When I was younger, the house I lived in backed onto a farmer’s field. Actually, it wasn’t really a farm, just a couple of fields and some farm buildings, one of which was a slaughter-house. It stood right next to the field where he kept the animals.
Whenever he brought in a new trailer load of sheep he had bought at the market, the animals would have a very restless time. The strange and unfamiliar surroundings, the journey in an animal transporter, surrounded by other unfamiliar sheep completely unnerved them and they would spend a very unsettled night or two calling to each other.
Gradually, over the next few days, they began to settle down. They became used to each other and their new surroundings and became much calmer. They would flock together and do what sheep do.
However, we always knew the night before the sheep were due to be slaughtered – they would have the same disturbed, fretful night and would spend the whole night calling to each other.
Did they know? Did they somehow comprehend that something dreadful would soon befall them? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the same situation played itself out time and time again throughout the year.
I also know this: if those disturbances were because they sensed something terrible was about to happen, they were right.
I don’t know for sure what they sensed but if the evidence of my own lived experience is valid, then I am convinced that they knew.
There must have been a broken drain in the slaughterhouse because the on the day they were slaughtered, the stream at the bottom of out garden would run red with their blood. It was like a Biblical plague.