The best farm is the one without fences. Your animals contend and self-policing, therefore none of them wants to escape. Are we stuck inside one without even knowing it?
Have you noticed how agriculture defines regional identity? Idaho. Potato country. Townsville: The sugar cane capital. A mixture of climate, soil PH and economic demand must have prompted farmers to all start growing the same crop.
For unknown reasons to me, my home turf was deemed perfect for pig farming. I grew up in Oink Incorporated. Hog Heaven. The pigpen of the Southern Netherlands. My landscape was dotted with neat windowless brick sheds and large silos lined up next to them. Childhood wouldn’t have been the same without that sweet morning smell of pig manure. And although we could smell them, rarely were we blessed with the sight of these adorable pink bacon bellies. In fact, no one really knew what went on inside the 4 walls of these mysterious shacks. Nor did many want to know. Although I did. Consciously or not, at the age of 14, I befriended Paul, the first son of a renowned pig farmer.
I remember riding my squeaky bicycle along the back roads lined with wildflowers and willow trees to the next town where my friend lived. It was a playground of dirt bikes, muddy fields, semi-wild animals plus his parents would happily let us drink Heineken in the hay shed. This was a far cry from my concrete council-funded block where every move you made was tracked, recorded and gossiped over by a team of hard done by single mothers who by default didn’t trust 14-year-old boys. When I was at Paul’s house I felt free. Out of sheer appreciation for Paul’s lovely parents, I offered my help wherever I could. To my excitement, my first job was to stick a tube of diluted pig sperm up the sacred parts of a sizable, sweating, plump porker. ‘Squeeze it really softly boy, take your time’, Paul’s dad whispered in my ear as he stood behind me. My nostrils flared up under the pressure of nitrogen-rich air, I nervously looked at the excess sperm regurgitating from the pigs bottom. I wondered if she liked me.
As my unofficial apprenticeship unfolded, I learned that the true success of this man agricultural endeavours was not down to the number of piglets which would leave the premises in pursue of their pork chop purpose. Rather, it turned out that Paul’s dad was indeed a master of genetics. It was his little backroom lab, where the DNA blueprint was developed for the meatiest and most marvellous ‘Über Schwein’. 9 months from birth, these piglets will cooperatively march their way to the slaughter camp and with the right vaccines and antibiotics, without dropping dead on the way.
I was blown away by the predictability and precision of this operation. Everything was mechanized, any guessing was smothered under the steel thumb of agricultural science. The pigs were calm and contented, I couldn’t help but wonder if they were happy. ‘Of course, they are!’ Paul’s father boasted as we walked through the shed. ‘Look around! They have an abundance of food, clean water, a place to sleep, what else could they need? In fact, if I open the doors right now, none of them will walk off. They are way too comfortable here!’
That afternoon I rode my bicycle back into my neighbourhood. I looked at rows of identical houses. Square foot garden blocks. Neat rows of oak trees. There was a contentment in the air here, not unlike what I felt inside the pig farm. Guilt rose to the surface as I feared that I indeed grew up inside one without even realizing it. Here the fences opened decades earlier, and the farmer was right, no one ran. It seemed that everyone was too busy comparing their 30 m2 garden to the neighbour’s pathetic 25. Some pretended to run every year in summer when they drove their camper vans down to France. Despite having a trunk full of Dutch peanut butter and pasteurized apple juice, they seemed relieved every time they conquered another holiday mission so they could return to the safe and slightly sad confines of 9 to 5 predictability.
The elusive notion of freedom is something that stirred me well into adulthood. Its virtues were communicated by advertisements on bus stops on my early morning trip to school. Take the Marlborough man, a cowboy-hatted hero who told me just with the look in his eyes that he is free and I am not. But I may get a taste of it through lighting up one nicotine loaded gifts.
The first time I truly felt free was when riding the rooftop of our backpacker van through remote Western Australia at the age of 23. Western Australia was as beautiful as it was brutal, its rough interior pushed me to face my inner farmed pig. My squealing reactions to mosquito bites and spiders in my tent at night. The lack of sanitary infrastructure forced me to face my own shit. Literally, as I would have to dig a hole daily, sometimes twice, wiping with twigs and leaves on days we were out of toilet paper.
Freedom peaked every time I refused to do things that did not feel truthful or satisfying. This radical honesty had me walking out of office jobs, randomly moving countries and arguing with established medical professionals. It’s been an unpaved path of questioning political protocols and turning my back on the voice of society which regularly haunts me when I face up to my fears.
On an outer level, many a dream have already come true. Today I’m a chef-owner, school founder, public speaker bla bla bla.. I have friends, lovers, family and tons of fun. I feel good when I help people, through being there with them, and I feel tingly and excited when they tell me I inspire them. However, beyond the rush of outer pursue there’s something deeper. It’s a sense of inner peace. A feeling that even if all of who this identity would fall away, something will be left. The feeling of being free. I have not worked a day in my life since that year I spent living in vans and hostels around the Pacific rim. I truly feel I have left the pig farm. And I’m at a point of no return.
For humanity to stand a chance of survival on planet Earth, I call for mass pig farm evacuation. No more sleeping on concrete slabs eating pellet food from shiny packaging. We are destined for greatness and expansion, not slavery and pensions.
There’s a great awakening accommodation this evacuation from enslavement and our only job is to wake up. The top 10 regrets of people on their deathbed does not include ‘not working enough.’
There’s purpose brewing in all of us, and unless it’s frothing on the corners of your mouth with every word you utter you’re not there yet. So for today, let’s turn up the heat. Jump.
The pig farm is wide open and the forest is calling. Run piglet, run!