DAY 360: UNDERCOVER IN A SPANISH SLAUGHTER HOUSE, PART 1 (no photos!)
Going inside a spanish slaughter house was not what I expected.
I anticipated a hollywood movie of blood, gore and bacon galore. Rambo meets Babe meets Freddie Kruger . I was not expecting to feel RELIEF. I was not expecting to see PRECISION. I was not expecting …. cleanliness. I was almost disappointed.
But then I realised – this was the most disturbing thing of all. Death (and such a quantity of it) reduced to the dull psst of piston and swish of knife. The monotony and rhythm was both strangely awe inspiring and deeply deeply disturbing.
There are no photos in this blog – I was impossible to take any – so instead I have used images of sunny farms to remind you that everything is alright.
Dear teacher, may I have an brief extension for my homework?
Is that really the time? Day 360? OMG. How time flies. Only 60 billion animals killed since I started and I’ve saved a few hundred (sort of).
I have some terrible news for your sore eyes: I may over run by a few weeks.
If you were just about to run to the fridge to get your ham sandwich I apologise. This story will be over in exactly a month, October 26th to be precise.
That is because on that date Ann and I are having a huge American wedding because our ACTUAL marriage in London earlier during the year had to be muted as life was so frantic – I had to keep one eye on a barely-breathign photography business, deal with family issues and try and keep some money coming in. Ann is the hero in this and I’m forever indebted. I hope you will forgive a few extra weeks because during the year I simply couldn’t afford to spend every day with the animals. If I try and save a dog on my wedding day I think Ann may rightly call everything off. And yes, Mango is due to come over to the UK but more on that later.
OK, enough about weddings and back to slaughter houses.
Not a smooth segway? That is because the stuff that goes on in those clean white buildings is that stuff that doesn’t FIT into our lives. It forms an essential part of the chain of events that lead to almost every meal we eat and yet it also totally and utterly removed.
Happy Lego land and the house of blood.
The pure white block building sat on the end of a clean straight street on the edge of town with simple hedges around it. The sun was sharp. The scene had been designed by a five year old on his play set – or more likely in his virtual online world – except he had forgotten to include birds and people and clouds. All was dentist-like, polished, ready, swept clean, white walls, doors with numbers on them. Where was the pain? I heard no noise.
‘Oh my God, is this where the pigs go in?’ I said to Manuel approaching a vast sliding door with the number 3 written vast above it.
‘No. This is where the meat comes out’ said Manuel.
Slaughterhouses are the missing piece of a very familiar jigsaw puzzle. When we are children we know what pigs are – those cute round pig things in the field – and we know what pork is – that stuff you eat with chips. But we don’t until sometime later know that pigs BECOME pork, that animal and food are one and the same.
And yet as we grow older we still suffer the same blindness. The slaughterhouse is conceived as a huge sausage machine if you will, animals go in one side and perfect sausages come out the other – the type that you see dogs run down the street with in their mouths – and inside the point at which life becomes death is contained and silent.
Going into a slaughterhouse is for me like going into the heart of this project. This is where man’s ultimate control over animals is exercised and choreographed. This is the missing piece of the jigsaw. What really happens at the point where animals are turned into food?
An ikea office with many knives behind it
To get into the slaughterhouse we had first to meet the men – and women – who run it. We were ushered into a front room that was all clean ikea furniture, grey mottled office carpets, white blinds over the windows. The office was so non-descript and typical that it was extraordinary, as if a set for a film. And only a few feet away, behind polite doors they were about to kill 1500 pigs that day
‘We are a very small slaughterhouse, we rely on quality not quantity’ said the manager proudly. He was small and had the manner of a doctor or lawyer: efficient but empathetic. Why would he not be normal and kind? His daughter was with him, in her thirties, she was the same in manner and worked there too. No doubt they had a harmonious family life. This is what slaughterhouses do – they manage death so our emotions don’t have to.
I was nervous. I didn’t like being undercover or lying about my reasons for being there and found myself clenching my hands very hard. My nails dug into my thumb and when I looked down mid conversation I saw I had cut into my skin and a small trickle of blood came out and was about to drip onto the floor. I quickly sucked my thumb, panicking that I would leave a mark. This was not a place for blood. That was a few feet away through the door. The father and daughter seemed happy to show me around and got me some white overalls and a small hat and took me through the door…