THE WILDLIFE AGRIBUSINESS: A PERSONAL NOTE ABOUT THE CANADA GOOSE SLAUGHTER FOR THEIR BREASTS
By Anne Muller
They lost their breasts and their lives.
This is an attempt to sing their song.
In preparation for the surgery, I had been handed a booklet titled
The Patient’s Rights. The anesthesiologist now came over, introduced
himself and, using his thumb as a support, began to snap his middle
finger hard against a vein in my hand. “I’m good at getting veins to
jump out,” he laughed. It stung, but I tried to stay friendly. In July,
I had my breast removed. The geese had theirs removed, too, at a
slaughterhouse about 40 miles away only a couple of weeks before. Before
going in for surgery, I feared they would accidentally cut out my heart.
They’re doctors, not butchers, I reminded myself, as flashes of the
goose slaughter crossed my mind.
“Pain…heart attack” I screamed loudly, “I’m having a heart attack!”
The pain was excruciating as the anesthesia wore off, the painkiller
they gave me didn’t work. “Anne, it’s Peter, I’m here.” I heard his
voice dimly, as though coming from the opposite end of a long tunnel. It
briefly brought me back to myself. That’s right, my name was Anne, Peter
was there, it was a comfort, I had forgotten. “I” had become unrelenting
pain and my heart was beating out of my chest. I heard Pete say, “The
pain killer isn’t working, can you give her something else?” “You don’t
belong in here, sir.” I became concerned about the altercation. The
intense pain lasted for what seemed forever, though I’m sure it was only
minutes before they piped the new painkiller, Demerol, through my veins,
which mercifully was effective.
What if I were a goose, no anesthesia, no painkiller, no sympathy, no
mate who could help, no leverage, and no rights! Just a callous hand
hoisting my fearful body by the neck, forcing my ankles into clamps and
hanging me upside down, clamps far too small for my size, not caring if
my ankles broke or if I twisted in pain, or if my wings broke, or if I
feared that my heart would give out, or if I screamed “Pain.” I imagined
the pain, the excruciating pain that wouldn’t be relieved either by a
kind voice or a medication. My mouth forced open, my jaw broken, a knife
jammed into the roof of my mouth and twisted around because a diabolical
slaughterer discovered that this technique loosened feathers. My throat
slit and still alive. The pain, the attempt to scream, to seek relief,
was met with indifference or ridicule. The clamps were pulled off and I
was thrown into a vat of boiling water, ripped into pieces and put into
plastic wrap. I ceased to exist in my own mind and in the mind of those
who got a part of me, or whatever I was, for “I” was not anymore.
How many times do we hear, “More geese should be sent to
slaughterhouses. They kill chickens that way, it’s humane slaughter.”
Thirty years before, my great aunt met me for lunch following a job
interview I’d had at Cornell University Hospital in New York City.
Studying with one eye open and one eye closed, I had gotten my M.A. in
Experimental Psychology, miraculously avoiding animal experiments. An
eye doctor was looking for someone to work on perception experiments. I
was shocked by the sight of cats stretched out in slings; their brains
exposed waiting to be occipitally blinded. Jars of monkeys’ heads on the
desks of experimenters apparently were mere ornaments. The doctor picked
up on my thoughts. “I would blind a million cats to save the sight of
one human being,” he said proudly. “I’ll give you until next week to
make up your mind. The job is yours if you want it.”
“What do you think?” I asked my great aunt, feeling guilty that I was
contemplating giving up my first professional job offer. “It sounds like
an Auschwitz for animals. You know they experimented on Jews that way.”
Members of my family had been in a concentration camp 20 years before.
As I got older, I understood more of the reality of the concentration
camp. Beyond the sadism, I felt there was far worse, the indifference to
others’ suffering. I called Cornell the next day. “Don’t wait for me.”
Suppose I’d had lunch with someone else. Suppose the person had said,
“Don’t be silly, it’s a great job, great place, interesting work, just
do it!” But my great aunt led me down another path. She too had been in
a sling; she had doctors use her as a human guinea pig. Yes, it made a
difference that I was a “Daughter of the Holocaust” as I had been called
on a Jewish radio program. My sensibilities were colored by the
nightmare through which I lived vicariously. Others in our movement got
there by other means. Or, perhaps we have a gene, a compassion gene.
Perhaps it’s fluff to attempt to attach a psychological explanation to
our compassion. Or, perhaps we’re all born with a compassion gene that
gets suppressed with acculturation. “Get rid of them, they are a
nuisance.” The words pierce me still. I wonder if those who feel the
pain of animals and those who don’t are not two different species.
Several days before the surgery, while debating alternative cancer
treatments, not knowing yet that there was no metastasis, and believing
I didn’t have long on this plane of existence, the following simple song
came to me, and I found myself singing it the night before the surgery.
It was for the geese who had been brutally slaughtered and me:
Across the river, there is a mountain
Across the mountain, there is a meadow
Across the meadow, there is an ocean
Across the ocean, there is a forest
Across the forest, there is a desert,
Across the desert, there is a hill
Across the hill, there’s a valley,
Across the valley is where I’ll find you
It’s where you’ll be
Safe and free, you and me
Thank heavens there are organizations that focus on the slaughtering
business. We will leave that area of animal abuse to them, but to say
that if there’s a hell on earth, it has to be the slaughterhouse. What
we know is that ‘surplus game’ will increasingly be converted to food.
THE GAME AGENCIES, MY FRIENDS, ARE NOW IN THE WILDLIFE AGRIBUSINESS!