Saturday, May 4th, 2013. Today I want to thank Ventura animal activist, Shelley Petlansky Watkins, for joining with animal rights groups to protest pig slaughter at Farmer John, the largest pig slaughterhouse on the West Coast. The protest is from 10 a.m. to noon, at Farmer John’s Slaughterhouse, 3049 E. Vernon Ave., Los Angeles, California, where 6,000 pigs a day are routinely slaughtered as if they were unfeeling creatures.
A few years ago, after the publication of one of my annual columns questioning the ethics of sending 4-H animals to slaughter without showing the child who raised the animal the truth of what happens to their pig, lamb, or cow, (see video below) I received the following hand-written letter from a man who witnessed what I wish every meat-eating person could see.
In solidarity with today’s protest, am posting his letter here:
I have been reading your articles about 4-H kids. I understand why they should not send their animals to the slaughterhouse.
What I am about to tell you here are events that actually transpired, as accurate as my memory can recall. I could never in my life think up anything like this.
Several years ago I was living on a five-hundred acre ranch right in the middle of the Wind River Indian Reservation, a hundred miles east of the Grand Teton Park in Western Wyoming. I was trading my husbandry talents and the feeding and care of fifty horses and mules, plus summer time irrigating of all the pastures, in exchange for a nice ranch house and the use of any of the stock I wanted to ride. For me and my many dogs and cats, it was ideal.
The Wind River Mountains were in my backyard and the Wind River itself wound in and out of the property several times. I could swim and play any day I wanted to without anyone telling me what to do or where to go. I guess in retrospect, I should have never given up the place, but when I found out several of the horses were earmarked for slaughter and sales to the French meat market, I quit the very day I found out.
One summer afternoon, I saw activity at the small house across the dirt road that ran in front of my place. Curious, I walked across the pasture in front of my house and across the dirt road to see what was up. I lived down there all by myself and if neighbors were moving in, I wanted to meet them and find out what kind of people they were.
Standing in front of the old house and leaning up against the bent and rusted fender of an old Ford pickup was a red headed man smoking a cigarette and whistling along to a Waylon Jennings song. As I approached, he yelled out to his wife to bring up two beers. He introduced himself to me as “Red” Hollis and he handed me one of the beers. He said his wife’s name was “Twila” and he told me they were going to spend the summer in the house. Red was going to do odd jobs around the smaller ranch up the road and Twila was going to work as a bar waitress in the small bar half way between where we lived and the small mountain town of Dubois.
Red told me that they had moved out from Illinois where he worked in a slaughterhouse. He told me all he did was hogs. No cattle, no sheep, no chickens and no turkeys. Just hogs!
This revelation made me a little nervous as I don’t feel that comfortable around anyone in this line of business and, actually, I do not know anyone in the slaughter industry. I usually keep my personal feelings about eating mammal flesh to myself unless I’m pressed to defend my choice of what I eat and how I feel about the slaughter of these incredible animals.
But I was going to spend the summer living across the road from these folks and so I just made casual conversation with Red and Twila. (Great names, huh?)
Anyway, Red went on to explain what he did in the slaughterhouse. It seemed to me that he was quite happy with his odd career and he had absolutely no reservations about talking about it. He told me he was a “Knifer” in the hog section of a huge slaughter operation. The hogs were weighted and graded out in these enormous holding pens and then they were forced, single file, to shuffle into the openings in the sides of the five story cement building. He said the squealing was so deafening that it could be heard five miles away.
As soon as the hogs got into the building, there were several men standing on the right side of the ramp with huge chains ending in sliding looped cables. As soon as each hog passed by, the men would reach down and pick up the right rear leg and slip the sliding cable over the leg and secure it. As soon as the cable was tight, the chain was mechanically pulled up and the hog was hoisted, up side down, into the air. This is where the squealing began to heighten. The terrified animals were actually screaming for their lives.
