She said the easiest way to do it is to speak in a soft voice reverently, thank them for their life, place them on the chopping block, and cut their throats.
The chickens then need to hang headless, upside down, to drain the blood from their bodies.
The glee in her voice as she explained the way the animals were “lovingly processed,” the excitement of a dream actualized, gave me chills.
Mila long dreamt of having a locally grown, farm-to-table style restaurant located in the hip, older section of the growing Mexican tourist town of San Jose Del Cabo, serving chicken stew and chorizo wraps, along with a host of plant-based dishes.
On occasion, I’ll stop by for a green juice and homemade tofu burger on my way home from a morning surf. Mila doesn’t always bombard me with graphic details of animal slaughter, but as an outspoken vegan, I’m sometimes on the receiving end of societal pushback. Perhaps it’s the unease of a deferred conscience as we eat mouth-watering bacon, while the animal’s sentience walks by in the form of a vegan.
On this particular day, I was feeling the stoke of an overhead fading south swell and an easygoing vibe of a rare wave-sharing morning at a fairly popular right point break.
While Mila and I have an understanding and a respect for each other over our mutual opposition to factory farming, I let her descriptions of the so-called “humane” slaughtering operation go without response. I felt the inherent sadness of the dissonance, but the surf aloha I was also feeling helped me recognize the ineffectiveness of challenging her chosen world-view in that particular moment.
Later that day, arriving home, I read an L.A. Times article: “Violence in Baja continues as six bodies found on highway overpasses.” The bodies of four men were found dangling from a bridge in San Jose Del Cabo in the early morning hours—victims of drug-related gang violence. Horrible. Upsetting to consider that people capable of such harm are living among us.
Perhaps I even knew the victims.
I had driven right past the aftermath on my way to surf that morning, without even knowing the gravity of the scene. The bodies already removed. A couple of police vehicles present, but the normalcy of passersby gave the impression of “Pleasantville,” not “Goodfellas.”
No lookie-loos. No hand over the mouth stares. Nothing to see here, it seemed. This tourist town has a million dollar industry to protect, and a narco-violent narrative would slow the stream of gringo tourists.
There have been over 400 homicides in Los Cabos in 2017, including one journalist. The business of drug violence in Mexico is overt and brutal, and because it happens so often, many citizens are used to it, indifferent to it, and accept it as a fact of life. And the Mexican government and tourist associations tell the public everything is fine.
Animal agriculture has a parallel shadow self. Poke, prod, cut, take, torture, kill, and hang all forms of animals, then put a happy face on it, tie a red bow on top, and tell people it’s good for them.
People won’t question the behind-the-scenes brutality. The violence is secondary, an after-thought. The fact that over two billion land and ocean animals are killed globally per day rattles around our brains but rarely makes the long journey into our hearts.
I don’t want to be misunderstood—I’m not comparing animal agriculture to the drug cartel. I am suggesting that our indifference to, or acceptance of, violence in all its forms has created the world we live in.
Death is inescapable, they say. It’s the circle of life.
Vegans are naïve, they say.
Whispering “I love you” to cuddled kittens won ’t change a thing.
Animals are here for us to use; they want us to eat them.
Humans are more important than animals.
There are more important things to change in the world, like war.
I’ve heard it all.
For me, the crux of it is this: if we could live happy, healthy lives without causing harm, without contributing to the unnecessary, ongoing violence in the world, why wouldn’t we? Violence done to one of us is violence done to all of us.
Who are we if we ignore the vulnerable, burying their suffering in the sanitized secrecy of factory farms or shrouding our compassion in humane animal farming myths? What kind of world are we subscribing to if we disregard the victims of violence on a desolate landscape of the Baja desert?
It is impossible to truly ignore the consequences of our actions or inaction. On some level—on every level—who we are and what we choose to do is unavoidable. We are altered and shaped by what we do…and by what we don’t do.
A few days later, on Christmas day, our neighbor Lupe and her niece, Rosa, made a vegan meal of chili rellenos, potato enchiladas, and rice and beans for our family. I asked if they had done anything special for the holidays. She said it was a busy time of year but the entire family made a nacimiento, or nativity scene, decorated with flores secas, dried flowers. The dried flowers, she explained, are to always keep the ideals of hope and peace alive.
I imagined the nativity—people and animals lovingly look toward a vulnerable, newly born child. A star shines brightly in the night sky, in an atmosphere of kindness, safety, and peace. This sounds pretty good to me.
As John and Yoko sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
Author: John Merryfield
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina