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Contributor: Patrick Campbell

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Don't be angry, Bess, he says,
as to an old friend.
It’s the way of the world,
though not the way I’d choose.

He's made the journey for her sake,
but wishes he’d never caught the sight
of Bess between the trailer's slats,
so tightly pressed she has to rest
her head upon another's back
and strive for air above the stench.
How distant now the tranquil farm
where never did he do her harm.

Now at the place where life is taken,
those eyes that once regarded him
with something passing for affection
are fixed upon his, trusting still,
yet anguished by this strange new turn.
He'll save her surely, even now,
from the hell she hears and smells,
screaming death beyond the walls.

But when he leaves her at the gate,
fear seizes her: she starts to run.
Yet in a final show of will,
she holds her ground in bold defiance,
refusing to stir an inch towards
the chamber where the hot gas stuns
(they haven't coined a word for this,
for only men are mourned and missed)
And then the last indignity.
A stick corrects the wayward pig
for slowing down the flow of blood
(numbers count in take-home pay).
So sharp the pain, she now rejoins
her new and ultimate companions.
At the edge of darkness now,
no pity's shown the innocent sow.

Before, the children stroked her back,
delighted by the playful Bess.
But could those children ever guess
that even 'ere the year was out,
she’d perish in the cruelest way,
as her litters had before,
after not a year of life,
throats cut with a kitchen knife?

He’s done his best. He gave her pasture,
(he’s seen the way the factories do it)
But he is heir to ancient ways
upheld by scripture and the law
and founded on the myth that God
speaks only to the human strain
of ape, and not to soulless beasts.
So why not kill them as we please?

Thus the butchering of Bess
into favourite cuts of meat
doesn’t shock or prick the conscience,
as long as the sights and sounds of slaughter
remain unseen, unheard …. unjudged.
As so they do, behind closed doors;
for who would eat a pig again
having seen its hideous end?

Do we really think that Bess
will feel the pain and horror less
than human beings so despatched?
A stain is left on humankind
that though we rue a thousand years
will never quite be washed away.
Better by far that they never draw breath
than be born in the shadow of infantile death.

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I am a retired British diplomat living in Spain, the country where I last served. Now an old man, I feel more strongly than ever about the killing of animals for meat.


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