Vera Yijun Zhou ↗

Nice meating you

Since I was born, I always felt like a naturally wild pig. That was, until one day when I was caught and put in a cage. “It is a necessary step”, said they. Me and my new cage-mates were taught to work hard to become better porkers. “This is the job of a pig”, said they. There was less food than pigs, so only the pigs who got up early and went to bed late fed well. Like good little pigs we huddled around the trough waiting for the moment that food would pour down; first come, first served. I no longer thought about freedom, that's for wild pigs. The frequent feeding loosened my bowels, but soon even this was not enough to empty my body and I began to vomit. It was like my body was rebelling against its obesity. Yet I still fought for food, fighting to be first in the queue and opening my mouth to be fed, even though it was far more than I could digest.

Then one day I was loaded into a container and shipped to a farm on the other side of the ocean. “Those faraway pigpens are better- they’re so big that you can't see the fences, and every day fresh food is prepared and served to you. You are lucky to be chosen! You will become good pork” said they, “but such an easy life takes away the dignity of being a pig.”

The new pigpen was indeed so big, and it was shared with other animals who were all preparing to become meat too. It was so big that most of the animals hadn't even reached its fence. Indeed, some were not even aware of its existence! I had heard that if a farm is built large enough, the meat will be delicious enough.

“Be careful to speak correctly, pig. You are not allowed to talk about ‘meat’ anymore, the word objectifies the animals” said they, “Be strong and independent, you are a sow.”

I stopped thinking about what the future might bring, and focused on improving my awareness of pigentity and pigender by fragmented visual stimulation on a black screen. I started to feel like a special pig as political ideas began to take root in my mind unasked, as if blown on the wind. I paid close attention to the election even though pigs like me can’t vote. The poll’s big winners made the other animals happy - they had campaigned on promises of bigger fences, better diet, more entertainment, and faster weight gain. The pigpen became chaotic, as everyone wanted to be heard, every one offering comments on others’ behavior.

Finally, the day arrived and I was loaded into a truck, packed tightly with my peers. In a clean, orderly way we were slaughtered and our bodies disassembled by a cold iron machine. Chunks of me were placed on styrofoam plates and wrapped in clingfilm. Each part was labeled - chop, 20€ per kilo, expiring in seven days; loin, 25€ per kilo, bio-organic. But nobody was interested, even though I was pink and fresh, a perfect pig.

Time passed and at last, I was picked up and placed under a bright light. A shutter clicked and my image was printed on the supermarket discount leaflet - 25% OFF, TODAY ONLY! The effort had been made, my chance had been taken, and I didn’t have to stay long in the freezer before being taken away by customers who didn’t see why it matters that pork comes from pigs. The last piece of me was picked up, scanned, paid for and taken by a fat, happy man just as the shop was closing. Nobody who ate me that night remembered the pig I once was as they chewed on me, no one cared about how hard I worked to grow as they gnawed the last scraps of flesh off my bones, and no one thought about the unique pig I once was as they put me on their plate.

After dinner, the fat man puts down his cutlery and wipes his mouth. “The pork was overcooked,” he says to himself. A disappointing meal is a shame after a long day of work at his dull but necessary job in an energy company. He actually studied music in his bachelor degree, but he can’t even think when was the last time he played the bass. Perhaps a year ago when he was drunk at a friend’s birthday party? Without leaving the table or speaking another word, he takes his phone out of his pocket and opens Instagram.