The pig roast in San Antonio was a joyous affair for most. Friends were telling old stories, sharing beer and wine and setting up chairs in the shade to stay cool from the hot, hot heat of the 110° weather. Everyone was staring — salivating — expectantly at the china box filled with smoking coals and two boars which had been cooking all day. The meat was about to fall off the bone and the smell of pork was carried through the warm air. An adorable little girl was playing with her dolls on a bench nearby and two little dogs were anxiously awaiting impending scraps. Daniel and I had invited a new friend to come down from Memphis and join us for the event.
The boars were splayed in half so that you could see their entire rib cage. The meat was cooking to gorgeous colors of reds and purples. And I was filming as people walked by. Most commented on the aesthetics: the smell or look of the meat. Some talked about their experiences with hunting wild boar; some talked about the problem of this invasive species on their land. But then one very woman came up, looked at the boars and laughed: “wow, they have seen better days”. If I hadn’t been feeling numb, I would have been saddened by her comment. But I couldn’t really feel anything. Instead I just looked at her for a moment, and then back at the meat.
There is a very big difference between attending a pig roast, and actually bringing a pig that you killed to a pig roast. I saw the wild boar family trapped in a cage trying to get out as we pulled up to that ranch in south Texas the day before. I could hear the sounds of them thrashing about attempting to save one another. It was a mother and father boar and three babies. They were all scared, squealing, trying to survive. They were shot one by one in that cage. The mother and one baby were killed for the roast, the other three were killed shortly after by the rancher.
Wild boar is such a problem in Texas that this rancher in particular traps pigs almost daily. Not for eating, just to get them off his property. So they are killed and thrown out for coyotes. This is a common practice in places where feral pigs are out of control. They are a nuisance, like bunnies in your garden or ants in your kitchen (although these guys also occasionally kill dogs and hurt people).
Even knowing that, its hard to witness a death. Daniel says that if there ever were a meat that a vegetarian such as myself could eat, this would be it — as the death had a purpose of ecosystem management. But regardless of circumstance, regardless of invasive, feral or nuisance, it is still a life. One that humans have created out of mistakes that has now grown out of control. So the answer is to kill as many as possible — by hunting, trapping or Rambo-flown helicopters. I want there to be other options. There has to be. But I don’t know what they are.
It’s a strange time we live in: where there is such a great feeling of compassion for (and companionship with) animals and at the same time, such disconnect and vast disposal. The filming of this episode covered the two hardest days I’ve experienced on this trip. For me, this is an eye opening glimpse of the truth behind our food. And it’s hard to see.