The Village Story
My sick mother, in fear of not returning from the hospital but even more in fear of leaving me at the “mercy” of my stepfather, sends me to the village. The end of the semester of the fifth grade meant an escape from one type of violence, but also an introduction to another. After I came from the city to the countryside, these invisible beings or, more precisely, their suffering, began to be present in my life. There was a lot of pain inflicted on these innocent creatures.
My first obligation was to go get the milk. That was my evening assignment. I immediately misunderstood the task because, instead of my only concern being how to make money and return with a full bucket of milk, I began to worry about the cows from which that milk was taken. I started asking questions that turned out to be very embarrassing for them, just as the answers were for me.
Why is the cow on a leash and where is the calf are not questions that a boy should be asking. He should be interested in football and accept things as they are – cruel and unjust.
I experienced all the brutality of the human attitude towards animals with the event announced to me as a merry one – the slaughter. Knives and buckets were prepared, as well as alcohol. Everyone was tense as if some big moment was coming.
Three men, along with my grandmother, started dragging the pig out of the feces-stained little room, the only space he had seen since her recent birth. The pig also had a name – my grandmother named him Rogo. I don’t know why grandma called him that. His brothers had no names or at least she did not give them names. She sold them soon after birth. They did not have a chance to be fattened – she sold them for food as piglets.
I remember when they were just born – they were happy, playing hide and seek in the straw, looking curiously out the window which was so high that the only thing they could see through the dirty glass was the sky.
I also remember the castration, an act they experienced very soon after seeing the world. I will not forget the horrible howling, the futile moaning when they cut their delicate skin, extremely similar to humans, and ripped out their testicles. After that, they cut off their teeth with scissors which looked just as disgusting. Even today it creates an equal feeling of disbelief and disgust. I also remember the swollen little bodies and revisiting the vet for a horrible inflammation in one of the piglets. To my question why this was done, grandma had a ready answer, very simple: the meat would otherwise stink. It was already starting to stink to me. Human actions started to stink to me, I started to think about something that is not thought about, about something that is not questioned.
And their mother? Rogo didn’t have her with him for long. Shortly after the sale of his little brothers, she experienced the moment that now awaits him. I didn’t see that moment, just her dead body parts in the freezer and her fat in the grease bucket. Rogo’s mother was killed, but her remains regularly appeared in the food he received, as all the remains of lunch and dinner ended up with him, along with the corn and bran.
Rogo set off, with the help of human force, saw the grass and stood on the ground for the first and last time in his life. Those cries were terrible, cries of despair begging for mercy. He tried to stay on his feet because he knew nothing good awaits when they lay him down. Soon human knees were on his body and a knife stabbed into his neck. The screams became a gargle of his own blood and the grass changed color to red. The bloody human hands and jerks of poor Rogo are the last moment of his life that I have seen. It took me a while to realize that my grandmother was sending me upstairs to get a sink. As if I was in a trance I started to take away from the execution site.
Upstairs I came across guests from Germany crying, holding their hands to their ears peeking out of the window in disbelief. I asked what it was and they uttered, “Das ist sehr traurig, horror, primitiv!” Running down the stairs back to the courtyard I thought about the meaning of those words they uttered, the sadness they felt, and the fear. I started to approach the whole event they just called primitive in a new way and I didn’t really know what meant.
There was no longer a pig named Rogo in the yard. His body was in the through and grandmother’s hands were busy scraping the hair from his burnt skin. Soon the lifeless body was also halved, while the intestines were next to it. I realized that the basin I was sent for was not even needed, that my grandmother just wanted to take me away from the scene for which I was obviously not ready. I wondered if I should be, if anyone should be and how I could become ready.
My grandmother gave me a quick answer: “Next time, you will participate, too.”
I lost my appetite and even though I was hungry I skipped the feast and went upstairs where lunch was also served. There were none of Rogo’s body parts on the plates, but there was someone’s body, some other once-living being whose name no one knew, who equally wanted to live and who felt a violent death. I immediately felt that there was something very hypocritical and above all wrong. But again, I found a way to continue living and eating others. I found an excuse and realized it wasn’t hard to find at all. I could suppress everything and even harden.
A neighbor across the street was a very kind woman, a mother of three, always ready to help. Although she lived in the countryside, she has never had animals in her backyard. Her husband decided it was time to buy chickens to raise for food. Making the decision on behalf of not only himself but also his wife, one day he left a box of little chickens in the garage. The neighbor immediately hugged them and took care of their well-being, as good as she could without their mother. They soon got their names.
