Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Kosher v. Porcine - yiddish influences on legal slang and the average pork jokes

In the article Lawsuit, Shmawsuit, Judge Alex Kozinski & Eugene Volokh argue that the influence of Yiddish has dramatically increased in legal slang since 1980. As for the word 'kosher', they write:

"But it’s clear that 'kosher' is used figuratively in quite a few cases, from United States v. Erwin’s insistence that the law 'tell the felon point blank that weapons are not kosher' to Texas Pig Stands, Inc. v. Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc., which concludes that 'though not entirely kosher, Hard Rock’s actions were not ... swinish.' Pig Stands is somewhat atypical, though, as its reference to 'kosher' is just one in a series of pork jokes."

Sugar Mountain Farm - raising pigs naturally on pasture

After the previous posts, here is something more positive. Walter Jeffries on Sugar Mountain Farm, Vermont, explains in a very down to earth way why pasturing pigs is actually much more economical and less work-intensive when you keep them for meat.

"Pasturing the pigs is the easiest, cheapest, least smelly way to do it. And I think the pigs are a lot healthier and happier for it."

In two other posts, he gives his view on castration:

"I do not like castrating piglets. Neither does my wife or son like helping. It is not a pleasant task. It is even less pleasant for the piglets. There is a fair bit of research that suggests that castration is not necessary for boars that are slaughtered before age six months. I have written about this before including links to the research articles. Unfortunately it is traditional and customers want it."

In one of the posts he expresses concern that animal rights movements like PETA ("fanatical anti-farming groups", in his words) will "use" what he says. I'm not fanatically anti-farming, but I think that if you eat pigs, you should at least treat them well.

The rest of the Sugar Mountain Farm blog is also very interesting reading.

Pet pig factories part II

I wrote an E-mail to the breeder mentioned in the entry below and asked a couple of composed and friendly questions. She only answered to one of the questions:

> My pig didn't
> have his teeth clipped, and I don't know of any other pet pigs in my
> area that have had it done. Why do you do it?

(That's the whole E-mail.) "It doesn't bother them" ... Right. And how come pigs have survived and bred in the wild for thousands of years and been safe and just fine with their teeth intact ...?
Also, if you feel your arguments aren't enough, maybe caps lock will help the message get through.

The breeder's name is Vickie Barrow, and the business is "Best Little Potbelly Pig House in Texas". I also found this interesting entry in a discussion forum.

Since pigs raised for the meat industry are normally so abused, it would seem difficult to make any case against her and other breeders like her. All I as a normal person can do is say: Do not get involved with people like her.

But actually, at least in European legislation clipping of teeth is strongly discouraged, as described in this publication by the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority:

"In 1997 the EU Scientific Veterinary Committee recommended grinding or leaving the teeth intact rather than clipping. This report formed the basis for Commission Directive 2001/93/EC, which was adopted into law in November 2001. In earlier drafts of this legislation teeth clipping was banned but the Directive now allows both clipping and grinding in limited circumstances. The procedures can only be carried out where “there is evidence that injuries to sows’ teats or to other pigs’ ears or tails have occurred”. In addition “before carrying out these procedures, other measures shall be taken to prevent tail-biting and other vices”. Hence, all forms of tooth resection are strongly discouraged and in the future teeth clipping may be banned."

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Pet pig factories and sanctuaries for the abandoned and abused

On this blog, I'm experimenting a bit with whether it might actually be possible to earn anything with Google AdSense. But with pigs as a theme, it's a constant battle to filter out ads for businesses that I consider abusive. That includes most websites related to the meat industry and hunting tourism, but today I also seem to have been advertising for an irresponsible pet potbellied pig breeder/factory.

Their ad says, "extra tiny - beautiful colours - ship worldwide", and on the website to which it points there are pictures of tiny piglets and below them links that say "add to cart" (with the note "pigs in picture are not the pigs you will receive - just examples").
The pictures on the site, with just one exception, though I'm not quite sure about that one either, all show pictures of tiny piglets, not full-grown pigs - although it's with the full-grown ones you will spend the most of your life.

Under "Satisfied customers around the world", it says, "I have shipped piggers all over the U.S. including HAWAII and all over the world to JAPAN, EUROPE & Alaska." What kind of person gets a pet transported such a long way, instead of getting a friend closer to home? Won't the pig be traumatized by the long transport?
And: "4 other Japanese men flew over here just to see my piggers! I took them to other breeders' farms to see other potbelly pigs, but they didn't want theirs - they wanted mine because of the small size & pug noses. I know they will be taken care of, they bought two of them from me two years ago & still have them, but wanted more of my little darlings." - Wow, they actually still have the pigs they bought from you two years ago? Is that enough to say they will be taken care of? Talk about low standards.

