I’d heard of frogs, rats, but never this, at least not until they were set before us on the lab tables, ready for our exploration. We dissected fetal pigs in biology junior year of high school as part of the public-school curriculum. There was no option for an alternative assignment. I was no vegetarian, but the experience made me give up my weekly carnitas for a month. That week, I came to class suited up for surgery, or nuclear attack. I didn’t want to smell something I might not easily forget. The creatures looked like little pink dolls wrapped up tightly in their plastic wrapping. On the third day of dissection, my lab partner mistakenly cut into the large intestine, sending its contents soaring. Someone else in the class passed out. When we were finished, the remains were discarded. I couldn’t tell you what general knowledge requirement this fulfilled. To this day I still don’t quite understand the purpose. Were we supposed to learn something we couldn’t by textbook or simulation? What was it that cutting into flesh was supposed to teach us? Whatever the reason, it was lost on me. The animals had been bred for us to cut into and there was no great outrage. No one stood outside the building with signs in protest. No one offered up graphic images in hopes that it might stop us. The pigs were fetuses, almost fully developed, but nobody prayed over them. At the planned parenthood by my house, the church groups rage in droves. Life is sacred from the start. The protesters don’t know that they don’t perform abortions at that location, and perhaps they wouldn’t care. A billboard in my town notes the early development of eyes and toes, both of which the pigs had, too. The reasons why and when people choose to care are inconsistent. The reasons aren’t really reasoning at all.
Danielle Shorr (she/her) is an MFA alum and professor of disability rhetoric and creative writing at Chapman University. A finalist for the Diana Woods Memorial Prize in Creative Nonfiction and nominee for The Pushcart Prize in Creative Nonfiction and Best of the Net 2022, her work has appeared in Lunch Ticket, Driftwood Press, The Florida Review, The New Orleans Review, and others. Follow her on social media @danielleshorr
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