Jason Kohl • Los Angeles, CA
Jason Kohl is currently completing his MFA at UCLA Film School. His thesis film “The Slaughter” begins shooting in March. He writes about his experiences as a young filmmaker at jasonbkohl.com.
Above: Footage from the slaughter of a pig which the author writes about below. Film was taken by author’s girlfriend. Note from author: “I am the guy in skinny jeans who splits the pig toward the end.”In early 2010, after waiting years for the invention of laws allowing the importation of live animals, my Austrian father and his American partner became the first importers of Blonde Mangalitsa pigs to the United States.
Mangalitsas are a unique breed descended from wild boars. The crazy thing about them is they grow coats of wool, much like a sheep. They were initially bred by the Austrian Kaiser in the nineteenth century, and quickly spread from their native Hungary across Europe.
After World War II, communist agricultural policy systematically ignored the “bourgeois” breed and nearly drove it to extinction. A small group of breeders in the 1970s began to revive the animals in Austria and Hungary. One of those breeders would eventually sell them to my dad, who began to breed and sell them across the United States.
As a former vegetarian, I was skeptical of my dad’s new hobby. But my family and I slowly warmed to the pigs, naming them after friends and speculating on their various personalities.
In October of this past year I attended “Pigstock TC,” an annual event in northern Michigan that celebrates Mangalitsas and their surrounding culture. As part of the festival, an Austrian expert demonstrated to a group of chefs how to humanely slaughter and butcher a Mangalitsa.
The slaughter was a transformative experience. It showed me a humane alternative to our industrial slaughterhouses, and demonstrated how essential it is to have a relationship with the animals that provide our food.
The slaughter also showed me how elaborate and physically demanding the transformation of an animal into food really is, something you can’t pick up in the meat section at Trader Joe’s.
Inspired by the experience, I wrote a film about a pig farmer who teaches his son the same process. It’s not only about facing your fears, but also about the sacrifices made for the products we enjoy everyday.