form of deadly venom (deadly for the animal and harmless to the eventual consumer), then animals would all be slaughtered in such a manner. Not out of compassion for the animal, but out of economic considerations. Hank's confusing attempt at rationalization aside, were we entirely a compassionate human being then neither would we eat plants. In order to consume anything, compassion is not, or should not be, any sort of a variable in that equation.

The “com-” in “compassion” is not there arbitrarily. There is no meaningful evidence that plants have any sort of mind, whereas pigs have a psychological sophistication comparable to that of dogs. A pig could have loved you — whether it did or not being a matter of how it were treated — a stalk of wheat or an oak could not.

A pig cannot love me, you or anyone else. You may certainly enjoy your own slotting amongst living things in terms of that which you find to be inedible and that which you find to be edible. Likewise with how you are emotionally attached to some living things and unemotionally attached to others. That is up to you. I won't argue with for your reasons for it because it's an option you have. But consider this: The animals you claim that can "love" have no such option. They do not choose to eat what they eat because of the same reasons that you do. The pigs drink the blood of their fallen comrade, for example.

Animals are incapable of love. They can display empathy, sympathy, sorrow, and even guilt. But not love. Plants, by the way, also show empathy, sympathy and sorrow, and perhaps even guilt although science has yet to waste their time studying that. A pig could not have loved me any more than could a plant or a tree.

There are animals that exhibit all of the essential behaviors that we use to identify love and empathy in human beings. One may as well solipsistically insist that other H. sapiens are really just "robots" as claim that these animals do not feel love or empathy.

On the other hand, H. sapiens raised under some sorts of conditions exhibit no empathy; likewise other animals. One may look upon the results with some disgust, but that doesn't imply that the animals (human or otherwise) have lost claim to be treated as something not to be slaughtered.

That is the age-old argument that since animals cannot tell us, with any clarity, that they do not want to be slaughtered, then we (as the smart humans we are) are bound by some invisible moral variable to protect them from it. I see that as a leap of faith. All creatures have a survival instinct, even plants. I'm pretty clear, myself, on the difference between a survival instinct and some sort of injustice that humans may or may not be doing to whatever sort of dignity that one feels an animal deserves.

We all draw lines in the sand that way. Some cultures eat dog, and I'm okay with whatever lines they've drawn, I just don't see the point in eating dog as the animal is far more useful as either a pet or a worker or perhaps both. Here's an example of emotional response from myself: some cultures eat primates. I couldn't do that. But I know this is an emotional response to primates appearing human.

Presenting and refuting (or attempting to refute) a somewhat different argument does not address the argument that I have made. My claim was not that we are bound not to slaughter something simply because it does not and cannot tell us that it wishes to die.

Moral variables in general don't present themselves to the retinae, so I don't see that we should dismiss one particular hypothetical moral variable for being invisible.

I'd like to know what you mean by “instinct”, as under the original definition plants do not have instincts, nor is there good evidence that human beings do. If you're talking about things such as compound reflexes, these are plainly aside from the attributes that were originally in question.

The fact that most cultures and most people are rather arbitrary and emotional in drawing the lines doesn't make the drawing intrinsically so. Indeed, most people draw most lines about most things somewhat irrationally.

For example, cannibalism has been rejected for largely irrational, emotional reasons, but that doesn't mean that only emotional reasons can be found for doing so.

I find it entirely amusing that most people think nothing of killing, gutting, scaling, and fileting a fish; yet, they are "bothered" by the killing and butchering of a pig. All lateral references to quotes about pork from the film "Pulp Fiction" aside, no tasty thing in life is enjoyed without sacrifice of some sort. The butcher knows this. The pig does not.

One could likewise assert that it were amusing that some people were bothered by the butchering of human beings but not of the killing of fish. The degree to which most people are bothered is a function of their awareness of the mentality of what is killed. In some cases, they are unaware because they avoid discovery; in other cases, there is little to discover.

And historically, there is a lot of evidence of cannibalism. Seems inconceivable in terms of what we have come to expect from Western Civilization, but obviously - for whatever reason, maybe cooked human flesh is tasty or perhaps it was purely a spiritual ritual - this occurred in several cultures. The difference now is that in all societies and cultures that I'm aware of, this practice is not legal and is considered immoral.

The relevant issues are not whether it is legal nor whether it is merely considered immoral, but whether, objectively, is is wrong; and, of so, why.

If one admits that there is a case against killing some living things that cannot be made for others, then it is perfectly reasonable for people to be far more bothered by the killing of some than of others.

I think it is perfectly reasonable that some people are bothered by the slaughter of anything, even fish. But it is interpreted through an emotional response, not a logical conclusion reached by sorting out which living things deserve to be slaughtered and which living things do not by means of studying how an animal might react to the presence of humans, or whether dissecting their brains reveals any similarity to humans. In other words, were humans to sort through which animals should or should not be eaten by order of intellect, then we would certainly eat horses and not cows. Cows are smarter.

Vegetarianism is a choice. And, according to several studies I have read it is a very wise and healthy choice. And if such a practice is based on a dislike for the slaughtering of animals, or simply because one chooses that lifestyle based on scientifically researched nutritional data, it shouldn't matter.

But if one claims that eating animals is wrong, then that should be based on something other than the emotional response from the concept of slaughter. There is no other way of eating a plate of bacon and eggs that would avoid the slaughtering of the pig and the theft of shelled chicken embryos.

