In the lead-up to the Cubs historic title run, fans embraced a tongue-in-cheek culture of superstition and consumption in hopes of reversing the 108-year-old title drought attributed to the Curse of the Billy Goat. Chicago’s Halsted Packing House reported a 25% increase in demand for goat as grocery stores and restaurants eagerly cash in on “eat away the curse”-style promotions. Last year, a team of competitive eaters went so far as to consume an entire 40-pound goat in a bid to alter history.
The opposite end of the supply chain, however, is far less jovial. Alongside fellow animal rights activists, I have visited Halsted Packing House to bear witness to animals delivered for slaughter. The truck shows up around 4:30 Monday mornings – a reflection of the prevailing out-of-sight, out-of-mind societal attitude toward animal slaughter. Slaughterhouses – once the pride of the city – have almost all closed or moved to rural areas, for much the same reason.
The experience is nothing short of heartbreaking. We’ve witnessed baby animals cower at the edge of the trailer, terrified of what’s next. We’ve witnessed a baby goat – immobilized by fear, injury or both – physically carried to slaughter. And we’ve witnessed one animal after the next look to us with pleading eyes, desperate for any kind of comfort.
When Michael Vick was brought up on dogfighting charges in 2007, his cries of cultural relativism fell on deaf ears. He served 18 months in federal prison and topped a Forbes poll as America’s most hated athlete two years running – certainly no favorite amongst the goat-consuming Cubs’ base.
But is his brand of needless violence toward animals objectively worse than that which we thoughtlessly inflict upon billions of other animals? We’ve seen countless investigations exposing the inevitable brutality of industrialized animal agriculture; it can hardly be argued that these animals have it any better than Vick’s dogs.
Activists know the world won’t fundamentally shift overnight, but we do think we can shift it bit by bit. So last Monday, I joined activists in delivering a letter to the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel demanding the immediate closure of all slaughter facilities in Chicago. This would be a small step to say the sort of pain that baby goat went through is unacceptable in the City of Chicago.
Too often, discussions of what happens to animals raised for food center around whether people are vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous. Regardless what we do, we can support political moves to protect animals from violence. With a recent Gallup poll showing 32% of Americans believe “animals should be given the same rights as people” and millennials’ diets increasingly reflecting this shift, it’s time for our governments to start responding. Increment by increment, we can get our culture and habits to where we aspire.
Goats and other animals have been cursed for far too long. Maybe in the wake of the Cubs’ curse’s demise, we can end the pox over animals too.
Matt Johnson is an organizer with the global grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere.