• DAY 361: UNDERCOVER IN A SPANISH SLAUGHTERHOUSE (part 2) Still no photos!

    Sep 25th

    happypigs

    Entering the Spanish slaughterhouse was similar to entering an upmarket motorway hotel: polished, pleasant but bland.

    The entrance was  fronted by a main office with a  carpet that had never seen a drop of blood. Well-dressed administration staff sat at tables with computers and clean white paper. One had a meat sandwich on her table. No doubt the pork inside was not from the ‘kill floor’ but had made it’s long circuitous route via processing plant, packing station, supermarket and fridge . The very same route that separates death from food in our culture. The route I was about to shortcut by opening the next door to the kill zone.

    A man in a white jacket with very well spoken English took us down some steep metal steps. I wondered if was he from PR? How do you do PR for a slaughterhouse? I guess the whole of the meat industry is PR …

    ‘People think it will be world war 3 down here. But really it is very calm. First I will take you to the dirty zone’. I was nervous but kept up my banter with the guide. He was very upbeat, he could have been showing me around a perfume factory. I secretly pressed the ‘record’ button on my iphone that was in my pocket in anticipation for the noises: banging, slashing, screaming.

    He opened the door.

    woman-happiness

    Into the ‘dirty’ zone

    The so called ‘dirty zone’ was in fact a vast hall where pigs were being efficiently unloaded off the back of a truck into small holding bays. There was no screaming. It was eery and calm.

    Everything was rigid and rectangular – the architecture, the spaces, the ramps, the doors.  Each pig came in as an individual: some small, some large, some fat, some thin, some afraid, others not, but crammed into the tiny space it was hard to tell them apart. Sprinklers systems then washed off their dirt so that those that came from rougher farms were indistinguishable from those that did not.

    ‘The water relaxes them’ our guide said, ‘We want them all calm. Some people think meat tastes better when the animal is anxious. We know that adrenaline makes the meat worse so we want them to feel at ease’ I was disconcerted by this, just as I was by the relative quiet of the pigs.

    I learnt later that the ‘dirty’ zone is technical terminology for the area of the slaughterhouse where the animals enter the plant and the ‘clean’ side where the meat goes out. The precise point where the two intersect is technically where the skin is ripped off the dead body. The principle purpose of this divide is for food safety – the animals come in with all sort of dirt, vomit, faeces etc and must go out safe to consume – but the divide also creates a neat psychological separation between the animal as  a being and as a commodity.

    Pig becomes pork, dirty becomes clean, pain becomes forgotten.

    By entering the dirty side we were entering the side of life and, of course of death. This is the side is where animals arrive as individuals, where they are stunned (or in this case gassed), where they are hung upside down and are spiked in the throat, where they are drained of blood and then shortly after lose their lives. Only once they lose their skin do they lose all visual identity of what they once were. When the meat enters the ‘clean’ side we are on the side of supermarkets, consumers, packaging and we can safely leave behind all those things we associate with animal life: pain, emotion, fear and also hope.

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    The pigs were then ushered into a long thin corridor at the end of which a vast metal arm with a panel on the end came down and separated off the front eight or so. These were then guided up a ramp where a man at the top loaded three at a time in to a small container. The door closed, the container rotated, and a gas containing mostly carbon monoxide was released.  Two minutes later the pigs were dumped out, unconscious and limp, but still alive.

    Manuel whispered into my ear. ‘This is the point where I have seen a few wake up’

    I tensed in anticipation but each pig seemed to stay asleep as they were strung up by a single leg on a huge metal rig.

    A line of pigs now hung from the conveyor belt and slowly moved forward. This was the back bone of the whole slaughter house. This conveyor belt formed a track that took the animal all the way through to the meat packing. I followed its slow methodical progress round a bend where I saw the first recognisable aspect of a slaughterhouse. A man held a long sharp knife and with great precision dug it deep into the throat and quickly stepped back as blood gushed out into a long metal trough beneath him. The room was hot, it was steamy and its floor was very very pink all over. The man moved back and forth in a monotonous dance, dig, retreat, gush, dig, retreat, gush…

    calm

    The wrong reaction?

