I grew up in the rural village of Borculo, known among
other things for its huge dairy factory. In the shadow
of this enormous building was the meat factory of Hoi
smoked sausages. When the wind came from the east, our
street would be filled with the stench of death. But
that wasn't the only way in which the factory made its
presence felt. In the morning I would take the dogs
out for a walk, and often trucks drove past me, containing
closely packed pigs. These trucks wouldn't always exactly
stick to speed limits, and sometimes came ripping around
corners at high speeds. The sound of screaming pigs
that would panic at such moments chilled me to the bone.
When I was 15 I'd get my very first real (holiday) job,
and by coincidence I got a job through a temp agency
for Hoi. I knew how the pigs were being transported,
and at first I didn't much like the idea of working
in a slaughterhouse, but the pay was pretty good. With
fresh courage, but a little nervous nonetheless, I went
to the slaughterhouse on Monday morning. With a number
of my peers, who also started that day, I was received
and shown around the cold building. We then each got
overalls, shoes and a hat and we could start work.
Once I entered the slaughter hall, I smelled the penetrating
and unpleasant smell of death, but I would get used
to that soon enough. The great speed with which pig
cadavers on meat hooks moved through the hall startled
me. Although it was a strange experience, I was really
witnessing animal mass production. Everyone had their
own task. Some were assigned to removing entrails or
skin. I was given a hose to remove lard from between
pigs' ribs. Not very clean, but definitely not hard
work. We also had the opportunity, despite the noise,
to talk amongst ourselves and to make jokes. The morning
went by quickly and I thought I could probably do this
holiday job at Hoi.
After lunch I was about to go back to my work, but my
supervisor ordered me to come with him to another department
where someone had called in sick that day. I followed
him to my new destination, and as we got closer, the
screaming of pigs got louder. I was starting to feel
worried when I got an idea of where we were going. We
came to a large stable where pigs were chased through
a maze to finally be driven together through hell's
gates to be electrocuted. I was given a cattle prod
and I had to chase the pigs into the electrocution machine.
A bit further there was a man to slice the pigs' throats
after they were electrocuted.
The pigs were driven in my direction with cattle prods
and if they were reluctant they got kicked. I had to
'process' 15 to 20 pigs each time. To make sure the
pigs wouldn't run back, a gate was closed behind them
and they were all literally packed together in a pen
of about two by three meters. There was just a small
opening the pigs had to go through one at a time. Once
inside that opening the pigs landed on a conveyor belt,
and there was no way back. I had to chase the pigs that
tried to escape their fate with a surge of current.
It was no simple task to lead 15 pigs, struggling in
fear and panic, to their end destination in an orderly
I hardly dared to use my prod and that's why I was assisted
by experienced colleagues now and again, who seemed
to have no trouble at all in helping these animals to
their cruel ends. Even worse, they liked their jobs
and seemed to think my reluctance was funny. One of
my colleagues said 'it may not be the greatest job,
but you get used to it'. How could I ever get used to
Time passed and all kinds of thoughts were in my head.
I most wanted to flee that place or release the pigs
if nobody was paying attention. It was horrible, but
still I did my job. I was too ashamed to just up and
leave without telling anyone, and I knew it was useless
to try and free the pigs. The thought that the animals
were better off with someone who would try not to hurt
them, made me continue my job. I also thought that it
would be more just if their executioner would suffer
like them, instead of having fun like my colleagues.
I even entertained the ridiculous idea of crawling into
the electrocution machine myself, to die like a sort
of Jesus for the outrages done by my colleagues and
Now and then I could get some rest. Unfortunately some
pigs needed more than a surge of current from the electrocution
machine to kill them. They tried to escape and had to
be stopped by several men, and then got administered
a final surge of current with a clamp. But one pig was
so resistant that they had to give it four or five jolts
before it finally died. The animal screamed a lot and
I tried not to watch because it was just too awful.
During an afternoon coffee break a colleague told me
that when you have to support a family, you accept your
job when you can get no other work. I could understand
that, but in the end I thought his attitude was cowardly.
My ears had gone deaf from the screaming of the pigs
and I wondered how many I had killed. I estimated around
200, but maybe it was a lot more than that.
After some rest I realized that I only had to hold out
for another hour. But that was the longest hour I ever
lived through. Every time I approached a pig with my
prod it would look at me with fearful eyes, begging
me not to hurt it. I often didn't even have to touch
them. At the least movement from me they would crawl
away from me and flee into the narrow opening of the
electrocution machine. Once when I was all alone I tried
to stroke one of the pigs to show it that I didn't want
to hurt it, but it cringed in fear. I didn't try that
In their fear and pain the pigs shit all over the floor
and it became very slippery from their thin manure.
In their panic and hustling they kept slipping. One
pig held its leg in a funny position, and I could only
conclude that it was broken. The poor animal would not
and could not go into the machine. One of my colleagues
picked up a long hook, stuck it inside the pig's rectum
and lifted it. It was then pushed and kicked toward
the opening. I didn't understand my colleagues' cruelty.
In the meantime I had driven a couple of hundreds of
pigs to their deaths, but fortunately it was finally
five o'clock and I could go home!! Crying and completely
upset I arrived home, and I didn't eat meat that night.
It took another six months before I became a vegetarian.
It was hard for me to explain this to my parents. On
my conscience are the deaths of a few hundred pigs,
and I hope to settle the score in some way by doing
everything in my power to ban factory farming. I hope
that readers have gotten an impression of how factory
farming is operated and that they see that such barbaric
wrongs have to be stopped. I must admit that my story
happened eight years ago, but when I look at images
on TV now, nothing has changed.
Mea Maxima Culpa! Fabian Gort - February 2001.
Back to personal stories.