Every morning, there are another ten or so in line, each carrying their own piglet. Someone takes down their details, takes their piglet from their greasy hands, and compensates them appropriately, anywhere between one-five to three-thousand depending on the size of it. We take the piglets inside, together with all the other piglets. Sunlight doesn’t make its way inside the building. We find it best not to expose them to anything from the outside world.
I’d like to personally welcome you to San Pedro Piggery Incorporated. Formerly government-owned, it was sold to the company a few years ago. Admittedly, it’s getting too crowded in here. We didn’t expect so many families to be so eager to sell us their piglets for such low prices, but I guess they don’t have much of a choice. And ever since the company bought the piggery, we’ve been subject to less and less regulations.
As we enter the main structure, you’ll be amazed at how efficiently we’ve packed all the swine in order to make them fit. Each row filled to double the intended capacity. All the pigs squeezed tightly, given just enough space to breathe, covered in mud and dirt. Of course, these are the older ones—about five or six years old—that are within a month of being slaughtered. The piglets that you saw come in this morning wouldn’t survive half an hour in these conditions. Ideally, we should be building a second facility in order to better accommodate the animals, but that would hurt profits.
It’s protocol for me to tell you how the programs came to be in the first place so bear with me. To put it plainly, it was a solution to the food shortages that were plaguing the growing population. Studies revealed that it was impoverished families in both the urban and rural sector whose piglets were draining the state’s resources. Government then decided to provide an avenue for the poor to voluntarily sell their piglets in exchange for money. That way, they can have some income and we can use the pigs to feed the growing population. Because why should these pigs remain with the poor where they would inevitably just die of some avoidable illness before they can be of any use to the state?
You’ll be quite busy working in this particular piggery, as it is one of the most successful in the Philippines. This is a result of being the closest piggery to Metro Manila. Naturally, the government doesn’t allow the existence of these piggeries there as part of the Metro Gwapo program. The urban poor commute great distances to bring us their piglets, as we’re the closest to them. Basically, if you see a man carrying a piglet about a week old as he commutes south of the Metro, chances are he’s bringing it to us. We never seem to run out of people desperate for quick money, and our research shows that this won’t be slowing down any time soon.
There are a few things you will have to get used to. Just some minor things that used to bother me, too, but I and the others you’ll be working with are a testament to how little effort there is in getting used to it. You’ll notice that each pig is practically sodomizing the one in front of it. They try to make themselves as comfortable as an animal could possibly be covered in its own excrement. There is a constant high-pitched whining that all the pigs produce in unison. This problem shows every sign of getting worse, as recent reports have shown that some families have sold more than one pig in a year. Getting used to it is easy, I assure you. Now, I can ignore the sights and sounds to the point that I can quietly read a book while inside the facility.
And yes, I do eat the meat that comes from here. We all have. The company requires everyone who works in the piggery to eat the meat we produce. This is part of our policies, to prevent members of our staff getting attached. Moreover, we take comfort in knowing that every single person that works here believes that meat should be eaten. The meat is entirely safe for consumption. We clean each one of them before they are slaughtered. And we’ve had more than enough campaigns that issue clear instructions on how to cook the pigs that come from this piggery and others like it. It is entirely possible to kill all bacteria that they acquire in this pen though a combination of high temperatures and some artificial additives. After all, one can’t be too cautious when the pigs originated from the homes of the impoverished masses.
There are a few safety regulations you will have to abide by. We have procedures that differ slightly from the traditional piggery, which includes a strict code of conduct for those that will be exposed to our pigs. Like I said, we don’t tolerate sympathy. You’re expected to have as little contact with the animals as possible. It is encouraged that you deal with the pigs in groups of at least three, as this has shown to come in handy in case of accidents. Lastly, you are not allowed to say anything around the animals. Whether it is the day’s agenda or the contents of a novel, we cannot risk these pigs picking anything up.
About two weeks before each slaughter, we have special inspectors come in. You see, in recent years, we’ve learned that the pigs have uses other than being food. Some have skin that is ideal for making clothes. Others are more fat than meat, making them better material for soap or wax. A rare few, only those who are especially handsome despite years of being kept in these conditions, are sold as specialty pets for eccentric billionaires. Yes, we recognize the irony that they were once pets. But it’s better that someone rich pays us a large sum of money—plus a sizable tax to the government—for one of these pigs than for someone poor to keep it as a pet, when they can’t even feed themselves without asking for welfare.
