It’s been a while that I wanted to write about a gruesome topic that came up a few months ago. I still don’t know exactly how to word this post, but I want to do a bit of justice to the events by talking about them here.
You may have heard a while back that (brace yourself) the heads of six dead cats were found around Stouffville, an area north of Toronto. I remember hearing about it last fall and being grossed out and angered. This article covers the details from the time when the heads were discovered. The article includes two video interviews, and states that investigations are underway by police and SPCA officials. Whether or not you feel comfortable about police involvement, I think we can all agree that it’s important for something to be done.
I know this is an awful thing to think about, but bear with me. It’s possible that coyotes are the culprits, though the very public location of the heads seems suspicious and the investigators don’t think that is the case. Whether it was coyotes or humans, you probably feel some sense of justice knowing that a search is happening to try and find the person(s) who did this. You may feel glad that it’s getting media attention, enough to be on national news. You probably empathize with the cats and feel they deserve justice. I feel that way, too. When disgusting things like this happen at the hands of humans, investigations are important so that future acts can be prevented, and reported on so that more people can become aware of what’s happening and to let perpetrators know that they’re not getting off easy.
Now, I want to tell a related story. I’ll admit that this is not something I witnessed myself, but it was told to me by friends, neither of whom are affiliated with any animal protection organizations.
Currently, I live in a small town surrounded by farms. Small farms, many factory farms, many family farms, many family-run factory farms. You can drive in any direction out of town and see dozens of huge farms within minutes. Basically, it’s farmville, and my town is in the middle of it.
So, around the same time that the above news story about the cats’ heads was circulating, I heard from said friends that around the corner from their home, someone had put the head of a dead pig into the basket of a bicycle. The bicycle was a rental bike locked to a rack which houses bikes available for rent by a local bike shop. It’s next to the sidewalk in a very busy area frequented by many pedestrians, beside a restaurant patio, near a bus stop, schools, community centers, a university, and also a residential area. Lots of people would have seen it. Hell, the cop shop is literally across the road.
When this incident was talked about by people around me, it was generally laughed off and dismissed as being a prank. There was zero news coverage about it – not even a mention in the local paper or anywhere I could find on the internet – and obviously, if nobody felt it important or disturbing enough to report about it, then it won’t be getting an investigation like the cat head incident. I did a search again today hoping to find any mention of it by local news sources that I could link to, but there are none.
A few days after learning about this pig’s head, I considered writing about the incident on this blog, and tensely went to the bike rack where the pig’s head had been placed, hoping to get a picture. By that time it was gone, perhaps thrown in a dumpster nearby. I felt conflicted by the idea of taking a photo of it, but at the same time, felt frustrated that it might go unnoticed. People had treated it so lightly in conversation. It seemed obvious that it would never get the attention it should have.
And now it’s been months since that happened. There’s no investigation. Someone beheaded this pig and placed his or her head in a public place, for some reason. Maybe as a trophy, maybe as a terribly sick joke, maybe for some other reason that a regular person’s mind can’t fathom. The violence inflicted on that individual went, and continues to go, unnoticed, unreported, uninvestigated, unacknowledged. The fact that someone in the community did this continues to be treated not as a sick and shameful thing, but rather with silence and the excuse that this is just the kind of thing people do in farm towns to have fun. Nobody questions whether the person who did this continues to harm animals, or whether they might also be a danger to humans, as in the case of the cats’ heads. Nobody thinks anything of it because nobody sees the pig as a victim of violence, or even as an individual capable of being victimized. Pigs are supposed to be commodities, objects incapable of any awareness of their own lives or experiences. And since people see them as so inconsequential, however far from the truth it may be, acts like this one are treated as inconsequential. I wish that this post were an april fools’ trick, but unfortunately this is real.
I’m currently reading a book called Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World – A Guide for Activists and their Allies. This book discusses trauma in a way that’s specific to activists. I’ve never considered myself to have experienced trauma, but the more I learn about it, the more I wonder. After finishing my 5+ years of school where I was immersed in animal agriculture from an industry point of view, I was bitter, felt helpless and full of despair, had images burned into my mind that will probably never leave. I met many farmed animals who needed help badly, witnessed many emergencies, and was unable to do anything about it. It took years to recover from being in an environment where abuse, neglect and violence were treated as normal and acceptable, and where empathy and respect were laughed at. It took me years to fully emerge from the sense of utter despair that hung over me during those years. Since then I, like many of us doing this kind of work, have come up with ways to channel that rage and frustration into positive actions and to remind myself often that I’m not just idly standing by letting bad things happen. The book states, “the cumulative impact of doing emotionally difficult work over a period of years can lead to the same difficulties in living as caused by dramatically traumatic events.” Later in the book, the author says “many activists are aftershocked not by what is done to them, but by what they have seen…being helpless to stop or prevent harm to another can have a greater traumatic effect than being a victim of violence oneself.”
Seeing this articulated helps me understand better why it can be so difficult for some people to face the world at large on any given day. So many kinds of violence are normalized in our culture – violence to women, to racialized people, to gender atypical people, to people of size, to non-human animals, and many more. Every time we expose ourselves to the outside world we create opportunity for that violence – and for the attitude that it’s normal – to make its way inside ourselves. We as activists and advocates can work tirelessly on campaigns, fundraisers, conferences, and the like, we can simply try to live by example, but when we look outside of ourselves, we are endlessly confronted with the fact that the things we work so hard to change are still going on in the world as though there is no problem.
I know I’m not the only person who has experienced (or experiences) this. To those of you who are not involved in this kind of work, and may find it hard to understand why some of us hesitate to sit down to a table of dead animals, or who complain about the lack of representation and consideration of ourselves in public spheres, maybe this will help a bit. It can feel like trying to climb a rope while someone above you has untied it, and it quickly slips through your hands. It can feel like we’re getting nowhere, or even backsliding. When we try to share our stories, it’s important that you listen, because we’ve probably seen or experienced things you can’t imagine, and rather than trying to change you, we’re simply expressing feelings that need to emerge. When we get angry about something that seems small to you, it’s because we carry around years, or even a lifetime, of hurt, violence, and frustration at a lack of progress or even recognition.
So far, the person(s) responsible for placing the cats’ heads around Stouffville has yet to be found. The investigation continues.
The pig whose head was placed in the bike basket continues to go unacknowledged by my community, and no apparent investigation into the incident is underway. This story is for her/him. RIP.
Posted on March 31, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged aftershock, animal agriculture, animal rights, animals, beheading, bicycle, bike, cats, factory farming, pattrice jones, pig head, pig's head, pigs, southwestern ontario, Toronto, trauma, vegan, violence. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.