    But I was suprised and somewhat dismayed by my own reaction. I was not horrified. I was not disgusted. I was vaguely interested.

    How was it that all this compassion I had been trying to uncover for the last year wasn’t kicking in?

    Why did I not care more?

    Was I too overcome to feel anything?

    I think I know the answer but I am not entirely sure. On one level I was relieved that these pigs, who’d had such a miserable life, were now meeting a fairly painless death.

    But on another level my cultural normalisation was kicking in. I was seeing the pigs, that hung limply from the metal chains, as meat.  As normal meatI turned round to see where the pigs came in – alive – and where they pigs now hung – dying and couldn’t quite get my head around where the change happened. My culture and my compassion were not talking to each other. I found this confusing.

    But I was relieved to notice that the dead pigs were out of site of the live pigs coming in. Pigs are smart. Pigs understand what is happening but not if they can’t see it or hear it

    And then something disrupted the carefully orchestrated anaesthesia . One pig got loose from the ramp and escaped from the predetermined route, ran down a new path meant  for workers and and then for a moment appeared in a large doorway that looked over the killing zone. I glimpsed at it as is stood confused but a moment later it was retrieved, sqeualing intensely, and put back on its proper path to death. In that instance of escape, it was for one last second, an individual again. I saw it’s eyes and face and then it was gone.

    Our guide was unfazed.

    ‘We never ever want the conveyor belt to stop because then no one on the line can do any work and the whole slaughterhouse is dead. Things have to keep moving. Come this way and I’ll show you where we process our meat.’

    Manuel whispered into my ear a little later.

    ‘I saw it’s eyes,  it looked at me. I saw the fear in its eyes’

     

     

     



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    14 Responses to “DAY 361: UNDERCOVER IN A SPANISH SLAUGHTERHOUSE (part 2) Still no photos!”

    1. This project is coming to an end. Good for you, Martin. I don’t think I could have endured all the cruelty you have seen in your last year. You surely made an impact and raised awareness. You really did.
      Ann, Moose and Bug will surely be pleased and happy to have you back safe and sound.
      Still, maybe off to Romania for the last remaining days?
      I hate what is going on there now 🙁 And this country is in the EU. Makes me sick beyond words!

    2. Yes, I have heard a lot about romania – especially the dogs – and I think perhaps I shoudl have gone there. There are so many places I could visit though and so many animals in need, but only so much time and budget. Maybe after the year ends I can go and take a look, I am sure it is very grim. Do you have any particular contacts?

    3. “We know that adrenaline makes the meat worse so we want them to feel at ease.” That’s why deer (venison when dead) aren’t sent to slaughter-houses (in the U.K.) but are shot with a rifle in the field. It’s also one of the ways that are used to give some scientific evidence about how much fear an animal (or human) feels in various situations, such as being hunted. (In case you’re interested.)

    4. Good job!Save some animals=save the world.

    5. “I hate what is going on there now 🙁 And this country is in the EU. Makes me sick beyond words!”
      You mean the dog clearance? Yet another financial scam: http://www.occupyforanimals.org/romania–organized-crime–stray-dog-business.html but don’t imagine your own country is a great deal better – richer, more advanced countries (and classes) just do their cruelty and exploitation in different ways and, above all, hide it better.

    6. Ummmm…few words from me right now…..I can only send you one MASSIVE ((( HUG )))…such a long year for you…the cruelty you have uncovered and shared with us…..

    7. thank you Valerie. Hugs back!

    8. Hi Martin, so you mean they get gassed with carbon monoxide and then they have their throat cut with a knife when they’re still alive? O My God!

    9. Here you are chaps and chapesses: http://tinyurl.com/lrwmvg3
      This should really be in the posts further back, but people might not see it. Some of you will be surprised to see which countries are compliant and which not, but anyway, get signing and forwarding!

