R. C. Curtis
[35 year old male from North Carolina]
It’s time to stop. Time to stop all the bullshit — and the chicken shit and the pig shit. All this talk about the omnivore’s dilemma. All this talk about pollo-tarian and pesca-tarian and how you’re such an animal lover —but you also love to eat them. And how you buy only cage-free, free-range, grass-fed. And the justifications, the appeals to the bible or to Darwin or to your friggin’ blood type. I mean, come on! Let’s just cut it out.
Let’s not talk in generalities. Let’s drop the euphemisms. This is no time for polite discourse. This is a time of war, a time of holocaust – animal holocaust. And I’m sorry if that term offends you but that is what’s happening and we should not have to be silent about it. The fact is, animals – living, sentient beings – are tortured, brutalized and slaughtered by the millions every day. It’s time to stop believing, as little children do, in Old MacDonald and his happy farm. No sign of suffering. No hint of the horrors. Because, folks, the modern factory farm is not any kind of farm we know from storybooks, not any kind of farm from yesteryear. It’s a big warehouse, a warehouse of horrors. A nightmare for all – the animals, of course, genetically engineered, confined, over-crowded, brutalized – but for the humans who have to work in such places — well, the factory farm is nothing less than a slaughterhouse of the soul. Now, before you start asking me how the hell I know all this, let me tell you, when I was a kid, my old man worked in just such a place, a pig farm, and if there was ever a soul-dead bastard on the face of this earth, good old dad was that guy. The brutality he witnessed and meted out at work, surprise, surprise, wasn’t left behind at quitting time.
I grew up in North Carolina. My father was a supervisor on one of the Murphy Family pig farms, suppliers to Smithfield Foods – you may have heard of them. My father would come home at some time in the evening, after he’d had a drink . . .or two. . . or three with his pals. He’d come home reeking of pig and booze – but it was the pig you smelled mostly. You just don’t forget that smell, it just clings to everything. No matter how hard my mom tried to wash it out, it stayed with us. The other kids always gave me shit about it and I learned to take care of myself, learned to be pretty quick with my fists.
Of course, not as quick, not as hard, as my old man. When he’d come home drunk he’d first start wailing away on my mother and when I tried to protect her, he’d start in on me. And I took it, yes I did – and I nurtured a seething hatred for this man called my father, nursed that hatred and grew it into a monstrous thing, a monster that stayed with me, consumed me long after my old man had died, a thing that would have destroyed me if I hadn’t turned it into something else.
Every night when I’d lie there in bed either trying to block out the sounds of my father raging or trying to block my own pain, I’d lie there and wish for his death. I’d say to whoever – I don’t know if it was God or the Devil – I’d say, “Make him die. Make him die.”
And when I was about twelve, he finally did. He was drunk, as usual, sittin’ in front of the T.V., watching football, a beer in one hand and a pork chop in the other, his face all red and covered in pork grease. He started to yell at the T.V. and then suddenly started panting like he couldn’t breathe. Then he grabbed his stomach and gasped “Oh, shit!” Then he collapsed in his chair, dead from a heart attack, as we found out later. And we just stared at him, my mother and me, didn’t do anything. Well, I was a kid, of course, only about twelve years-old but old to do something –but I didn’t. I was surprised and a bit frightened – he looked so strange—but other than that I didn’t feel much of anything, not even the pleasure of having my prayers answered. My mother, I don’t know exactly what she was feeling, whether she was just paralyzed or whatever, but she didn’t take a step towards him. I mean, she had spent her whole marriage trying to avoid the man, so I guess it was instinctual not to go near him. Anyway, like I said, we both just watched. Afterwards, as he slumped lifeless in his Lazy Boy, mother called 911.
Here’s the thing: though I’ve never forgiven my father for what he did to my mother or to me and I’m not overlooking his personal responsibility for his actions, as I’ve grown older and understood the brutality and heartlessness, the profits at all costs mentality of factory farms, I’ve come to recognize how it fucks people up. I see that in its exploitation of animals as well as humans in service to the corporation, it’s a perfect model of capitalism. My father, in a way, was just another cog in the machinery. He was brutal, yes, but fucked over by the corporation like all the other brutes in a factory farm, like everyone is — everyone except the CEO or CFO or president or whatever. And I’ve dedicated my adult life to fighting that. I’ve dedicated my life to making people aware that they live in a system that will eventually destroy everything just to feed the corporate fat cats. Being vegan is just one way of saying no to all that and yes to real change, to a whole paradigm shift , to a – yes, I’m going to say it—to a revolution of sorts. I’m not talking about taking up arms or planting bombs or anything like that. This revolution starts on your plate, starts with what you put into your body; starts with you becoming aware of how you are supporting cruelty and exploitation and greed with every hamburger, every piece of KFC, every pork chop, every glass of milk, every fried egg. But that’s just the start. After that, you’ve got to work to liberate the animals, work to shut down the factory farms, to make the slaughter houses a thing of the past.
And you just might save your soul while you’re at it.