Pork is big business here. Hardly a meal appears without its presence in one form or other. Every week I see the trucks packed to the gills with strangely quiet pigs, perhaps intuiting that they are on their way to the slaughterhouse. There is one in Atzeneta tucked at the side next to the police station and around the corner from my builder’s yard.
Early one morning this week I drove to the back of it, then parked. It was 7am and I was waiting for my builder. Sick of waiting up at the casita for someone who never arrived, I decided that if the builder would not come up to my mountain, then mountain and casita would come to the builder’s yard. Early. Before he departed to someone else’s project. I had more than a few bones to pick with him.
The light was beautiful and made even the low-lying grey “barracks” look soulful, albeit in a menacing way. A low murmur of banging and whirring machinery seeped from the building, followed by what sounded like the forceful spray of a fireman’s hose. Ricardo, my builder drove up to the gates of his yard and I turned away from the abattoir and walked towards him. At that point an eerie plaintive wailing rose from what appeared to be inside the abattoir, human in its essence, and echoing in what was obviously a vast, hard surfaced interior. The resonance of the unified cries made it seem as if all the pigs that had ever passed through there were crying; the dead, those being slaughtered, and those about to be.
I shuddered. I am certainly not a vegetarian, but being confronted with the bare reality of how my food comes to the table was disconcerting, and yet at the same time I felt that maybe it would be more honest to face this process front on. After all, pork loin does not start its life in plastic wrapped polystyrene containers with flabby bits of sopping paper placed underneath.
Many years ago I made a passing acquaintance with a practicing Buddhist. Gerry was truly the laziest person I have ever met in my life. He also had a bizarre way of practicing his religion in that he ate poultry. Buddhists are supposed to be strict vegetarians. They are not even supposed to kill a fly. Gerry found a nest of mice in the drawer of his kitchen table and let it live there, but he could not resist the pleasure of chicken. “Its alright though”, he told me, “For I kill the bird myself”. It was probably the most work he ever did in his life.
At the time I laughed, but now, as I passed Atzeneta’s abattoir, his words came to me with new force. Finally I understood their weight. Gerry meant was he was facing his actions full on, and not being a hypocrite. I decided then and there that I would try to discover all the processes a pig goes through before it comes to our plates. I picked those bones with Ricardo, and made my way to Ramon’s for sausage and eggs.