Having left the bus, I can hear the screams of the pigs even from a distance; they cut through me like a knife.
The director is a jovial man, who first of all tells me of the good old days when the slaughter houses had not yet been privatised. Then, unfortunately, he stops and decides to personally show me around. I find myself on the ramp. On my right, some concrete holding-pens with iron bars. Some of them are already filled with pigs. “We start here at 5 o’clock in the morning.” The pigs are scrambling, a few quarrels here and there, a few curious snouts poke through the bars; smart eyes. Some animals are nervous and bewildered. A large sow insists on attacking others. The director grabs a stick and hits her several times on the head: “Otherwise there will be serious fights.”
At the bottom of the slope, the loading ramp of the lorry is lowered. The pigs nearest to the exit are frightened of the wobbly and steep passage but the animals at the back are pushing because a worker is hitting them with a rubber hose. In future I will not be surprised anymore when I see red marks on pig carcasses.
“It’s against the law to use electric prods on pigs”, explains the director. Some animals make the first steps, hesitant and stumbling. The others follow. One pig slips and its leg gets caught; the animal gets up and limps forward. All of them end up between iron bars leading them to the holding-pens. At every corner the animals get stuck and blockages result. The worker is furious and swears as he lashes out at the animals in the last rows. They panic and try to jump onto the backs of their fellow sufferers. The director shakes his head: “Brainless, simply brainless. How many times have I told you already that it’s pointless hitting the ones at the back?”
While I stare at this horrible spectacle – this can’t be real, you must be dreaming – the director greets a lorry driver who has just pulled up next to the others and is getting ready to unload. This procedure takes considerably less time but with far more animal cries and I quickly see why: behind the stumbling pigs, a second man has appeared and when things aren’t going fast enough, the animals receive electric shocks. I stare at the man and at the director who shakes his head again: “Really, don’t you know that this is not allowed anymore for pigs?” The man looks incredulous but then puts the gadget in his pocket.
Whoever talks of the intelligence and curiosity in the eyes of a pig? From behind, something nudges the back of my leg. I turn around and look into two intelligent blue eyes. I know many animal lovers who enthuse about the deep sentiments one can read in the eyes of a cat, or the unfailingly loyal and faithful regard in the eyes of a dog. But who has ever talked about the intelligence and curiosity in the eyes of a pig? Soon, I am going to see quite another expression in these eyes: quiet screams of fear, overcome with pain, empty eyes torn from their sockets, rolling on the blood-stained floor. A sharp thought hits me and it will continue to haunt me in the coming weeks: Eating meat is a crime – a crime …