Guilt Trip Part One Continued: Pigs.

Wanna hear something depressing? Despite all my effort to blog about social issues and be socially conscious, I realize that so far I have failed: a good number of my blog views come from people googling “webbed feet” or “foot tattoo,” referring back to my very first post about my freakish feet.  Really?  Now that’s just down right depressing.  Every day, I mean, every day, including today, someone views my blog via googling about freaky feet.  My post entitled “Feet…” was viewed three times today! Whatever!  I want to mention it now because I am about to talk about pigs, and by what ever means people see this post, I hope they read it.  I’ll write “webbed toes” at the end of every damn post if it’s all people care about.  Anyhow, down to business…

Pigs.  Baaaacon, yum…  Pigs are one of the most important discussion topics for someone trying to spread the word of vegetarianism.  The same people who cry foul at eating dogs, cats and dolphins are usually the very same people who cry “Bacon!” in their own defense of eating meat.  It’s so damn delicious.  I’ve heard of many people who are “vegetarian” except for bacon, a temptation they just can’t resist.  So let us learn about pigs, and why if torturing and eating pigs is okay, it is okay then to torture and eat dogs, cats and dolphins.

Free range pigs. Don't they look happy?

All species of pig are smarter than dogs, and capable of abstract representation. ‘They can hold an icon in their mind, and remember it at a later date,’ says Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University, who discovered that pigs dominate at video games with joy sticks. Curtis goes on to say, ‘Pigs are able to focus with an intensity I have never seen in a chimp.‘”

“Pigs are affectionate, inquisitive animals.  The film Babe was on solid scientific ground when it made its hero capable of doing everything a dog can do in the way of herding sheep.  In fact, Professor Stanley Curtis thinks that the sheepdog’s job would be a ‘pushover’ for pigs he has investigated.  Curtis is a hard-nosed scientist who worked for many years in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois… He conceived the idea of making it possible for pigs to tell producers what kind of conditions they prefer, and to that end, trained them to operate joystick-controlled video games.  They learned quickly, and Curtis discovered that ‘there is much more going on in terms of thinking and observing by these pigs than we would ever have guessed.'” (Singer).

Other tests were done where the pigs were taught the meaning of simple words and phrases. Several years later, the instructions were repeated, and the pigs still remembered what to do. The same thing was done with different objects placed in front of them. They were taught to jump over, sit by, or retrieve the item. Three years later, they could distinguish between the items.

“Pigs communicate constantly with one another. More than 20 of their oinks, grunts, and squeals have been identified for different situations, from wooing their mates to expressing hunger. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mothers’ voices, and mother pigs sing to their young while nursing.”-PETA

“Even in domesticity, pigs have retained much of their foreboar’s smarts. Dr. Byrne attributes pig intelligence to the same evolutionary pressures that prompted cleverness in primates: social life and food. Wild pigs live in long-term social groups, keeping track of one another as individuals, the better to protect against predation. They also root around for difficult food sources, requiring a dexterity of the snout not unlike the handiness of a monkey.  Because monkeys had been shown to use mirrors to locate food, Donald M. Broom of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues decided to check for a similar sort of so-called assessment awareness in pigs. They began by exposing seven 4-to-8-week-old pigs to five-hour stints with a mirror and recording their reactions. The pigs were fascinated, pointing their snouts toward the mirror, hesitating, vocalizing, edging closer, walking up and nuzzling the surface, looking at their image from different angles, looking behind the mirror. When the mirror was placed in their pen a day later, the glass-savvy pigs greeted it with a big ho-hum.  Next, the researchers put the mirror in the enclosure, along with a bowl of food that could not be directly seen but whose image was reflected in the mirror. They then compared the responses of the mirror-experienced pigs with a group of mirror-naïve pigs. On spotting the virtual food in the mirror, the experienced pigs turned away and within an average of 23 seconds had found the food.” –New York Times

It is abundantly clear that pigs are one of the most intelligent species on the planet, right up there with chimps, dolphins, elephants and 3 year old children.  And, if you do some more research, you’ll see that pigs are also genetically similar to humans, more so than most other animals.  And yet, we still use the intelligence argument to justify our treatment of pigs and other animals that we eat.  Most people recoil in horror when they watch Animal Cops and see dogs kept in cages, or abused in any way.  People are appalled to hear that in Asia, dogs and cats are eaten on a regular basis after being tortured in ways similar to how we treat cows, pigs and chickens.  Why?  If you are okay with everything that happens to pigs, you should absolutely be okay with what happens to dogs and cats over seas.  Considering of course, that pigs are more intelligent than both dogs and cats.  So how do we treat them?

