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It's a pig's life
19 April 2009 ~ 19:00The other night, Mark and I watched a TV programme entitled "My Life As An Animal: Pig." The series of documentaries features humans who actually live in the same habitat, eat the same food, and live the same life as various different animals, such as dogs, horses, seals, etc. I was very interested in the pig show—of course, as I have a real fondness for pigs. As they said in the programme, after humans, apes and dolphins, pigs are the next most intelligent species.
There were two participants in the show, a man and a woman. The man was made to live in a pen with ten pigs on an intensive—i.e. factory-farmed—pig plant. The woman lived on a free-range, organic pig farm where the pigs lived in a field but had a large barn to sleep in at night. These pigs are all slaughtered at twenty-four weeks old and these pigs in the show were fourteen weeks old, i.e. the equivalent of human toddlers.
The man did a lot better in the project than the woman because he really tried to communicate on the pigs' level and interact with them. The woman on the other hand was afraid of the pigs; she kept herself aloof from them. After a few days, the two human actors swapped roles: the man went to the free-range farm and the woman went to the intensive farm.
The pigs were all very curious about the humans entering their environment. They were keen to sniff and feel the new humans with their mouths. The pig's mouth is even more sensitive than a human's hand. When the man gave his pigs some objects to play with—a wooden spoon, a soccer ball and a piece of cloth—they showed a real interest in playing with them. Normally, these pigs are not given any toys to play with despite their high intelligence.
We switched off the show at the point when they were going to show the pigs being slaughtered. Even so, I felt depressed for a couple of days afterwards. To think that these sweet, inquisitive animals are simply bred to feed humans. Pigs make extremely affectionate and loyal pets (we saw a documentary recently where a pet pig saved her owner's life), but because they're so intelligent, it's outrageous that they are treated as a mere commodity for consumption. Domestic pigs on the organic farm act just like wild boar in the woods, digging and rooting, socialising with each other. How can we resign these animals to such a fate?