Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

Before It Was a Sausage

October 1, 2002

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.

[Breaker quote: The unappetizing prehistory of your breakfast]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.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate

small Griffin logo
Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer
Archive Table of Contents

Current Column

Return to the SOBRANS home page.

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive | Back Issues of SOBRANS 
 WebLinks | Scheduled Appearances | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas | Notes from the Webmaster
  Contact Us | Back to the home page 


SOBRANS and Joe Sobran’s columns are available by subscription. Details are available on-line; or call 800-513-5053; or write Fran Griffin.

Copyright © 2002 by The Vere Company