This photograph does not horrify me. When I encountered this scene in a Rangoon market, I did not recoil nor turn my head. I did not feel sorry for the goats. For I've been away from the developed world for some time. Seen harsh things. Become a bit hard myself. Had a change of world view, in some respects.
In my local market in Hanoi, I'm amused when I see the pork vendor removing the porcine hair from a pig's belly with a man's razor blade. It makes me think of myself that very morning. When the duck's neck is slit and blood is squirting, then trickling into a basin, I see the patience in the process, in not wanting to see blood split. What was running through this duck's veins will not be flushed away. It, along with its organs and tubes, will be consumed. The duck's beak may protrude later, after it's been boiled, at the duck noodle soup stall as a sign that this bird was quacking this morning. Fresh duck is going with these noodles, it says, with dignity.
Here, there is grooming after death. A woman rubs a chicken carcass under water with a tender pressure to remove its feathers. The goats' heads are arranged in a tidy row, all facing the same way, ears smoothed down; not just tossed in some messy pile. Organs and other insides are displayed as glossy abstract art installations. I see a meaningful relationship between man and beast here. That a goat butcher's customer can see what kind of animal was killed by him, that a chicken seller can take pride in the fact that a customer admires a bird of hers is surely some kind of testament to the value of these animals' lives.
What disturbs me is the meat department in the supermarkets of my origins. All signs that the product used to be an animal are removed. Styrofoam, cling wrap, stainless steel and flourescent light make it all very clear that this is the end of some clinical factory process, where humans can't even be bothered to do the killing anymore. Automatons in white coats, surgical gloves and hair nets march out with loaded trolleys to fill up the shelves.
When I'm shopping for meat, I now want to recognise the animal.