I was born to a mother who was at the time caring for seven children, all my brothers and sisters. My father was nowhere to be seen, and never has been, not in my life anyway. It was hard from the off, some may say that someone like me knows nothing different, but I knew pain, every living being knows pain. The first recollection I have is watching my mother lying, each breath short and laboured, almost unable to move or turn over from the position in which she had originally laid down. Being in that kind of state does things to the mind, the body. I watched her develop behaviours that I was sure weren’t right: she would lay on the ground for hours rocking back and forth, her eyes rolling back in her head. It wasn’t as if I had to see her like that for too long though, they took me away from her after a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t still happening. I knew, when I was there, that she was in the same constant discomfort that I was. And my discomfort was intense: for weeks on end I lay in my own muck and the muck of others, constricted by the tiny living space that they allowed us. This way of life gave to a multitude of physical problems: I wasn’t sure exactly what they were but they resulted in her breathing becoming increasingly laboured and parts of her skin changing colour to a raw red. All around me were other families in the same situation as ours; we are all just one of many. Some of the mothers of those families definitely didn’t survive. They seemed to be suffering physical symptoms like those of my mother, which steadily worsened until their death, which left their tiny babies squealing, only to be taken to some unknown destination.
Because of that I think most of the memories that I have of my mother are what I have see of the others, they’re all the same here anyway. I’ve often wondered what happened to my mother, and to my brothers and sisters. Were they dead or alive? Here or somewhere else? Confined or free? Anyway there would have been nothing I could do, I just had to continue with the life I had been given. The second memory that I have, other than my mother, is the pain. ‘The pain’ is how I’ve always thought of it since it happened, as I know no other way to describe it. All I know is that it was completely agonising l and that I came out of it with physically less than I had before. I don’t know why they did it, but they did, and that’s why we hate them, hate the people who give us food, water and medicine, because they’re not doing it for us, the parts in their machine, everything they do is for them and we have no power to change that. Anyway, following the pain, I didn’t just feel different physically, but psychologically too. I felt as if I no longer had the desires that I had before, there were no boys and girls or men and women, they were all just beings who existed alongside me. I can’t say it was better, or worse, just different. But it was better for the controllers, I know that, otherwise they wouldn’t have done it, not that they had any particular qualms about the pain it put us through. Some of the others died in that process, I know they did, but thankfully I was once again one of the lucky ones. As lucky as you can get in this place anyway, sometimes I’ve thought that it might have been better if I’d have died At the time that the harming happened, I was too young to understand why they were doing this, it was just something that happened to everyone of my type, but as I’ve grown up I’ve begun to realise. Realise that they really do do everything for themselves, and sometimes if they’re feeling ever so slightly compassionate something for one of their kind. But it’s never for us, because we are just the machines that serve them, they give us no soul or sense of being of our own.
The second most terrifying day of my life is still incredibly easy to remember, although I would rather not do so to frequently. I woke up early in the morning, early enough that I could still see a pink tinge to the sky through the gaps in the roof of this place. I think it was the door closing which had woken me, and the squeals of anticipation of the others as one of the controllers began to wade through us as we were lying on the floor. He had with him a younger one, who he seemed to be teaching. Teaching the trade of persecution. I listened to his voice muttering instructions to the kid.
‘Yeah…if they look sick, mark them. We’ll deal with them later. Otherwise we want about fifty to be transported today. Got it?’ The younger one nodded nervously. The man then began to move around the building, getting closer to me with every step. He was roughly taking some of the others in his hands to get a better look at them, dismissing some of them and shoving some of them into a separate part of the building. I felt my muscles tighten as he stepped closer, my heart a mere flutter in my chest. I closed my eyes as he took a look at my neighbour. Suddenly I felt his hands on me, grasping my neck.
‘Ehh…could do with a bit more time here, I reckon. A couple of weeks and she’ll be perfect.’ he said to the younger one. Perfect for what? I wondered. He dropped me back to the ground and carried on walking through the sea of bodies, muttering comments deciding in a few seconds the fate of a living, feeling, hurting being. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the fact that he had specified a couple of weeks, either. It all depended on what leaving meant; whether the situation would improve or not. I tried not to think too much about the reality of having absolutely no clue about what was going to happen to me following the ‘couple of weeks’ that I had left in this place. Sometimes it’s better to focus on each day alone in a place like this.
From now on I will focus on each day, from the event just described to the day that I was taken away.
