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More Meat, Higher Toll

What if Your Backyard Was a Slaughterhouse?


When I was growing up, a popular show on television ventured into the unique backyards of kids across the country who lived adjacent to theme parks, chocolate factories, and any other imaginable delight under the sun. I wanted more than anything to be one of those kids with one of those fancy backyards.

Recently, my wife, Rachel, and I took a visit to Toronto, and there we strolled right into a different kind of backyard, one that emitted a putrid scent straight out of a child’s worst nightmare. It was revolting enough to require me to focus on maintaining the contents of my stomach, yet there it was, looming two blocks away from cookie cutter condominiums. It was a pair of slaughterhouses, sending eau de rotten flesh wafting  through the slight breeze.

A Real-Life Horror Film?

Eyeing an eerily deserted children’s swing set, I wondered what the producers would have said if any of the neighborhood children had ever applied to appear on the show. While I pondered the thought, we were passed by a long silver truck with brown stains smeared on the exterior and lined with silver slats from which wriggling, furry noses protruded. The animals inside, cows, were soon unloaded into holding pens, where they would remain for hours, immersed in that gut-wrenching scent.

Inside, we could not see. But according to an anonymous worker, “An animal will go down in a chute three feet wide. It can’t turn around. Some rear back on their legs and fall on their back. We have to get a hoist and wrap it around their legs or torso and right them up.” The same worker admitted to seeing thrashing cows rampage through the kill floor even after facing the knife.

What we could see from the road were men at the far end of the facility standing with bloodied shovels, as skins, dripping with blood, were loaded one after another into a truck bound for the tannery down the street.  The sight began to remind me of a bloodbath scene from a poorly made ‘80’s horror flick. Then, barrels of heads appeared: skinned heads, hollow eyes, spray painted blue—marked for incineration.

As these heads were dumped onto a truck for destruction, one stray skull came crashing down to the ground.  We snapped photos until a worker picked the lifeless head up with his bare hands and casually took it away. The man driving the truck collected the spilled brains and goo from the ground and drove off, leaving only a puddle of blood behind. The face of that cow and the empty eyes in the sockets of her skull burned themselves into my memory. It became a face that will haunt me forever.

Opening Closed Doors

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