Pierre was born blind, consigned to live in a world where there is no perception and no memory of light, a world of pure sound, scent, touch, taste and feeling, a world which he knows, as he has to, only intimately, only by the intimations of scent, sound, touch and taste, without any of the distancing afforded by sight. A world he inhabits, as he has to, with imagination, not seeing, but envisioning that which he can never experience; with infinite attention to the meanings, messages and intentions of others; and with the courage to hope.
His mother reached above the fence that separated them and licked his face, his forehead, his neck, cleaning, instructing, scolding, loving and kissing him with every lick of her raspy tongue, while he tried, as always, to suckle, baby that he still was, and he nuzzled the fence along the vast plain of her flank, looking for her udder, puckering his lips in anticipation, trying, and failing, to reach the soft nipple through the wires, and having to contend himself with just standing there, close to his mother's heart, consuming the nourishing substance of her love by touch, scent and sound alone.
And then it happened. The gate of his pen groaned open, heavy bootsteps announced the approach of a strange man, and a scattering of gravel sprayed his knees as his mother charged into the pen, while a silent force pulled him by his halter and lead him over strange ground to the coffin of a trailer that smelled of fear, the fear of the many who had been confined there before him, in isolation from their families, and driven to auction or straight to slaughter. As the truck drove off, drowning his mother's sweet scent-face in a cloud of bitter exhaust fumes, and erasing her voice in the rattle and roar of the engine, he was gripped by dread. If he could imagine darkness, it would sound, smell, taste and feel like that moment.
And that's how his new life began, in the clutch of profound loss, fear and helplessness. It was the day he escaped the execution that inevitably awaits "unprofitable" youngsters like him, who are farmed for their flesh, milk or eggs, and who are routinely killed by the cheapest means possible*. It was the day he was brought to sanctuary.
© 2012 Joanna Lucas
UPDATE, September 2013
Pierre was born blind. He had no access to and no memory of light, yet he was one of the brightest lights, he radiated light, he illuminated the world, and our lives, with his own life. Pierre, whose heart stopped 20 years too soon, restored the heart of everyone who entered his world to full, brilliant life.
Given his crippling disability, it would have been easier for him to become a recluse, to hide and avoid contact with the bewildering world of the sighted. But he didn't. He offered his love to everyone who sought his company, and trusted that it would be returned. It was. His eyes may have been blind, but his heart was gifted with exceptional vision. It allowed him to see so much more deeply, so much more accurately, so much more intelligently, and so much more compassionately than most of us. It called him to open his completely vulnerable being to the beings of all others, and, in so doing, to heal their visible and invisible wounds by the light of his heart alone.
With him, every soul—no matter how battered, no matter how crushed, no matter how defeated—got to see, and feel, just how brave and beautiful it really was. Even the charred hearts of those who crush beings like Pierre for an evening's amusement glowed in his presence with the light of their own forgotten humanity.
Good night, sweet Pierre. You honored us with your love, you humbled us, you healed us, you broke our hearts. Your light shines on in the darkness of every heart you broke open. Now and always.
Pierre's memorial photo album
Remembering Pierre's adjustment to his new life
Remembering Pierre's favorite things
* Because his disability made him too costly to keep alive, and too unlikely to reach slaughter weight by the farmer's deadline (his 18th month of life), he was going to be shot later that day and discarded as trash. Discarding "unprofitable" animals is standard operating procedure on all farms, from family farms to factory farms. (see The Mass Killing of "Trash" Infants)
If living ethically is important to you, please remember that there is nothing humane about “humane” animal farming, just as there is nothing ethical or defensible about consuming its products. When confronted with the fundamental injustice inherent in all animal agriculture—a system that is predicated on inflicting massive, intentional and unnecessary suffering and death on billions of sentient individuals—the only ethical response is to strive to end it, by becoming vegan, not to regulate it by supporting “improved” methods of producing dairy, eggs, meat, wool, leather, silk, honey, and other animal products. For more information, please read The Humane Farming Myth. Live vegan and educate others to do the same.