The issue isn't of whether it may be reasonable to object to any slaughter, but whether it may be reasonable to differentiate, and object to some slaughter and not others. It is also not of whether some things deserve to be slaughtered (a positive claim), but of whether some thing do not deserve to be protected against slaughter (a negative claim) while others do.

As to whether there is a better case for protecting cows than for protecting horses, I don't know (since I don't eat either, this does not seem a critical problem for me).

I quite agree that the issue of what gets what rights should be determined based on something beyond emotional reactions. But, again, the difference between how people react to the slaughter of fish versus the slaughter of pigs isn't simply an emotional reaction; it is a response to a theory of the psychological qualities of the two sorts of creatures.

Refri v Oeconomist= good arguments.

Is man not just a higher level intelligence animal? Don't know, just asking.

I must say that as a dog lover I think animals are capable of love. Just MHO. In fact I know they are.

Oeconomist is one smart bastard, I've been following his blog for years. That's why I was surprised to see this particular response here, vegetarianism aside. He is calculating and precise to the point of being practically immaculate at times. The problem I have in keeping up with him, is that all good Economists seek to parry down behavior into equation. This is necessary and useful in economics, as most important Keynesian equations make presumptions based on behavior (consumption, reaction to stimulus, etc.) in order to either explain or predict.

All of that aside, and I would have reached this point with him last night had I not fallen asleep in my chair here, is that animals are only capable of showing certain behaviors that we might possibly associate with love. It is using aesthetics in order to justify a position. It is a philosophical debate that has never really been adequately resolved, the Greeks struggled with it as well. It is always the first thing I think about when the debate concerning whether any real consideration could be given as to a possible "right" or "wrong" when it comes to eating meat, other than whatever nutritional benefits would be gained or lost, either way.

animals are only capable of showing certain behaviors that we might possibly associate with love. It is using aesthetics in order to justify a position. / / ...the usual conclusion that is reached is that love is intangible. == Isn't love a behavior? Of course it is. So animals, like us, can love. No one can convince me otherwise.

If you see love as simple behavior, that's up to you. Certainly, that explains the current ratings of Jersey Shore. I'd go for something a tad more realistic. But how you feel about it, amigo, is completely up to you.

Never seen Jersey Shore, but I hear the kids lover it.......

And for anyone playing along with this debate at home, I have a dog, or rather, we have a dog. His name is Simon. He is more of a puppy still, a poodle, very smart and very crafty so far as dogs go. He is always very happy to see me. I feed him a lot, and I pet him and it makes him happy. By default, since I am home most of the time, I spend a lot of time with him. Sometimes when the rest of the house is empty, he drags his bed upstairs and sleeps right outside of my bedroom door. If I am downstairs late at night and the rest of the house is asleep, he drags his bed downstairs and sleeps outside of my office door.

This is not love. It is the dog's desire to know a stable environment. And to continue to want for it. Wild dogs do not exhibit such behavior.

The key component in the argument is the term "love". We could all challenge ourselves to define this term, not based on an aesthetic quality like behavior, but the usual conclusion that is reached is that love is intangible. And I think there is much truth in that. And so, connecting the dots, I offer that animals have no comprehension or realization of anything that is intangible. And so, the logical completion of this equation is that animals cannot love.

This doesn't imply, necessarily, that we SHOULD slaughter and eat animals, but rather, that the argument against such a practice would be better served leaving the concept of love out of the equation.

Hey, if you're not going to eat that bacon, can I have it?

Hey, Chad, I just want to give you a big "thumbs-up" on this particular Crasher piece. It's the best in a very long time. I love to read print that is entirely polar, in that most folks go either one way or the other. Great find, great read, and great presentation. The quotes from Hank were incredibly dynamic, and the only thing I would have done differently would have been to lead with them. Awesome work, my man.

Thanks Mindy and Gringo! This certainly was one of the most meaningful Crashers for me yet.

So animals that eat people are sophisticated?

That's what I'm talking about. It's circular logic. Some animals eat other animals, and they call that nature. Some animals eat people and they call that nature. And when people eat animals it's barbarianism? Fine, then call me Conan. Just let me finish my steak first.

In my best Romney-esque voice: Plants are people, too.

And speaking of Der Mitthead and affection for animals, how's this for pomposity?

. http://tinyurl.com/7ysrnzg .

Damn, where did he think he was, stuck in some Steinbeck novel?

In a feeble attempt to remain somewhat on topic......Of Mice and Mitt?

Earthlings! DESIST from your barbaric ways! We, the sentient plants of Do-Prdele have seen what you do, and we warn you now to cease or face dire consequences.

Yes! We have watched as you cut our brothers and sisters down to construct your dwellings, and burn their carcasses to heat yourselves.

Yes! We have seen the horror of your unspeakably cruel "salads".

But what has pushed us over the brink into declaring war on your ugly leafless species are your bizarre mating rituals. How can you cut the genitals from young innocent plants in the full bloom of life, only to bundle them together and brandish them at the objects of your affections?

This must stop immediately! In particular, we demand that your ruthless leader "Mindy" stop using us for food and shelter. If she's hungry, she can eat something that deserves to die, like those detestable animals with their teeth and claws.

You have been warned, Earthlings. Our spies are everywhere, and we'll present our case to the Universal Criminal Court and impose sanctions on your solar system if you persist in your barbaric behavior!

Long live the plants! Death to the mammals!

That commotion you hear is Out Loud Laughing!!!

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