Meet Chris P. Bacon. Chris is a 6-month-old potbellied pig. His favorite foods are Cheerios and sliced green grapes; his least favorite are carrots and celery. He loves air conditioning, rubbing his belly in the grass, and watching TV with his adoptive older brother. His best friends are a stuffed duck named Doinks and a dog named Aspen. He's stubborn, affectionate, curious, and vocal. And he loves to give wet piggie kisses.
Chris was born with malformed back legs, and when his then-owner tearfully took him in for euthanasia, veterinarian Dr. Len Lucero took the wee pig home instead. This act of compassion (and some adorable YouTube videos) sparked a worldwide flood of warmth and goodwill, and Chris earned tens of thousands of fans across the globe, all rooting for the little pig on wheels.
Meet Chris face to snout, and it's clear he's a distinct individual. He thinks and feels and has preferences and personality quirks like any dog, cat, or human being. But Chris is a pig, and in our world, that means he and others like him are primarily for eating.
For most Americans, the meat we consume comes packaged from a grocery store or precooked on a plate. It bears no resemblance to an adorable pink pig in a wheelchair. But the truth is, they're one and the same. Though Chris' tongue-in-cheek name elicits an obvious connection, most people don't equate bacon with a cute snout and curly tail.
Part of this failure to connect the product to its source stems from the fact that most of our food comes from corporate farming, so unlike our ancestors, we're completely removed from the origin of what we eat.
The other factor, I fear, is that people would rather not acknowledge what they're eating. For most, it's unpleasant to admit that a tender filet was once attached to a grass-eating, doe-eyed heifer. Bacon was once a pig. A burger was once a cow. Nuggets were once a chicken. This is the reality that many would rather avoid.
But at our core, we are an empathetic species. Show the world a renegade cow who escaped from the butcher block, and people are inspired to root for its freedom. Videotape a sleepy baby duck, and millions share the link. Create a Facebook page about a disabled pig, and love and gifts pour forth from every continent. So why the turning of so many blind eyes?
The same day I met Chris, I visited Universal Studios. There, I watched an animal show that featured trained dogs, cats, birds and pigs. Everyone let out a collective awwwww when the pigs trotted across the stage. And yet, right outside the arena, hot dogs and ham sandwiches sat for sale.
Every day, animals are slaughtered by the millions for human consumption. And not humanely, either. Not because we have no other option or need such vast quantities of meat to survive, but because it's cheap, easy and habitual. The majority of our meat doesn't come from sustainable, family-owned farms. Instead, most is mass-produced under conditions so horrific the companies responsible are attempting to make videotaping them an act of terrorism.
What's wrong with this picture? For how long can we ignore the suffering of other sentient beings just so we can have cheap bacon for breakfast? Are we really ok with that kind of systematic hypocrisy?
I'm not arguing that the entire world convert to vegetarianism or veganism. We're not there yet. It is feasible, however, that we stop to think about where our food comes from. Particularly in America, where most of us are privileged enough to make a deliberate choice.
If you agree, please do something about it. Become a conscious consumer. At the very least, start buying meat from humane, sustainable sources, and avoid the cheap, mass-produced, hormone-pumped crap. Your body and the environment will thank you. So will the animals.
And if you're an animal lover -- a fan of all creatures great and small -- do a little more. Go meatless on Mondays, or altogether. Experiment with vegan recipes. Take one small step at a time towards a cruelty-free lifestyle. It's the little things.
As human beings in a first world country, we have the opportunity to choose compassion. Len Lucero chose compassion. Not with any particular agenda in mind, not with thoughts of glory or fame, not with any ulterior motive -- but because he was a good man faced with a living, breathing, feeling being he knew he could save.
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The world is a brighter, more joyful place with Chris P. in it. One look at the thousands of comments on his Facebook page is proof of that. So how much more happiness could we bring to our planet by ending the suffering of creatures like Chris instead of perpetuating it?
On behalf of Chris and the billions of individual animals like him, please stop and think before you eat. And if you hear your conscience calling - listen.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.