Wednesday, March 03, 2010

My Eporkphany

I wonder how so many can be in so much pain,
While others don't seem to feel a thing.
And then I curse my whiteness and I get so damn depressed.
In this world of suffering, why should I be so blessed?
- Brett Dennen, "The
re is So Much More"

The other day I was driving to work, as I tend to do on days when I'm scheduled to work, and as I was stopped at a red light a very peculiar sort of truck pulled up alongside me. It was large and a bit dirty from driving on dirt roads, and it had a long, metal trailer on its back with little holes all along the sides. Now, I grew up in a rural area, so I've actually seen these trucks a million times. But this time I saw something I don't know if I've ever noticed before. It looked a bit like this:

Pigs. Or, more specifically, pig noses. Pig noses, sniffing the air, wondering what was out there, trying to experience the outside world. Pig noses, attached to pigs faces with pig eyes, trying to see something that wasn't a tiny pen in some dimly lit barn. And they looked at me, and I knew with heartbreaking certainty that this pitiful trip in a truck, packed in end to end and shoulder to shoulder, three stories high, would be the only exposure to the outside world that these pigs would ever have. They were so obviously interested in the sky and the trees and the cars and even in me, staring back at them from my own car, but they were going to die before they ever found out anything more about those things.

I don't know what it is, but lately I can't get that moment out of my head. I went to Jack-in-the-Box today and I just couldn't stop thinking about how these sweet, incredibly intelligent animals (they regularly outperform every other domesticated animal in intelligence tests - including dogs - and even do better than primates and three-year-old children at some learning experiments) were living horrible, short, limited lives because I wanted bacon on my hamburger. Literally, I looked at the hamburger, and I saw the noses. I saw the pigs.

It happens all the time, you know. They live in tiny little pens, and they eat, and they breed, and they give birth, and they glimpse out at the world from tiny holes in the side of a truck, and then they die. And they do it because of me.

They do it because of a lot of other people too, of course. But if I'm going to object to cruelty to animals I like, like dogs and cats and horses, then there's no reason for me to participate in this particular cruelty. I don't know exactly what I'm going to wind up consuming or not consuming or in what situations, but I think I'm headed down a path now.

And like so many things in life, it all started with a nose.