Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Friday January 30...
As the train left Paris behind and dipped into the countryside, I felt my stomach flutter with nerves over what I would be witnessing the next day. The pig slaughter. Now that I had no one to whom I could announce my lofty reasons, the idea was quickly losing its charm. What was I getting myself into? Because I have no reference for a slaughter and an extremely overactive imagination, I settled into my seat and for two hours dreamed up horror film after horror film starring zombie pig bloodbaths. Zombie pigs eat the horses. Zombie pigs kill the farmer. Zombie pigs stampede towards Paris.

I am shaken out of my Amityville Horror by the arrival in Bourgogne. There is something about the hills, the air, the sounds and smells that makes me feel calm each time I go there. I start to think that maybe I could actually pretend to be cool with the country life, at least enough to not barf. Or cry. It's a start. At 10PM, I embrace farm time and go to sleep in my dark little room with surprisingly no bad dreams.

Saturday, February 1...
I am woken up at 8AM by the sounds of the cows next door. I think maybe they are talking about their pig friend who is about to get the axe. Then I wonder if the pig knows. I have read they are really smart animals and I wonder if it has a sense that something awful is about to happen to it. Then I wonder if I will know the day I die that I am going to die. OK this is quickly spiraling so I decide this is not a good foot on which to start the day off. I get back in bed and do a do-over, stretching calmly and force-thinking about what a wonderfully interesting day this will be. After breakfast, the farmer from next door calls and says they are ready. "OK Dana, let's go barf up some coffee and bread" I think to myself as we walk next door....

The pig.
It was already screaming wildly when we arrived, clearly not happy with the current situation. The other animals around the area were clearly agitated as well. I had about 60 seconds tops to really look at it before one of the farmers took a sledgehammer and brought it down on the pig's head between the eyes. It was immediately knocked out completely.

The farmer made a swift cut about four inches long in the pick's neck and while the heart was still beating, the blood was caught to later make Boudin Noir (blood sausage). Unlike the oceans of blood I had dreamed up in my head, there were a few bucketfuls. And instead of the panic I had expected, I was simply mesmerized by the slaughter. A deep sense of respect and sorrow for this animal overcame me. To cry or to throw up suddenly seemed disrespectful. And I didn't feel sick, I just felt curious and sad. (I have posted a series of photos HERE if you would like to see the whole process).

It took almost 30 minutes for that pig to stop moving completely, during which it's screams got more and more faint and then finally, silence. As I watched with intense sadness as the force of life left this animal, I quietly thanked it for it's meat. After what seemed an eternity, it at last stopped breathing and the other animals in the area quieted down. I wondered if any of them would remember this moment.

The hair is then burned and scraped off with blunt knives. The pig is cleaned and lifted onto table where it will be cut open and disemboweled. This whole process was done so deftly and swiftly by the farmers that I suddenly felt idiotic in my Jessica Simpson coat and my stylish hat. I spend my days complaining about WHAT exactly? A pig just died so you can eat it. Bacon doesn't grow on trees. These people are living off the land and I'm upset I can't get good sushi delivered?
I tell myself silently to go jump off a bridge.


Daniel said...

Wow, what a great entry and photos! Amazing record of an event that's pretty rare these days. How long did the whole process take?

KFD said...

I felt very lucky to have witnessed such a process. The whole part of the slaughter and the gutting took an hour and a half or so. I then returned to make the boudin noir which took another hour or two....posting soon about that. :)

Bronwyn said...

Thank you. I'm trying to get my five year old to understand that meat comes from animals. He's so sad that when the pig dies it can't roll in the mud anymore, that we get the meat and the pig is really dead. Forever. I think I have some trouble with this concept, too. Cheers, bravo.

Michelle said...


Great entry, and a rather respectful 'killing' too. I've seen footage of a pig being killed in a local (now closed abattoir), and it was not done in a way remotely like this.

margaret said...

A great, thoughtful and thought-provoking account. If you're an omnivore, and I am one, it's really important to remember what food is and where it comes from. And there's nothing like mortality to provide some perspective . . . Thanks for writing about this experience.

Auntie Charro said...

Hi Dana

You have made my day - the little piggy is in a better place - your tummy!

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