This is the story of ham (and bacon, pork, pork chops, sausage, hot dogs, etc.).
Sarah -- I'm giving the pig a name to make her more real -- has to be artificially inseminated to become pregnant. When she's pregnant, she's put into a gestation crate. She will remain here for about 114 days, the average gestation period for a pig. The gestation crate is so small that Sarah is not able to stretch her legs or to turn around.
After she gives birth, she's put into a farrowing crate, with bars to separate her from her babies. Like the gestation crate, the farrowing crate is too small for Sarah to extend her limbs or to turn around. Her babies nurse through the bars. In nature Sarah would have made a nest and would have been able to cuddle with her babies.
One of Sarah's babies, Winnie, is a runt, a smaller-than-normal piglet perhaps with a genetic defect. One of the workers at the pig farm takes Winnie and bangs her against the concrete floor. He tosses her into a garbage can, where her body seizes and she's left to die.
Wilbur is another of Sarah's babies. In the first few days after he is born, his canine teeth are cut (clipped). His tail, which pigs wag just as dogs do, is cut off. His ears are notched using an instrument like a hole punch. All of these disfigurements are performed without anesthesia.
Sometime before Wilbur is 4 weeks old, his testicles are cut off, again without anesthesia.
Around 3 weeks old Wilbur is weaned from Sarah and taken from her. Sarah will be impregnated again. Wilbur is crowded with other pigs into pens with metal bars, where he remains until he reaches 250 pounds.
When Wilbur is between 6 and 10 months old, he's loaded into a truck with dozens of other pigs. It's winter, and the back of the truck isn't heated. The pigs stand in urine and feces during their drive, which could last for hours.
When they arrive at the slaughterhouse, some of the pigs' skin has frozen to the side of the truck. The workers rip them free. The pigs are herded down aisles, where they hear other pigs screaming ahead of them.
When Wilbur reaches a man, he fights, squirms, screams. The man, in his haste, fails to "stun" Wilbur properly -- either by shooting a bolt into his brain or giving him an electric shock.
Wilbur is hung upside-down by one leg. As he travels on the conveyor, blood rushing to his head, he regains consciousness and starts thrashing. A woman with a knife slits his throat. Wilbur continues to fight until he loses consciousness again and dies from the blood loss.
Wilbur's dead body continues to travel across the slaughterhouse, workers stabbing at it, cutting it, chopping it.
It will eventually be displayed at the center of a dining room table, where mothers and fathers and their children will stab a piece of Wilbur's flesh with a fork and comment on how good it tastes, not wanting to think about the cruelty and suffering, murder and death they are actually eating.
Note: Although this story sounds extreme and sensational, it's not. These practices are standard in animal agribusiness. Please ask yourself if you can continue to support such an industry.
Update (1/9/10): Because one of my family members was offended by my reference to "relatives" at the beginning of this post, I've removed it.
(Photos courtesy of "Animal Writings," PETA via Vegan Outreach, PETA and Gail Eisnitz.)