Somewhere in Minnesota, in the month of May 2020, a pig farmer crowds thousands of pigs into a warehouse to gas them to death. The survivors will be shot one-by-one. He does not enjoy this gruesome task, but sees no other choice but to mass-slaughter his pig pile-up since the pandemic has forced meatpackers to suspend their activity. He is one of many pig and animal farmers faced with this dilemma. Had the pigs made it to the slaughterhouse as they would have in normal times, their fate would hardly have been more enviable, but it would have felt more normal at least. Millions of hot dogs instead of mass incineration. A country capable of the most sophisticated technologies is incapable of managing a pig surplus. Incapable or unwilling? For all those who are responsible (all of us), the quality of a pig’s life and death has no importance.
Somewhere else in Minnesota, in the month of May 2020, a police officer was crushing the life out of a suspected black man on the street. The man’s name was Floyd, and his death caused understandable indignation as the video of his death propagated across the world. Who knows what exactly was going through that police officer’s mind as he kept applying pressure in spite of Floyd’s repeated pleas: “I can’t breathe.”
Pig and man are both three-letter words...not so far apart. Once you have figured that a pig is a worthless life form on which you can inflict any form of cruelty, it doesn’t take much to figure that a man of different color or creed or culture is something of a pig to you. That is how you will justify mistreating him, and indeed the fate of many men is hardly enviable to slaughtered pigs.
The mass extermination is remotely reminiscent of the holocaust. If you can do it to humans, why not pigs? Now there’s a reverse and perverse reasoning! That Jews do not eat pork may seem beside the point. It is indeed beside the point, but not entirely disconnected. The pig is one of a long list of “unclean meats” for which the book of Leviticus provides a proper inventory. Here it is clearly stated that Israelites must not defile themselves with these meats; rather, they must become holy as the Lord is holy. Dietary codes, along with a large body of other such laws, find their raison d’être in a scheme of sanctification. What is sanctified is set apart. Yahweh proclaimed Israel his sanctified people, and that was the justification for what he would command them in Deuteronomy 20:17:
"But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that they may not teach you to do according to all the abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.”
Once again, from a visceral disgust for pigs to a moral disgust of other peoples, the way is short and slippery. Terms such as racism and ethnic cleansing would be invented much later, and are now generally condemned. For all the disdain for pigs displayed by Judaism, Islam, and consumerist capitalism, they are not such despicable creatures after all and may even have a thing or to teach humans.
At a pig farm near Rastenberg, northern Austria, some 25 years ago, an extraordinary event escaped the news headlines. This was a farm where the pigs ran free--very different from the one in Minnesota--but the piglets were nestled in a barn. It so happened that the barn caught fire and went up in a blaze, and it was also witnessed that all of the mother pigs plunged into the inferno with no chance of rescuing those piglets. One can only imagine that for those mother pigs, the piglets were not sensed as separate entities. Human mothers have that same sense, but otherwise, humans tend to feel very separate from each other. Our sense of solidarity is often beneath that of swine.
So how about you? And is there anything you can do?
Just as long as you feed yourself on mass-slaughtered and mass-consumed meat, you must also acknowledge responsibility for a racist world. This does not imply that you are to blame because the world is racist any more than you are to blame because of the indecent industrial meat production. Still, you participate at a subtle level. Participating in anti-police violence protests will not exempt you. At the root of this evil is the denial of the sanctity of all life. You cannot draw any boundaries.
This is no guide to what the government or the big corporations should do. It is about you and only you; it is a call to recognize that cruelty to animals is of the same nature as cruelty to humans, even if you proclaim that human life is of greater significance. You and I must not continue sponsoring the mass production of meat through our personal consumption. Now, from a positive perspective, consider how your restraint (because you too, have always loved the taste of meat) will create a slight ripple that will join other ripples. You know not how many. At some unpredictable moment, there will be a powerful wave that will wipe out our barbaric slaughterhouses and industrial meat production. This industry is connected to many others, such that an entire power system may also collapse like a house of cards. It is time to gather together the entire human family and the extended family of all life on earth.
-Excerpt from the upcoming book "The GEM" by Carsten Sprotte.