I have hidden this picture away for a long time. 3 years to be exact. It's a heart, from a pig.
I took this picture and immediately knew it would be too shocking for my current friend group at the time. It's a heart. A heart that was beating not 30 minutes before. The heart of an animal we killed to nourish ourselves and our friends. This heart was no stranger, in fact I knew it very well. It beat all day, every day, for nearly a year here next to me. Our hearts probably beat in synchronicity many times. This pig shared meals with me, in the form of food prep scraps and dinner plate leftovers. Her name was Ginger, and she had an affinity for old milk. This is her heart.
A sacred thing, the heart. It is life, strong and ever so fragile. The heart beats after the brain is gone, pumping the blood we drain from the body we are harvesting. I've hidden it away, and now I'm sharing my secret sacred heart picture. It was the first large animal heart I ever touched, held hot in my hand on a frigid morning, thawing my frozen fingers out with it's last offering before it nourished my body. No one showed up to say goodbye with us. Dave and I stood alone in our backyard, two young farmers, brand new to the field, with our first pigs and a gun. Everyone says they want to do farm things, until the idyllic farm to table dinner gives way to the labor it took to get there. The blood it took to get there.
Why did I think this photo was unfit to look upon for the general public? Well, for starters, often when I mention raising animals to eat, that alone is enough to get mumbles of "I couldn't do it." As if this relationship is in some way a betrayal to what is natural and normal, when it is entirely the opposite. Some people can't do it. Cannot show love and empathy towards a creature that feeds their family. If the thought of a relationship and care towards an animal that is to be eaten is already unbearable to people, how am I to show them the blood on my hands? The heart at my fingertips? How do I not only show people that this is the reality of food, of farming, of sustainable life, but do so in a way that will not shock them? The hard truth is, well, by shocking them until it is a dull hum.
We are already numb to so many things around us. Everyone knows the infamous situations that happen in factory farms, but they're numb to the implications of participation in them. I say it over and over, you vote with your dollars. Your dollars, spent on any given corporation, fund the absolutely abhorred food system most currently depend on.
It's shocking to raise an animal to eat, but numbing to continue paying for factory farms to raise chickens in darkness.
We're not hiding food truths here anymore. Farming shouldn't take place behind tall fences and locked meat factories. Food is dirty. All of it. It grows from the death of everything before it, in the form of soil. Blood, bones, rot, life. It is dirty and it is beautiful, and nothing about it is easy or without death.
So here it is, all. Be shocked. Gaze up its bloody, raw, perfect design. This sacred heart. Look at it until you are over the shock. I have blood on my hands, and none of it is figurative.