If you have issues with eating meat, or if you are from PETA, you will probably not appreciate it. You’ve been warned.
Today we were invited to a neighbor’s house for Chicharones. We knew this had something to do with pig, but little did we know just how much pig this would entail. We got there around 2:30 in the afternoon, and that was when we first encountered said pig. There were actually two pigs, but only the bigger one was being wrestled with and tied up by 3 men. It was squealing and trying to run away, but they got it’s hind legs tied up and hoisted it up in the air upside down. It was squealing more, and trying to wriggle away. This is when I realized they were going to kill the pig, and that this pig would be the Chicherone we were invited over to eat. Really quickly, one of the guys pierced right through the squirming pig with an incredibly sharp knife, causing a TON of blood to come out (Jugular? Heart? Probably both.) There were a few seconds of loud squeals and jerking, but it died really quickly. After letting it bleed out insane amounts of blood, they started washing and shaving it, then skinning and removing the head, and then removing EVERYTHING.
I only saw this in bits and pieces, as I looked away as often as possible without seeming rude/disinterested/completely horrified. Yet I saw a lot, and my impression of the whole events of today post-gore are not horrifying at all. I know, I know, this sounds bad. This is coming from a person who is very against animal cruelty, not big on eating meat in the first place, who has difficulty walking through the raw meat freezer section in grocery stores. Heck I’ve even read Charlotte’s Web. Let me explain…
Right after the pig slaughter, the whole family (consisting of grandparents, their 4 children and spouses and their many children) worked together to prepare the feast (which was a celebration for 3 birthdays this month) Everyone helped cut and clean the meat, start the big wood fire over which the meat was cooked (along with garlic and some other delicious smelling spices). Then they set up the tables and the lawn chairs in the yard, brought out cold beer and sodas, Doritos, salad, tortillas and music and everything about the pig slaughter that had felt so foreign now felt very familiar, it was like any regular BBQ in my parents back yard. So maybe these crazy pig killers weren’t so crazy after all?
We are very removed from the whole animal to food process in the US- we are also very ignorant. There are many documentaries and books with information about the terrible conditions of our CAFOs (Caged Animal Feeding Operations- these have replaced farms) and slaughterhouses run by Corporate America, and some of them aren’t even written by the authors of Skinny Bitch, nor tree-hugging vegans (I highly recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma). The pig killed today was not stuck in a crate unable to move sitting in it’s own feces for most of it’s life, being injected with millions of antibiotics to keep it alive in the disgustingly unlivable conditions, and injected with other hormones to make it grow 3X faster than it ever would in nature. It wasn’t tortured by having it’s snout and tail cut off or abused by repressed illegal immigrant workers or skinned alive. No, this pig was raised by the family, and spent it’s days grazing in the yard and hanging out with other animals- it had a pretty good life and it’s death was fast at least, if not painless. They say you are what you eat, and in this case I would much rather be the happy pig grazing in the mountains all day than the former, we have enough of our own problems, who needs to ingest more hormones, antibiotics and stress??
They may not have loved it like a pet, but the family respected the pig right up until the very end, and even after by using every single part of it for something, NOTHING went to waste (even the intestines were feasted on by the vultures hanging out nearby). I don’t think that if this was the way things were done in the States people would necessarily stop eating meat, but I think they would stop eating such an over-abundance of it. Not only is it not great for you, or the environment, but it’s also sacrificing a living thing and a sacrifice like that should be reserved for necessity and not gluttony. It was really difficult for me, but I did manage to try a few bites and it was honestly delicious. Ross ate a lot, but he also ate guinea pig in Peru, so it was nothing for him. The rest of the afternoon and evening was filled sitting outside with great food, music, new friends, and some good whiskey (Chivas Regal) By the time Ross and I made the trek back to our casa the only lights out were from the fireflys in the woods and the Super Moon (what is that all about anyway?) .
I don’t think I’ll be killing my own pigs anytime soon, but I’m also not as against the idea of someone killing their own pig as I probably would have been this morning. It is a long standing tradition here and a way for people to enjoy and nourish their families and loved ones, and get to know some new gringo friends if they’re so inclined 🙂