Itís an unending, relentless grief.
And its triggers come in very obvious, sometimes subtle,
sometimes out-of-the-blue ways. Literally. They leave me with a bottomless
depth of crippling sadness. You know the one I mean.
The obvious: the pig factory I quietly got into. I wanted
to try out my new video camera in such a din of a place. It picked up the
light well, exposing the spots of pigmentation in the sowís skin just
beneath the brush of almost translucent hair. The pink tongue as she
opened her mouth and bit incessantly at the bars of her prison. The white
rim outlining her eye as she rolled it carefully in my direction, wary,
helpless. Pleading, may I say? And at my mercy. At the mercy of human
beings ó creatures who, obviously, arenít capable of mercy ó or she
wouldnít have been there in that coffin-sized crate, living out her life
in the barren, clinical, stench-filled warehouse into which she herself
had been born. An existence we wouldnít sentence even upon psychopaths
whose crimes are too hideous to revisit.
Through the viewfinder, from the whites of her eyes, into
my soul she grabs me. And I know in that second, in that awfully tragic
glimpse of a moment in which she connects with me, from a loneliness
surpassed only by her perpetual frustration, that she will never let me
go. Like that harp seal pup of my youth, squirming in the bloody throes of
dying. Like the bull in the inescapable arena, down on his knees, coughing
up blood to a cheering crowd. Like that bludgeoned, boiled-alive white cat
still trying to escape the skinning.
The dead are never buried for those of us who work to
defend the weak against the strong. For they die over and again, every day
in obvious ways, leaving us with this unending, relentless grief. You know
the one I mean.
The subtle triggers: ďSo youíve been inside a
slaughterhouse? How gruesome. Still, I donít think it would affect me the
way itís affected you. Itís probably really unpleasant, but I could handle
it better than you could, I think.Ē They are stronger, in other words, not
weak, too sensitive, or so easily moved by their emotions.
A volume of dialogue swims in my mind. The grief has me in
its grip and Iím unable to articulate. Why am I left so impotent? It is
hours later that the answer emerges. I realize it is incredibly easy to
imagine the inside of a slaughterhouse and not be so affected by it ó for
the human grasp is limited. It canít hear the sound of a large animal
pushed against its will into a kill chute, its frantic struggles, the
reverberating pop of the captive-bolt pistol, the heavy thump to the
floor, the kicking against metal, the groaning of the dying, the screech
of pulleys and chains, the hydraulic release hiss, the splashing blood,
like water from a garden hose hitting cement. It canít smell the stench of
manure and sweat, blood and putrefying flesh and organs. It canít feel the
absolute fear, panic, terror. It canít know the absolute will of each and
every life to desperately, frantically, vainly hold on.
The human mind canít imagine the inside of a
slaughterhouse; it is something one can only experience ó and it is
utterly shocking. The so-called strong also canít understand that the dead
are never buried. Only the soul, not the mind, connects with those who
have gone and are still passing from this world into the next in
unbelievably ó and unimaginably ó horrendous ways. They die over and
again, every day, in subtle, hidden ways, leaving those who are true to
their hearts with an unending, relentless grief. You know the one I mean.
From out-of-the-blue: The crying honks of geese overhead,
in formation, headed north. Hundreds of them wing homebound as I stare
spellbound into a perfectly crisp blue sky. They are the reminder of a
force greater than any human ambition or weapon. The powers that are. The
birds take me with them on a journey that transcends miles, and I am
filled with the most pristine joy, conceived by the immaculate connection
to all that is, has been, will be, right there, from out-of-the-blue.
And, then, just like that, I begin to sob, and the winged
formation blurs behind the tears in my eyes. For they are there, all
around us, in the fields and the sky and the oceans, crying out their
souls, answering ó unheard ó that age-old question that weíre not alone.
And I think we will only be satisfied with that answer when the very last
one of them has been blasted every which way into extinction: the
passenger pigeons and dodo birds, the rhinos and elephants, the big cats
and snail darters, the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, who left ó forever ó in my
lifetime, not long ago.
The dead are never buried.
They die over and again, every day, in out-of-the-blue
ways, leaving me with this unending, relentless grief.
You know the one I mean.
The Animals Voice: Of Animal Rights and Its Defenders
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