The next closed off room is where Red performed his macabre duties. As soon as the terrified hog entered the room, Red would reach up and slit its throat with his knife. He told me that he was pretty sure that he managed to successfully kill at least seventy five percent of all the hogs that came into his room. He also told me that by the end of his eight hour shift, the room was so filled with blood that it literally came up to his arm pits and that is why he wore rubberized fly fishing waders. He said that the killing of hogs went on twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year.
Double time for holidays!
He then told me that the hogs, always on the move above him, went from his room into the next room where they were dipped into huge vats of boiling water to remove any dirt, bugs and all the hair. If any of the hogs he had knifed were still alive, the boiling water ended their lives immediately. He also said that several times a day, several of the “Knifers” would yell out “live one coming in” when a still living hog came through the entrance to the boiling vats and everyone would laugh and yell when its squeals were hushed forever by the boiling cauldrons.
I asked him how he could live with himself after what he had done in the slaughterhouse. With an enormous smile on his face, he told me that he enjoyed, immensely, the fact that he held the life of so many animals in his hands and that he slept real good after a long day in the “Knifing Room” and a pork roast in his belly.
We talked for several minutes longer and then I made up some lame excuse that I had to get back to my feeding of the horses. When I got home, I hugged all my dogs and cats and began to cry.
I cried and cried and cried!!!
The 4-H and Future Farmers of America pretend to teach real values to young children in hopes of thoroughly brainwashing them into believing that the raising of farm animals for profit and slaughter is a sound, moral thing to do. These children raise each and every cow and pig and lamb and goat with tender loving care and talk to them in soothing voices telling them all along that everything will be all right. But sadly enough, the day after the fair auction is over, each of these cuddled animals are going to go off and meet the thousands of Red Hollis’s waiting in the dark of some slaughterhouse with sharpened knives in hand and murder in their hearts!
How many children would happily raise a pig, or lamb or goat after they got to spend a full eight-hour shift with Red Hollis in his house of horrors? I’m telling you, there would be no more 4-H or FFA except for those children who maim and torture animals anyway!
What kind of a message are these parents and organizations sending to our children? Are they telling them that it is perfectly okay to raise an animal in a loving environment and then willingly send them off to the horror of the kind of death that Red Hollis would give them? I said it to you on the phone and I will say it here: If these children are going to raise these animals, then by the Gods they had better go to the slaughterhouse and see exactly what happens to their sweet little furry friend the day after they relinquish their ownership of them. Otherwise, everything the 4-H or FFA teaches them about life on the farm will be in vain!
I hope this letter is not too disturbing to you Suza, but I feel if you are to make a serious stand against this most barbaric act, then you should have some real ammunition against it. This is first hand information taken from the very mouth of one Red Hollis, “Knifer” from Illinois and believe me, he knows!
What have we done to our children and what are we teaching them about how to love and respect the creatures we share this tiny planet with? Each and every time an animals is slaughtered, the Creator does hear its screams!!!
There was once serious spiritual connotations concerning the killing of an animal for food and leather, but today any spiritual connection to the slaughtered animal has been completely replaced by profit and greed. Most people today have absolutely no idea of the immense suffering that our animal friends are put through just for that “Big Mac” or that “Whopper” and the immense profits the sale of these items bring in. Hell, most people never even say grace before they sit down to eat anything!!!
Thank you again, Suza Francina, for your stand against this most disgusting act and the people and the organizations that perpetuate its continuation. Namely the 4-H clubs and the Future Farmers of America.
Stephen King, in his best writing style, could never, ever come up with as horrifying a tale as Red Hollis told me that day down by the Wind River. I still have nightmares about it.
Keep up the good fight!
* * *
The first step to “enlightenment” is to stop living in denial and see the era we live in with our eyes wide open, both the profound beauty and goodness in the world, and the immense, unspeakable horror.
Video of modern slaughterhouse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvWt8gwa5zo&feature=share&oref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DHvWt8gwa5zo%26feature%3Dshare&has_verified=1