Thursday, January 6, 2011


I heard a pig screaming today.

I was at the traditional animal market in Saqsili. Every Thursday locals from the countryside flock to the Saqsili market to sell an assortment of animals - sheep, cows, pigs, llamas, alpacas. The market only takes place in the morning, so to get there, I caught a 3 am bus from the quaint mountain village of Chugchilan. Saqsili itself is a sprawling town. Small in our eyes, but large for the countryside. Sheltered by mountains and fields, the animal market takes place in a parking lot, crowded with vans and flatbed pickup trucks.

The air was rich with the sounds of sheep and cows and pigs. Lone lambs would call out for the rest of their herds. In Quilotoa, I watched lambs find their herd, their calls echoing throughout the gorgeous volcanic lake until they found eachother, the lamb gracefully bounding down the mountain to return to its home. At the market, pigs would cry out as they tried to escape - their legs tied to posts or vans, or when they forced into a new truck for transportation to their buyer's village.

I had a quick breakfast at one of the vendors - cows, sheep, and llamas streaming by as I ate, and one of the vendors protested when a cow took a dump in front of her stall and the new owner just continued on by (someone came by to scoop it up in a little while). After breakfast, I walked around some more, making my way through the crowd of people and animals.

I heard an especially loud cry, and saw a pig with it's legs propped up and tied against a truck. Several people were gathered around. One of the locals had a knife and began to castrate the pig. At the end, you can see the blood smeared on their bands. But it was really the cry, the scream - piercing, shrill, and filled with feeling - that sticks with you. If you had any doubt before that pigs - known to be as intelligent as dogs - feel pain and emotion, you wouldn't now.

When I was in Sierra Leone, my security guard's dog, whom I came to see as my own, was "neutered" with a hot knife and iron. Doggie Doggie's cries reverberated throughout my house, and when he came out, he limped forward, head down, tail between his legs, blood staining his fur. I fed him some chicken to try to cheer him up.

As they led off the pig, it had a similar limp. He was lightly whipped by a rope to keep him moving, to who knows where.

Dogs are pets. Pigs are food. What a cruel twist of fate.

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