R.I.P. Hamilton the Pig

When I first arrived on the small family farm, I took a mental note of what animals and produce we have at the farm as I toured around. Cows, chickens, goats, sugarcane, beans, and one pig. I thought it was strange that we only had one pig as opposed to all the other animals we seemed to have dozens of. After asking about all the other crops and livestock I asked what the pig’s fate would be. Marinho, my host dad, pulled out a calendar and excitedly showed me the circled day that simply stated “kill the pig,” a sort of event that my host family did annually to finish off the year. Now of course this is a farm and that’s the fate of most of these animals after we sell them but the animal lover in me couldn’t help but be unsettled. Little did I know at that point how involved I was going to get in the end of the pig I aptly named Hamilton.

Three weeks later we reached the circled day and everyone in the house seemed to be excited, realizing I haven’t yet gotten any pictures of Hamilton I snatched my camera and snapped a few pictures of the pig before my host dad got to him. Knowing full well that I’d most likely regret it, I decided to stick around as my host dad fetched a knife, rope and bucket. I can’t say I’ve ever seen someone kill an animal and it seemed like a decent opportunity to get to know the farm life better. My host dad asked the neighborhood butcher to come so that he could help after the pig was dealt with. When the time finally came, Marinho tied a rope around the pig’s neck and opened the gate.

No doubt the pig knew exactly what was about to happen because it took off furiously squealing trying to escape. My host dad is a relatively small guy and at that moment he was the only thing holding it back from freedom. That day I found out that pigs are rather powerful creatures and they must be because my host dad was being dragged around the field by the frantic pig like a rag doll. After a moment or two of this he called me and a butcher to help get the pig back to the barn. The butcher and I tackled the still squealing pig and tried to restrain it while Marinho tied its legs together. He and I then carried it by the legs to the wooden slab in the barn. There the pig made multiple escape attempts during which I was responsible for keeping it on the slab. Though I knew no one was looking, I felt the need to keep a straight face because in my mind I was panicking and I didn’t want to give a weak impression. My host dad told my younger host brother to fetch the knife and bucket. He made a small incision in the neck and within a few moments things began to quiet.

The butcher started going to work immediately without even moving it from its place of death. With a grimace on my face I aided the butcher and lent a hand or two where he needed it whether it was holding a foot or holding the “balde da tripa” (gut bucket) as they called it. I couldn’t help but think back to high school bio class when we dissected a pig to identify the different organs in the body. As I watched him go through the inside I was pointing out to myself the different parts of the body debating whether the part he tossed to the dog next to us was the kidney or liver. But I digress. Without a doubt the day took a turn I did not expect. Suffice to say it was quite the experience, and ever since then I feel that I’ve earned my place in this small farm by the ocean. As well as my place as a meat eater. R.I.P. Hamilton the pig.