As you drive down the long, narrow solitary road in Hialeah, you are surrounded on each side by nothing but farms. Near 157th Street of the NW, 127th avenue takes you farther and farther away from the city- its homes and strip malls-towards the slaughterhouse, Matadero Cabrera. As you approach, the stench of feces fills the air, a goat carcass lays on the side of the road, discarded like trash. It feels like you’re driving into a horror movie, some gory Quentin Tarantino film. You except to find body parts and blood will be flying around and screams will fill the air You are horrified and disgusted at what you witness, a place so dark you’d never think it was hiding in the outskirts of an otherwise decent community.
At the entrance, blasted Reggaeton music drowns out the distant screams of young pigs, who sound like horrified children. Most pigs murdered for their flesh are less than a year old and their natural life span is about ten years. In their short lives, they lie in a wooden pen full of their own waste. Most of them are listless, like beached whales, they have been fattened for consumption, and they have relinquished any joy de vivre, waiting for their deaths, so they just lie huddled together in shit.
Pigs are smarter than dogs and cats, so they are aware of what is happening to them to some extent. These are not happy animals in the environment God intended for them. Their snouts are meant for rummaging through the soil. The feet are meant for walking on the ground. They were born to be free out in the grass, eating it, not in their own feces. The smell is unbearable. Most people would retreat in disgust at the smell alone. Yet some take their children to pick out a pig to kill for the holiday celebration of Noche Buena, a night that’s supposed to celebrate peace. A few pigs walk around and peer out from their holding cell with a look of desperation in their eyes similar to the look of concentration camp victims.
Near the pigs, there are goats kept in a holding area and many of them look sick or injured. They are not moving around as one would expect happy animals would. They seem frozen. A few feet away, a group of people commune around a truck, with the loud music as if they are having a party. But this is one twisted celebration. The energy is low, heavy, and dark. The people standing and sitting around the truck look possessed. There is a goat hanging upside down, its throat slit, its chest open. A man walks by with a bag full of body parts: lungs, intestines, a heart.
People take the pigs out to their cars in body bags. Drained of their blood, they look unreal as if made of rubber.
Because of the inhumane, unfair and unhealthy conditions at this farm, animal activists have been protesting there for years. A few people come up to them to ask for options after witnessing the conditions of the animals and smelling the foul odor. One older Cuban gentleman said, “I just couldn’t do it. It smells so bad.” On the eve of Noche Buena, a few dozen protesters came out to lend a voice to the voiceless, including activists from the group Anonymous for the Voiceless.
Most recently Miami Animal Save has organized candle lit vigils and protests around popular days like Noche Buena, when many Cubans come to get pigs to cook in a Caja China.
Coming from a Cuban family, I celebrated the holiday growing up in Miami, and Lechon or pig flesh was the main part of the celebration along with Yuca and Congri or black beans and rice.
My family never had a Caja China in the yard, but it was common at parties. The barbarity of it always offended me. I would often go to a party where they had a dead, roasted pig with its head still attached to its body and an apple shoved in its mouth. My dad would suggest I look away. I would look at the pig and feel bad for it. I was drawn away from these environments sensing they were tingled with an underlying lack of compassion for innocent helpless beings.
Yet I still ate the pieces at dinner, disguised in fancy dishes and silverware. I didn’t make the connection until I got older that it was the same barbarity I rejected. I also began to get sick whenever I would eat pork. The high animal far content gave me an upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea and sometimes vomiting.
As I started to learn about nutrition, I found out that there are better, healthier options. We humans don’t need to consume the flesh of these animals like zombies to survive just like we don’t need to eat our dogs or cats. We are not obligate carnivores. I’ve never had much of a taste for pork but Gardein’s Porkless Bites are a very tasty alternative.
Cruelty, environmental pollution, and disease are all reasons to protest slaughterhouses, and every year the activists come back to this matadero, which remains hidden from the community.
If nothing is wrong with this activity then why hide it? They don’t allow people to video tape or take pictures inside. If they see you, they ask you to stop. I think it’s time we rethink some of these cultural traditions and ask ourselves if killing and suffering is something we want to continue to enact, especially when the vice of eating animal flesh only leads to disease.
“The first time I visited this hell hole I was traumatized from what I witnessed. I saw goats shaking and some even dead from the heat and exhaustion, probably scared for their lives. They definitely knew they’re in hell. Blood and death drenched the air. To the right of the goats is the pig pen. Feces is scattered on the floor so pigs are in their own feces. Feces can be seen on the walls too. I saw one of the workers just spraying the feces as if to clean it but was just spreading the feces around and kicking the pigs that were nearby. It seemed like literal hell for these animals. You can see some of the pigs with tumors so large they can’t walk. Tumors by the way are cancer sores, usually spread throughout the body, so when people consume them, they are eating diseased flesh. One of the baby pigs who was hiding in a corner ran over to Amanda and was crying, begging to be saved. He wanted his mommy. Hell for these animals who were still babies just waiting to be picked to be killed by ignorant humans. This is as close to hell on Earth as possible,” said Amanda, the organizer of Miami Animal Save.