Pregnant sows in gestation crates.

“More than 90% of pigs raised for meat today are raised indoors in crowded pens of concrete and steel.  They never get to go outside or root around in pasture and don’t even have straw to bed down in.  The most tightly confined of all are the breeding sows.  Under the factory’s rigid production schedule, they are made to produce litter after litter as quickly as possible, which means that they are pregnant for most of their lives.  During their pregnancies, which last about 16 weeks, most American sows are confined in ‘gestation crates’– steel barred crates or stalls just a foot or so longer than their bodies, and so narrow that the sows cannot even turn around.  Of the 1.8 million sows used for breeding by America’s ten biggest pig producers, about 90% are kept in this manner.” (Singer).

This video was taken at Smithfield Farms, the largest producer of pork in the world.

“They cannot walk around or socialize with other sows.  All they can do is stand up or lie down on the bare concrete floor.  When the time comes to give birth, they are also confined in what producers call a farrowing crate.  The farrowing crate keeps the sow in position, with her teats always exposed to her piglets.  She is unable to roll over.” (Singer).

Many pigs die in this manner, because of unhealthy living conditions.

“Piglets are taken from their mothers when they are as young as 10 days old and packed into pens until they are separated to be raised for breeding or meat. They too are overcrowded and prone to stress-related behaviors, such as cannibalism and tail-biting.  Rather than give the animals more space and a better environment to prevent these problems, factory farmers chop off the piglets’ tails and often use pliers to break off the ends of their teeth. Factory farmers also rip chunks out of the young animals’ ears for identification purposes and rip out the males’ testicles to prevent them from producing sexual pheremones. All of these excruciating procedures are done without any use of painkillers.” –Mercy for Animals

And of course, as we’ve seen in my previous posts, those who work at these farms are desensitized to the suffering of animals.  This, of course, applies to pig producers, even so far as to include sexual abuse of pigs.  When you watch these videos, keep in mind what you now know of pig intelligence.  Imagine your dog in this situation.  What emotions would she be feeling?

If you are not a Golden Girls fan, please skip ahead of her PSA.  This video comes from the 3rd largest pig producer in the US.

“According to a November 10, 2002 article in the New York Times, ‘Sick pigs, being unproductive ‘production units’ are clubbed to death on the spot.’ Other common methods used to kill sick pigs include: ‘thumping’ (slamming animals’ heads against the floor until they die), drowning them with a hose, and standing on their necks.” –Mercy for Animals

It should be mentioned here that in previous posts I have given graphic descriptions of animal abuses, but for this post, I believe images/videos speak louder than words, and the screaming of these creatures certainly should as well.  So what of their slaughter?

Most pigs are slaughtered in a smilar way to cows, electric current followed by a good slit of the throat, and shortly after a nice scalding bath meant to burn off their hair and soften their skin (for which a lot of pigs are fully conscious).  But it is their lives that are the real travesty:

Now, a lot of people say to me that pigs owe their existance to factory farming.  Without it, most pigs would never be brought into existence.  Does this seem like a valid argument having just seen this video?  Is it very ethical to bring a sentient creature into this existence?  Or does this weak argument (which I will address in a later post) sound like it came from a bunch of selfish humans trying desperately to ignore the truth about a system that they pay into three times a day?

Think about this next Christmas.  Would Jesus want you to eat this ham?  On his birthday?!?  I doubt it. Everytime you eat a piece of bacon, think of your dog or your cat or a three year old child you know, that is what you are eating.  An animal that is capable of love, capable of loving you. If your dog tasted this way, would it be worth it to you to put that animal through this type of suffering for that piece of bacon?  For your dog’s sake I hope you say no.

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