I am allowed to enjoy one day of grace by sitting next to the staff room cutting small pieces of meat from a bucket, samples that a blood-stained hand from the slaughter room refills regularly. Each piece – one animal. Individual portions are chopped; hydrochloric acid is added and boiled – for the trichina test. The lady introduces me to the system. Trichina is never found, but the test is obligatory.
The next day, I find myself part of the gigantic killing machine. A rapid introduction: “Here, you remove the rest of the pharynx and cut knots of the lymphatic glands …”. I cut. I have to work fast because the production line keeps moving. Above me, other pieces of carcass are cut out. When my colleague works too fast or when the bloody mess blocks the gully, the broth hits my face. I try to move to the other side but there, an enormous water-cooled blade cuts the pig carcasses in two: it is impossible to stay there without getting soaked to the bone. Gritting my teeth, I continue cutting. I must hurry and don’t have time to reflect at all on this horror. Furthermore, I have to be damned careful not to cut my fingers off.
The next day, I borrow a metal glove from a colleague who has already gone through the ordeal. And I stop counting the blood-dripping pigs that parade before me. I do not use rubber gloves any longer. It is absolutely repugnant to plunge your bare hands inside still warm carcasses, but because you get soiled with blood up to the shoulders and the sticky mixture of corporal fluids seeps into the gloves anyway, they are useless. Why does anyone bother to make horror films, when all this is right here?
The knife is soon blunt. “Give that to me, I’ll sharpen it for you.” The nice granddad, in reality a former meat inspector, winks at me. Having handed me back my sharpened knife, he starts to chat about this and that, and he tells me a joke before going back to work. From then on he takes me under his wing a little and shows me a few tricks that make the work on the production line a bit easier. “You don’t like all this, do you? I can tell. But it has to be done.” I do not manage to find him unpleasant. He goes through a lot of trouble to reassure me. Most of the others also make an effort to help me. I am sure that they find the endless parade of numerous trainees amusing, to see that we are shocked at first and then grit our teeth in order to complete our training. They are well-meaning people, there are no petty squabbles. I must admit that I cannot consider the workers as monsters, apart from a few exceptions. They simply become indifferent, just like me, as time goes by. It is self-protection.