Before It Was a Sausage October 1, 2002 by Joe Sobran Every day in America, 355,000 pigs are slaughtered, notes Matthew Scully in his book DOMINION (St. Martin's Press). The numbers of pigs killed wouldn't, in itself, horrify me. The way they are raised, as Scully describes it, does. Space precludes a full discussion of this stunning book. I'll confine myself here to the fate of the lowly, despised, and unpitied pig. Scully doesn't believe in "animal rights." As his title suggests, he believes in man's "dominion" over beast, more or less as authorized in the book of Genesis (though he also says he isn't especially devout). But he also believes -- noblesse oblige -- that that human dominion should be humane. And it is now anything but. The old-fashioned farm is nearly extinct. Animals raised for food -- pigs being only one example -- are now bred in conditions beyond nightmare, thanks to modern methods of efficient production. Few of them ever see sunshine in their lives. They are conceived (artificially) and born, live and die, in "factory farms," in metal crates so cramped that their mothers barely have room to lie down, either to sleep or to give birth. The filth and odor, Scully says, are unbearable. Pigs aren't naturally filthy; under natural conditions, they leave their waste some distance from where they eat and sleep. But "factory farms" don't permit that. The pigs live and die in tiny spaces from which there is never a moment's escape. If they were given a tiny bit more space, the thinking goes, the mothers might accidentally crush their young. While they are deliberately fattened, their muscles atrophy, you see, and they become both obese and clumsy. They are subject to a regimen of chemicals, inadequate food, "vaccinations, ear notching, teeth cutting, tail docking, and, for the males, castration. All of this ... without the use of a local anesthetic." Castration is usually performed with a hot knife. Their tails must be docked -- with pliers -- "because premature weaning has left them constantly searching for something to chew or suck, and because their five or six months on earth will be spent in a crowd staring into the behinds of fellow captives, snapping at the tails in front of them, while the guys in back are doing the same to them." Incredibly, the purpose of docking is not to reduce their pain, but to increase it, so that the young pigs will try to avoid attack and fewer infections will result. When antibiotics are withdrawn, a week before slaughter, many of the pigs contract pneumonia. "Trembling and shaking, many lose control of their bowels and the floors must be constantly washed of excrement." Scully quotes two NEW YORK TIMES reports on what happens next: "Squealing hogs funnel into an area where they are electrocuted, stabbed in the jugular, then tied, lifted, and carried on a winding journey through the plant. They are dunked in scalding water, their hair is removed, they are run through a fiery furnace (to burn off residual hair), then disemboweled and sliced by an army of young, often immigrant laborers." These workers, Scully notes, "wear earplugs to muffle the screaming." Most find the work demoralizing. Another scene: "Kill-floor work is hot, quick, and bloody. The hog is herded in from the stockyard, then stunned with an electric gun. It is lifted onto a conveyor belt, dazed but not dead, and passed to a waiting group of men who wear bloodstained smocks and blank faces. They slit the neck, shackle the hind legs, and watch the machine lift the carcass into the air, letting its life flow out in a purple gush, into a steaming collection trough." When 2,000 hogs per hour are thus processed by unskilled laborers, there are going to be mistakes. So the hogs that survive are "dropped alive into the scalding tank." Yet the producers -- you can't call them farmers -- of these wretched porcines insist, with straight faces, that the animals are well treated and live contented lives. On Scully's showing, this seems open to question. But what is certain is that the efficiency of these factory farms is such that traditional farms can't compete with them. So there is a little prehistory of your morning sausage. It's a little chunk of an animal, of sorts, that never knew anything but a cruelty and misery you can hardly imagine. I don't know what practical conclusions follow. I only know that Scully has given my conscience a blow in the solar plexus. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/columns/021001.shtml". Copyright (c) 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, www.griffnews.com. This column may not be published in print or Internet publications without express permission of Griffin Internet Syndicate. You may forward it to interested individuals if you use this entire page, including the following disclaimer: "SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's columns are available by subscription. For details and samples, see http://www.sobran.com/e-mail.shtml, write firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 800-513-5053."