I always wondered how she distinguished them. They were all very similar to me, but she always said that everyone was different in behavior, their desires, and even their appearance. She was postponing and postponing the day when they “had to” be slaughtered because their purpose was to become food, not to have their own meaning of life. She did not have the strength to kill them herself, to take their lives in their youth. These were her children and she watched them grow up, and she couldn’t take their lives.
So my grandmother did the bloody job while the neighbor shed tears. Grandma cut their necks and soon their white feathers were stained with blood as they were fluttering and turning around the yard, to sought salvation from death. Grandma told the neighbor, “Next time you’ll be able to do it yourself.” The neighbor, sobbing, just nodded in agreement.
My grandma wasn’t a mean lady that ruthlessly slaughters and takes other’s lives. Although I had a need to find someone to blame for all the pain I had, I quickly realized that the problem is in those who don’t have the strength to resist participating in such a shameful treatment of animals, therefore the problem lied both in me and my weakness to resist that.
Grandma bought turkeys, beautiful creatures we consider stupid even though they were in fact, I quickly learned, very sympathetic, curious, cunning, and full of the will to live. Grandma was not happy with the number of eggs they lay compared to hens. Although I had already learned the egg’s purpose in school, I tried to make my grandmother’s statement logical and empathize with her as if it were something that would result in our hunger.
This resulted in neither our hunger nor poverty, and it was not difficult to see that most of the land that grandma cultivated was used for animal food - animals raised for food - and not for the meals in our plates. In fact, all of my grandma’s hard work was related to fattening animals, not growing vegetables and fruits we had in abundance and which she came to with ease. As a result of keeping animals for breeding, feces, stench, and dirt also appeared.
Let’s go back to grandma’s dissatisfaction with turkeys. That resulted in something disastrous for them and at the same time my direct experience in taking someone’s life. Grandma said the turkeys were bigger and stronger than the chickens and that she needed help. In addition, she wanted to collect blood. She told me to go get a turkey while she got a knife and plate ready.
For me to go get a turkey! My throat tightened. I can’t! Which one should I choose? I didn’t even want to ask myself… I went among them and they, considering they knew me and trusted me, didn’t run away but pushed, competing which one would be closer to me. It was horrifying to me, I felt treacherous and it was just the first feeling I “had to” experience. I took one, just took it, just decided it’s fate even though she didn’t do anything to me.
I headed for a stump which showed traces of dried blood, traces of previous executions. Grandma was already waiting as if she wanted to finish it as soon as possible. I held her in my arms, that bird of beautiful feathers and sympathetic voice, according to my grandmother’s instructions, very firmly. Grandma cut into her neck and blood flowed, a thick and sticky liquid filled the plate.
I thought it would last forever. I wished the twitching in my hands would stop and it stopped. Her life was extinguished, there was no more twitching, the warmth of her body was disappearing. I felt defeated. Grandma’s praise didn’t help and nothing could help, not just me, but that turkey whose life I took.
The decision was made! It was enough! I no longer wished to take part in it and by that, I don’t mean slaughter, but participation – I decided to stop eating animals. I no longer wanted to be a judge in any way, no longer wanted to be a murderer. I didn’t want to be a walking tomb eating the parts of bodies, to shed the blood that flows in my veins, too. I didn’t want to hurt anyone anymore, nor let anyone do it on my behalf and for me.
I felt relieved, relieved of a great burden. No more repression of feelings, no more “having to”. I can decide according to my own reason which clearly tells me that what I consider unjust I should refuse to do and not seek excuses.
But that’s where a new story unfolds – the story of condemning my decision, prejudice, attempts to intimidate me with misinformation, and many other ways to get me back on the “right” path.
I’ve been a vegetarian for over 25 years and a vegan for the last 14, after getting rid of some more attempts at justification and accepting the fact that animals are not there to meet our “needs”, but to have their own reasons for living which we need to respect.
Humans, dogs, pigs, chickens, cats, cows, and many other animal species equally deserve our sincere compassion and raising of our voices against their exploitation. We don’t need their fur, feathers, wool, skin, meat, milk, eggs or honey, we don’t need to do experiments on them or exploit them in any way. We can respect them as they are, beautiful and unique.
It is not easy to fight for the weak. Everyone writes their own story, there is no gratitude or reward, but I ask everyone to gather strength and do it on behalf of those who can’t fight for themselves.
Taken from the book “Tell my story, my friend”
Author: Luka Oman