Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – June 2, 2004
Death Trucks & Chicken Catching
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – June 2, 2004 – In my last year of public school and during grades nine and ten, I was determined to have my own money, so I got every odd job imaginable to supplement my allowance. After school I watered the mink at the farm across the highway from my home.
Said farm also had huge poultry barns and the chickens were shipped to market twice a year. Every able bodied guy and gal from the neighbourhood was happy to have this chicken catching job. We moved into the poultry barns at eleven o’clock at night, and by the time the fully loaded trucks pulled out of the farm gate, it was close to four in the morning. The girls had the floor work – down on our knees catching the chickens by one leg – four in the left hand and then three in the right.
They were handed upside down to one of the guys, who in turn passed them up to the men in the trucks, who put them into pens – fourteen birds to a cage. The chickens ran and squawked in sheer panic, trying desperately to escape. Some of them crawled under the food and water trays, but they were hauled out and handed up to the trucks.
I remember the absolute chaos in those barns the night the chickens were caught. I can now appreciate how terrified the birds must have been. Their once quiet home invaded by a dozen kids, intent on pursuing them and cramming them into cages. The barns were then cleaned and fumigated and readied for the next batch of chicks, who would spend their entire lives in a darkened barn, being fattened up for market.
It was physically hard, filthy work. We didn’t wear masks or gloves. Not much wonder I have sinus problems at night. A bit of revenge for the poor, hapless chickens I caught over the years. Now, I can’t imagine how I ever did that job. I know why – I needed to earn money. Looking back on the experience – it makes me sad.
I feel the same way when I see the huge livestock trucks cruising down Lakeshore Blvd. on the way to the slaughterhouse. I always think of them as “death trucks” and I hate seeing them. I was beside one yesterday. An enormous three level truck, jam-packed with pigs. My car was stopped beside the lowest level and the pigs were staring out through the slatted side of the truck. I was overcome with such sadness as I sat waiting for the traffic light to turn green.
I said a quiet blessing for those helpless animals and I hoped that their suffering wouldn’t be long. By nightfall those animals would be dead. I’ve been told that cattle and pigs suffer incredible fear as they’re herded into the chutes at the slaughterhouse. They know instinctively to be afraid. They smell the terror of the animals ahead of them.
For all of man’s knowledge, and especially in light of the advances made in every field of human endeavour, we haven’t yet learned to be kind to the creatures who give their lives to sustain us. I wonder if we’re so convinced of our superiority that we think it doesn’t matter? If that’s the case, we have a rude awakening ahead of us somewhere.
We humans have so much to learn. Right now, we don’t believe it, but it matters how we behave. How we treat the creatures over whom we have dominion. How we treat the plants, trees, oceans, birds and animals – how we care for the entire planet. We’re not doing a very good job. Fortunately there is a groundswell of concern. You wouldn’t know it right now by looking at the appalling behaviour of our world leaders, but ever so quietly, kindness is appearing in the hearts and minds of people around the world.
So I remain a hypocrite of sorts. I eat chicken and bacon and burgers. I like a good steak. But I have a silent appreciation for the birds and animals that die so I may live. I wasn’t always aware – now I am.
P.S – And Now – 10 years later – change happens – I am a “compassionate eater” and that dreadful pig slaughter house has been closed forever!