Since my return to Romania in January 2009, I longed to cover the pig festival.
My colleague Bogdan Cristel had covered it in past years. But I could not as I was assigned to edit and process the World Ski Championship, which takes place during the same period. Last year, I again edited skiing and thought that this year would be the same: me editing and Bogdan covering it. In January however, I was surprised when the organizers changed the date, providing me with the possibility to go and cover this story.
I remember as a child I once saw a pig being slaughtered, but my memory is blurred. As a city boy, living with my mother on the third floor and my grandparents on the first floor of an apartment block, I never experienced what was normal for village folk. For villagers, pigs, cows, chicken, ducks and geese were slaughtered in the backyard to provide food for the entire family. For me, all livestock came from butchers or supermarkets, frozen or fresh, nicely labeled and packaged.
What was of interest to me was how they slaughter the pigs. I wondered if they were using electricity according to European Union regulations or following a traditional method and using a knife? I discovered that traditional method is allowed during the festival, so people can see how it was done in the past.
As this was the sixth edition of the festival, the organizers and participants knew what to do. A few pigs with numbers painted on their backs were drawn by the teams and the slaughter began. The first two were killed using electricity, in keeping with the European Union standards. To drain the blood, knives were used to stab the pig in the heart. The splashing blood was quickly collected into buckets.
I have seen blood during various armed conflict assignments, but somehow the stench of warm blood, the pig’s sharp and brief squealing made me a bit sick. I went out from the enclosure where the slaughtering took place to breathe cold, fresh air and followed the contestants dragging the carcasses to their preparation tables.