Here’s a trend that seems to be on the rise and one that’s been pissing me off for a while now: the baconization of everything. Poutine? Let’s put some fucking bacon on it. Ice cream? Let’s add some bacon! Today at the mall I even saw a board game called “Bacon-opoly” and wanted to set fire to the entire display stand. But what really set me off was last night when I was trying a new recipe that called for a tablespoon of maple syrup. I added the amount, then licked the spoon (as you do) and immediately noticed that the syrup did not taste right. I looked at the jar and nearly hit the ceiling: the reason it tasted differently was it was actually “Smoky Bacon Flavoured Maple Syrup”. I was livid. Livid at myself for not noticing sooner (I’d been making smoothies with this garbage all weekend, poured directly into the blender), livid at the store for charging the same amount as actual pure maple syrup and finally at food manufacturers for adding animal by-products to yet another item that was just fine on its own, fuck you very much.
I immediately dumped it and checked the back-up one I had in the pantry – yup. It was bacon flavoured too so I took that back and exchanged it this morning. The bacon flavoured syrup (why?!) is a new item that’s on the same shelf as the pure stuff and the packaging is very similar, save for the strip of rippled pig’s flesh on the label in place of pancakes. Since I buy it regularly at the same store, I didn’t look at the label. I won’t be making that mistake again.
It may not seem like a big deal to some people and there was a time when it wouldn’t have mattered to me either. But it is and it should be to more of us. In Carol J. Adams’ book, The Sexual Politics of Meat, she quotes author and professor Sandra Lee Bartky to describe feminism. I thought of it again when trying to articulate the reasons for my rage from unwittingly eating the by-product of a pig, although in place of “feminist”, you could easily use the word “vegan” instead:
“To be a feminist, one has first to become one….Feminists are not aware of different things than other people; they are aware of the same things differently.”
And that’s it. Bacon used to be a seasoning, flavouring or topping on a burger to me, something I often dramatically claimed “I couldn’t live without.” But now I know what “bacon” truly is: the dead flesh of a baby pig, typically male, who is slaughtered at four to six months old. Within 24 hours of being born their teeth are clipped. Two to three days later their ears are notched for identification and their tails are docked. The males are also castrated by having their scrotum cut open and their testicles torn out. Every single one of these procedures is done without the use of anesthetic. Believe me, I wish I were making this up but this is how 30 million pigs are treated every year in this country.
But it doesn’t stop there. The weakest piglets of the litter are killed right in front of the mother via a method known as “PACing” (Pound Against Concrete). The males are taken from their mothers at three weeks old (in their natural habitat, she would nurse them for 15 weeks) and the females are left to endure the same fate as their mothers: endless impregnation and confinement. The male piglets are sent to the hilariously titled “nursery” barns where they are fattened to about 80 pounds, and then sent to a feed or “finishing” lot until they get to market weight of about 220-250 pounds. They are confined the entire time and forced to stand, lie, and sleep in their own urine and feces. And then there is the journey to the slaughterhouse – legal in Canada for up to 36 hours without food, shelter, rest or protection from the weather – followed by the actual slaughter itself which is an absolute horrible ending to an already horrible life.
That, my friends, is “bacon”. That is what people get so excited about when it’s in their food. This is the theme of a board game being sold in stores and from a website called “BaconFreak” (at least they have the freak part right) and now it’s in our motherfucking maple syrup. This is what people pride themselves on loving. Yet the term “bacon” is just another euphemism used to mask what we are really ingesting when we eat it: the suffering of a once whole, living and breathing animal. If only we would learn to get as excited about animals when they’re alive instead of rejoicing over their dead body parts and “smoky flavoured” by-products.