Picking up the ham turns into a lesson in animal (and human) cruelty
So when my siblings and I were divvying up who would bring what for Thanksgiving, I got the ham. I promptly called to place an order, was given “order #1” and told I could pick it up Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
My wise friend, Sally, warned, “I’d get there at 8:45 if I were you.” So I did, to see the place already opened, bustling with business and a line crawling out the door like a huge caterpillar.
However, it didn’t move like one. I went to the back of the line, and within minutes, I was inside. These folks have been here, done this, I thought. I bet they could hand over these hams, blindfolded.
Just beyond the counter were glass cases filled with racks over racks of hams as far as the eye could see. Hips, rather, all wrapped in foil the color of champagne. Not the pink kind.
I hadn’t realized until reaching this spot that I was NOT the right person for this job. Big time. What was I thinking when I agreed to do it?
Obviously, I wasn’t. Since I don’t eat as someone said, “anything with a face,” (although sometimes, fish) staring at what looked like hips, all in a row, was certainly the wrong place to be. Things went down hill quickly.
As I waited for someone to hand over a hip, I felt horrible. I began to think of “Lana,” a little pig (a “Wilbur” look-alike right out of Charlotte's Web) given to me as a gift, in a brown burlap sack. Holding the sack, I had no idea what was inside. Only that it was alive and needed air. When I untied the rope, a pale pink pig scurried out, with legs like Lana Turner’s.
It didn’t take long to realize that Lana was like one of my dogs. She’d run though the woods with me, loved a good back scratch and lounged in the cool grass, leaning right into my side. In the summertime, I’d bathe her with the water hose and she’d stand still there in suds, seemingly smiling and saying, “Aaaahhhh.” I delighted in her happy nature.
Still in line, I went from thinking about Lana to how the Lanas of the world reach these racks. That is, how they (and other animals) are killed.
I’d read newspaper articles plus magazines like Sanctuary (farm sanctuary’s compassionate quarterly) AV (a publication of the American Anti-Vivisection Society) and Animal Times (PETA) describing this process. The violence and sheer brutality will take your breath away, if not your appetite.
I remembered opening the Houston Chronicle a few years back and seeing a photograph of two horses in a “kill box.” I’d never heard the term, much less knew it existed. I remembered the terror in the horses' eyes, seeing their mouths opened and teeth exposed while a man wearing a rubber apron stabbed at their spinal cords like they were massive blocks of ice. The writer wrote, in vivid detail, that horses fall to the floor, “paralyzed but not yet dead.” That a chain is wrapped around their rear legs and hoists them upside down. Throats are slit and they’re left there hanging, bleeding to death.
Horrified, I wrote a letter to some of the powers that be in Washington, asking that they please support H.R. 503, the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act. If passed, the bill would prohibit the sale and transport of horses to these kill boxes “for slaughter for human consumption.” Sadly, the bill didn’t pass.
At a political event later, I met an assistant to one of the recipients of the letter and naively asked, “How in the world can something so blatantly wrong NOT get changed!?” He raised his shoulders and leaned in, “Ranchers are some of our biggest supporters.”
But suddenly the line moved and I was back in the store.
As I continued grinding on all this, my turn came up. A pleasant woman plopped a nine-pound pre-cooked, pre-sliced, ham on the counter and proceeded to unwrap it for my viewing pleasure. I told her (as politely as possible) I’d pass on this part. Then I quickly moved to the cashier and scurried out of there like Lana had from the sack.
When I reached my car my husband (unfortunately for him) called my cell phone. He was proud to report that his errands were “all done.” So were all those pigs, I thought, and burst into tears. Blubbering, I spilled everything. Where I’d been, how it all came to me. Still blubbering, I declared that I would never set foot in that place again. There was a silent pause on the other end of the phone.
“I haven’t lost it, Patrick,” I said. “I just feel very strongly about this.”
“God INTENDED us to eat animals, honey,” he said, with a voice as soft as a farmer's rain.
I understood that he, along with trillions of others, shared this view, but I did not.
I’m not asking that everyone go vegetarian,” I explained, “although that’d be great. If people could only see BEHIND the counter - into the slaughterhouses — all the violence — they’d wanta at least make the process more humane!”
“OK THAT I can agree with,” he said.
Why couldn’t everyone, I wondered.
Then I remembered something my father used to say. “There two ways you can tell a lot about a person,” he said, “How they act on a tennis court and how they treat animals.”
The first rule of measure, I still find interesting. The second is one I live by.