I remember feeling quite unwell on this day, my legs increasingly weak as I tried to remain standing on the bars beneath me. My lungs ached and so did my stomach. When the food was put out, I didn’t partake in the usual pushing and shoving to reach it; I was too exhausted and didn’t have the appetite anyway. I watched as the others frantically filled their mouths. It struck me as I was watching instead of my usual partaking: no one in here was starving, in fact we had ample food each day, so why did everyone make such an effort to get as much as they could? Fear, I supposed. The fear that tomorrow may not bring such opportunity.
I was feeling no better. I took some bits of food that had been left on the ground, but again didn’t manage to make it to the trough. I began to feel weaker, adding to the pain that I was already experiencing. Some of the others, at this point, stared at me helplessly as I lay on the ground, while others completely ignored me.
On this day one of the controllers came over to me, but I was too weak to be fearful. He pushed something into my mouth, a long tube, and I felt some sweet liquid flow down the back of my throat. The pain began to subside, but then all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I wondered whether it was death, but I could still feel the feet of the others in the overcrowded building pressing into my side. That was the last that I remember of that day, as I passed into a deep sleep.
My memories of this day are not too sharp, as I was drifting in and out of consciousness all day. I had once again failed to reach any food, but it didn’t matter as I was mainly grateful that I was free of the pain that I had been feeling in previous days. In addition, the general fear that pervaded each day was somewhat diminished, which was a luxury.
I was not administered any more medication on this day, and as a result it was a rather painful one, both physically and mentally. I was aware that less than a week had passed since the ‘couple of weeks’ comment, but I was concerned that my illness would change my circumstances: what if my illness meant that I would be ‘dealt with’ as the controller had previously mentioned? I forced myself to make my way to the food when it was put out in an attempt to cure my appearance of weakness.
This day my anxiety took me over with a force greater than the normal level that I experienced. The awareness that I was probably looking at my last week in this place somehow wracked my bones with fear, despite the fact that I have been in some sort of discomfort, whether physical or mental, since I was born into this place. But what if leaving meant death? What if this were to be my final week on earth and I had known no life but this one? I fell into an uncomfortable sleep in order to try to alleviate my feelings.
This was the day during which another hardship befell me: I got my leg caught between the bars that we used to stand on. I tried to scream out but my throat was still sore from the illness so it was very difficult. Some of the others tried to give me help, but there was little they could do.
Again I was not able to reach food due to being trapped. At this point I was hoping that my two weeks would be more like one, and that I would be able to escape to anywhere but this place.
After two days of being trapped, I was finally released by one of the controllers. However it wasn’t the joyous occasion that you might expect. In order to make up for the days of feeding that I had missed, I was force fed. The controller was apparently concerned that I was ‘falling behind the rest’ and therefore decided to take matters into his own hands. A tube was shoved down my neck, my nostrils covered, and an incredibly unpleasant sensation began, lasting for what seemed like forever. I fell into yet another uncomfortable sleep.
During the entire day I was laid down on the filthy bars beneath me, as it would have been too uncomfortable to stand as a result of all the food that I had inside me. My stomach ached and I felt sick. It seemed that there was nothing to do but allow myself to drift in and out of sleep.
This was the day when my fate was decided, I now realise. A controller, the one who had said that he give me ‘a couple of weeks’ saw me standing mildly in a corner, still plump from the amount of food I had had to consume, yet able to move from my previously horizontal position. He took a small spray can from one of his huge pockets and I felt a small, cold patch form on my bald head, accompanied by a hissing sound from the can. I thought about the marks on the heads of those that I seen being herded into the transportation vans and felt a chill run over me.
A couple of days short of a fortnight, I was taken away. The same controller as the previous day saw me and picked me up, shoving me carelessly towards the a different compartment of the building. Once there were around 50 of us in that compartment, the gates to the rest of the building. We were then loaded onto the truck, which was even more smelly than the building, the floor covered with urine from those who had previously been in our position. It must be one of terror, to bring about that reaction in so many others before us. I felt the fear rising in me, as the truck began to move. The heat was rising too. I don’t remember much after that, as the two factors took their toll on me, and I passed out.
I woke up at dawn, still in the truck. Some of the others had also lost consciousness, while other continued looking out of the gaps between the slats that made up the sides of the truck. After a short amount of time of waiting, we entered a building. I began to smell the most horrendous smell; a mixture of sweat and congealed blood. The sound of machines moving and the screaming were horrifying. I plucked up the courage to look around the room and I couldn’t have seen anything worse. Suddenly I was aware of what the purpose of my entire life and the lives of those around me had been. We lived a painful life, a life where the only purpose was death. Who am I? I’m a pig.
This story draws on the real lives of factory farmed pigs which we fund with meat consumption. Many other animals are treated in similar ways in order to provide us with meat, dairy and eggs.