Food Industry

Animal Rights Activists to Protest Matadero Cabrera Farm: "We Could Hear the Pigs Screaming"

Different cultures celebrate the night before Christmas in different ways. Some leave milk and cookies for Santa. Other families enjoy the feast of the seven fishes. In most Latin American countries and the Philippines, the holiday meal is centered around a roasted pig. 

Matadero Cabrera Farm, also known as Mary's Farm, has been in the pig-slaughtering business since 1978. The farm, located at 16301 NW 122nd Ave. in Hialeah, is open seven days a week. Anyone can come and pick out a live pig, lamb, or goat. The animal is then taken to a separate building to be dispatched and cleaned before it is placed in your car wrapped in a plastic tarp. The entire process can take less than an hour — or an entire day during the Christmas season, when people line up at dawn for a freshly slaughtered pig.

Some even make it a family outing, with children joyfully playing with the adorable farm animals destined to become fodder for the caja china.
This irks animal rights activist Jill Matthis, who, assisted by Animal Activists Network and local PETA supporters, is protesting what she calls a barbaric tradition at Matadero Cabrera on December 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. This has become an annual gathering of like-minded people who want to educate others about the slaughter. Here's how she describes a recent Nochebuena there. "We could hear the pigs screaming from about a mile away. It was so traumatic ... Last year we had about 20 people. This year it's going to be bigger. People have a lot of passion about this."

The protesters will gather at the farm at its busiest time, armed with signs and pamphlets. "The signs are in Spanish and they say, 'Meat is murder.' We'll also have pamphlets for people to take with them."  

Although a sign on the door designates the farm as a USDA federal plant, Matthis says the animals are slaughtered without being stunned first. "They are fully conscious," she says. Hearing the screaming of the animals traumatized her for two weeks after, she claims. A woman at the farm was aware of the planned protest but declined to comment.

Yelp reviews of the farm point to the fact that it's an abattoir, not Disney. One Yelper writes, "It is a slaughterhouse. So if you are a vegetarian, don't expect to find a petting zoo." Still, some treat the outing as a gruesome sort of quasi-petting zoo for children who cavort with the barnyard creatures. Indeed, a video of the farm shows a little boy watching the pigs as dad picks out the one destined for slaughter.

Matthis considers that the worst part of the process. "I think the tradition is barbaric and taking your children there is a continuation of cruelty. They joyfully pick out the pigs as a family. It's slaughtered while the children hear the screaming. It incorporates itself into their brains." The animal rights activist says she plans on trying to educate families on the cruelty. "I'm trying to open the hearts of kids. Maybe something will click. I'll be asking people to teach their children compassion."

The work pays off. "We did turn two people away last year and one woman walked away crying." Still, that's a drop in the bucket compared to the number of families who rely on the farm for their holiday meal. "The 23rd is a big day. We were there for two and a half hours and I would say at least 50 pigs were slaughtered. I prayed for each pig."

Most people don't connect the chop on their plate to an intelligent and sentient being, but pigs are smart and social. Recently, Modern Farmer magazine acknowledged that pigs are "smarter than dogs, people will tell you, smarter than dolphins, smarter than 3-year-olds." Matthias, a vegan, says that once people know the facts, they are more open to forgoing their carnivorous habits. "We're conditioned to think that it's just meat on our plate. It takes something to open our hearts. I'm trying to teach compassion. I'm vegan and I could never, ever go back."

As for the people who say Nochebuena wouldn't be the same without a pig on the plate? Matthis likens it to her Thanksgiving. "During that holiday, I see a live turkey. I don't see a Thanksgiving meal."

The Be a Voice for Pigs Facebook page lists more information about the protest, along with the following statement:
Every Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, many Latinos go to local, unregulated farms and bring their children. They choose their favorite cute pig, tell the worker, who then takes the pig into a building. Five minutes later, he carries a sack with the slaughtered pig to the customer's car. This is brutal, disgusting and cruel. Pigs are caring, smart and social animals. We need to come together and be their voice; we need to educate these people to let them know that the slaughter of an animal is not a tradition; but an atrocity.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss

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