Admittedly, it is in that part of the program that you will sometimes run into some problems. Once in a while, a group of activists for the so-called rights of these animals pose as inspectors in order to free some of the pigs. They try to take as many as they can, which is usually their downfall. One can always tell when an inspector is liberating an unreasonable quantity of swine. Once you realize what is going on, you will have to apprehend the culprits and fill out the necessary reports. I always wondered what these groups would do were they to succeed. Obviously, we would never let them because, aside from the material losses, it would make us look bad. But if we did just let them load the pigs into the truck and drive away, what would they do next? I don’t think you can liberate pigs that don’t know anything other than captivity.
Our facility for slaughtering pigs can never be cleaned well enough as to eliminate the smell that comes from the previous slaughter. As the doors to the said facility are opened right before a slaughter, the air is filled with a stench that drives the pigs wild. It is almost as if they know what’s coming next. In order to keep them calm, we pump in a supply of laughing gas, which puts them into some sort of euphoria. Then, our staff enters, equipped with gas masks and protective suits that help them transfer each pig into the slaughterhouse. They also carry a loaded gun with them in case a pig that isn’t getting enough laughing gas decides to get violent. This one time, one of the pigs grabbed one of our workers and held onto him tight, with the pig’s fingers tightly gripping his back, its thumbs pressing into his spine. The pig then proceeded to bite the worker’s ear. Luckily, someone shot the pig before any irreversible damage was done to the man. Such instances are rare, of course, and you’ll probably never have to deal with the pigs that directly, but please be careful.
You might be surprised to see a priest enter with the staff. He blesses all the pigs, claiming that this will grant their souls eternal rest. I never saw the point of caring about the souls of pigs, but the Church seems to value supporting anti-poverty measures that are a lesser evil to contraception. We don’t really see the harm in it, so we let them have their way to reduce protests. Even if he does chant something audible in front of the pigs, there’s not much of a risk at this point.
After being brought in, each pig is dragged into a narrow passage in the slaughterhouse, made even narrower because each pig has experienced years worth of fattening. The space is so small that they can barely move sideways. It’s so low that they have to crawl on their elbows and knees in order to get through, with their bellies dragging on the floor. Since more and more pigs are being loaded into the passage, they cannot turn back. Some pigs decide to stay in place, which isn’t a problem. We have workers stationed at various sections of the line to poke them from behind with steel rods to keep them moving. At the end of the passage is a hole where the pigs are dropped one by one. Once they reach the bottom, the partly automated process begins with each one of them hanging from the ceiling by one of their feet, from a chain that moves them forward. The clamp that attaches their foot to the chain is serrated in order to get a better hold of them, so don’t be surprised if you hear them squeal much louder. Somewhere along the way, a worker slits their throats. After all the blood is drained, all the hairs are removed from the pig, usually peeling off the entire scalp of the animal in the process. It is then chopped up, and its parts are arranged together with the parts of its fellow swine.
Like I said, new workers, such as yourself, usually cannot stand the sounds the pigs make, especially during the slaughter. It’s a phase. Once you realize these are the same pigs you’ve been eating for some time now, it won’t make much of a difference knowing how it is prepared.
While this is the process done to most of the pigs, there are some pigs that we select specifically for celebrations like Christmas and the governor’s birthday. For such occasions, we usually get from the much younger stock, usually those that are just two or three years old. We then go with a much more traditional approach. We take the pig outside, giving it a taste of sunlight. First, we tie up its arms and legs and shut its mouth tight. Then, we pour cold water on it to wash off the dirt and feces. Later, it will be impaled from anus to mouth, but the pig is still struggling way too much at this point. So we set it on a table with three, four, sometimes five men holding it down. Someone then grabs a sharpened knife and brings it close to the pig. An expert marks which spot of the neck to make the incision and holds a bucket to catch the blood. The man holding the knife tightens his grip on the instrument and cuts the throat. The men holding the pig usually have to deal with six or seven shakes, as the pig makes a futile attempt at freedom while its throat is already slit. All the while, you can hear it squeal like a baby.
Of course it’s best to learn hands on. I’ll turn you over to your trainers in a few minutes. Remember to change into something you’re willing to get dirty. A lot of new employees have lost some of their best clothes because they forgot to change before handling the pigs. You’d be surprised how hard it is to remove the stains from the blood of these animals. And don’t think you can avoid it either. They spatter.
We look forward to working with you. We hope you fit right in the San Pedro Piggery Incorporated family.
Francis Ang is currently a junior of UP Diliman’s Creative Writing program. He is an active member of UP Writers Club and UP Asterisk. He lives in the newly christened sixth district of Quezon City. This is his first time to be published outside a school or org publication. He enjoys overanalysing situations and works of art.
The above image is from here.