    10. “But I was suprised and somewhat dismayed by my own reaction. I was not horrified. I was not disgusted. I was vaguely interested.”
      Why would you be disgusted? We’re all made of bone, muscle, blood, etc. There’s nothing disgusting about it; only nowadays ANYTHING real and natural is supposedly frightening or disgusting or dangerous and must be hidden, sanitised, euphemised and flatly dnied. This year, you’ve been dipping a half-numb toe in the water of reality.
      Why would you be horrified? You knew the pigs were going to be killed, had been fretting and fearing for over a year – it wasn’t a surprise – and you must have known about the throat-cutting (or spiking) and bleeding, after preparing for it all this time.
      Of course you were interested; so you should be. It is interesting – how it0s done, what happens, how the blood comes out and how much, all of it is interesting. Nearly everything in the world is interesting, if you’re interested.
      “How was it that all this compassion I had been trying to uncover for the last year wasn’t kicking in? Why did I not care more? Was I too overcome to feel anything?
      I think I know the answer but I am not entirely sure. On one level I was relieved that these pigs, who’d had such a miserable life, were now meeting a fairly painless death.”
      Yes, death must be the best thing that ever happens to them.
      “But on another level my cultural normalisation was kicking in. I was seeing the pigs, that hung limply from the metal chains, as meat. As normal meat. I turned round to see where the pigs came in – alive – and where they pigs now hung – dying and couldn’t quite get my head around where the change happened. My culture and my compassion were not talking to each other. I found this confusing.”
      Perhaps you’re just getting more sensible. There’s very little compassion in the world, but there’s a hell of a lot of sentimentality; perhaps you’re getting more realistiic, which doesn’t mean less compassionate or less empathetic. Besides, that was an excellent slaughterhouse – they should be congratulated.

    11. “Yes, I have heard a lot about romania – especially the dogs – and I think perhaps I shoudl have gone there. There are so many places I could visit though and so many animals in need, but only so much time and budget. Maybe after the year ends I can go and take a look, I am sure it is very grim. Do you have any particular contacts?”
      Yes, but I shouldn’t even consider it at the moment, if I were you – you’ve got enough to think about and it’s better to go into things more deeply, more longterm, if you really want to learn and understand and help, don’t you think? Otherwise you risk becoming a cruelty tourist or a superficial reporter, and the victims of cruelty deserve respect and thoroughness, not just a quick “OMG” and on to the next.

    12. To clarify, if I can: before, you were eating cooked corpses, but carefully avoiding even thinking about their lives and deaths. No wonder you were depressed! The truth will set you free – you probably feel better because you aren’t running away from the facts any more (or not as much, LOL!) and if you’re not going to eat them, so that’s a bonus, but I think it’s our dishonesty, above all, that’s destroying us and allowing us to destroy everything else.
      It’s a very modern thing – pigs used to driven down the street and killed in the back room of the butcher’s shop and everyone could hear the squeals and dogs came to lick up spilt blood. Even posh people weren’t isolated from life the way many people are nowadays.

    13. I’m sorry, Martin. I tried to read this entry but I couldn’t I still feel like I’m going to be sick. As somebody who stopped eating meat at five years old when I looked at the leg of lamb my mom put on the table and only saw big, brown eyes, I couldn’t deal with this. I am a wuss but I’m so glad you are reminding others who their meat really is.

    14. In fact, Martin, there’s a list of animal-defence organisation in Romania at the end of Codrut Feher’s article and I really recommend reading it, as these ythings are never simple and it’s a fascinating investigation. In fact, I belong to La Voz Animal n Parla, Madrid (I don’t live in Madrid, just support lots of things all over the place) and a slightly similar, though far more overtly correct, thing has just happened there:http://www.athisa.es/proteccion%20animal/proteccionanimal.html
      As well as having land where the rescued farm animals live, La Voz Animal ran the local perrera, with personal attention and a no-kill policy; now the association and the dogs have been forcibly ejected and the collection of stray animals as well as the running of the poerrera and the decisions have been contratcted to Athisa with the company http://www.athisa.es/index which is a large and growinginternatuonal company specialising in deraticisation, sterilisation and pest control! Yes, pest control. On their website, one can see that they changed things inorder to get the contract, but it’s all in Spanish so I won’t add details.
      See – money again. It so often is.
      http://www.lavozanimal.com/es/actividades/noticias

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