The breeder does seem to have some sort of resposibility, as she has an "emergency helpline", a phone number you can call 24/7 if you have 'problems' with your pig. She also guarantees that if "for any reason you need to get rid of your pigger, even years from when you bought it I will take it back, and if there is something wrong with it (health wise, genetically) I will give your money back."

But overall, the piglets she breeds are spoken of as goods or toys to buy and play with, because "they are so funny, entertaining & sweet". Not a word about how sensitive pigs are, how much responsibility it takes to keep a pig (or any other animal), how tricky they can be to train and live with, as they are more intelligent than dogs and can easily start manipulating humans (and so can dogs, but pigs can outsmart stupid and inconsequent humans even easier), or wrecking your house and garden out of boredom or frustration.

And another VERY alarming thing is that she states: "I clip their teeth [...] at 1 day old." WHY????
Clipping teeth is a common practise in factory farming, because it "reduces injuries" from fighting and tail-biting (which is a result of the enormous psychological stress of living in terribly cramped, noisy and dirty conditions in factory farms). Here is a report from the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia that has come to the conclusion that even in factory farms, tooth clipping is not really necessary. And here is a BBC article about a farm with free-ranging pigs, where the pigs don't need to have their teeth clipped. Why on earth would pet pigs need to have their teeth clipped?!

I probably couldn't ever breed any animals commercially, because for one thing I think it's unethical, with so many pets abandoned on the streets or in shelters all over the world by irresponsible 'owners', and for another I would live in constant horror about the possibility that the new owners of my little babies would treat them wrong.

If you do know that you can handle a pig and take full responsibility for it, are able to care for it, love it and be consequent and fair to it, you should consider adopting it from a shelter or sanctuary. You should definitely NOT buy it from breeders like this, who treat pigs like toys or objects!

Here is a list of a few sanctuaries and shelters for pigs (not all of them have pigs for adoption, but they treat the pigs they care for with respect and as individuals, something everyone can learn something from):

Pigs, a sanctuary
Ironwood Pig Sanctuary
Pigs Peace Sanctuary
Shepherd's Green Sanctuary
Pig Pals Sanctuary
Belly Draggers Ranch

Hearts on Noses

Farm Animal Rescue

Schutzengel für Tiere

These are just a few. Sadly, there are many more, as all too many people abandon their 'pets' after getting them without realising what it means to care for a pig.

Model + Pig

When researching one subject, I keep coming across something else I want to mention.

A couple of years back, Sisley had an advertisement campaign that featured a model getting friendly with a pig:

In the blog g.o.r.i.l.l.a./livingfromlove, based in Brussels, the author asks the question:

"For example if you are one of countless Muslims who live near this advertisement in central Brussels, how do you handle its challenge to your cultural preferences?"

Figure that pigs are actually very nice animals, and that the religious ban on eating pork could actually have more to do with them being too human-like to be eaten than them being "filthy" (as the only reason why they might be 'filthy' is that humans keep them in filthy conditions)?

Well, a corporation like Sisley might not be the best advocate for that kind of revolution of the mind, but a girl can dream, can't she ...?

Pig baskets

I was randomly googling "pig biscuits" trying to make myself feel good looking at pig-shaped cookies (I seem to have gotten a slight flu). But the subject of pigs is, as always, ambiguous ...

I came across the blog of Singaporean dimsumdolly. She writes at one point about sweet mid-autumn delights, such as mooncakes. Leftover dough from mooncakes is used to make another kind of pastry:

"In order not to waste the dough, the bakeries make it into shapes of mini piglets and place them in these baskets. It was said that in the olden days in China, these "Zhu Long" (猪笼 pig baskets) made of bamboo were used to drown adulterous couples. The villagers would place the adulterous pair in a basket each and throw them into the sea."

A harsh tradition from harsh times, but these "pig baskets" are in fact a horrible way of transporting live pigs that seems to be pretty common in East Asia even today, though nowadays the baskets are not always made of bamboo. If you can handle it, here is a picture of the practise, and here another one (in Vietnam). The pigs are indeed alive - when they are dead no baskets are used. (Read more about livestock transport in Asia and the Pacific in Guidelines for Humane Handling, Transport and Slaughter of Livestock by the Asia/Pacific regional office of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.)

Of course, it should go without saying that the transport of pigs in the meat industry of other parts of the world is usually not much more humane.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Breastfeeding pigs

Tori Amos (left) has appeared breastfeeding a piglet on the album sleeve of her record Boys for Pele (about which she talks a bit in this interview), alienating hundreds of "fans" (not true fans, I guess) and apparently shocking the hell out of bigot America.

Breastfeeding pigs is in fact something fairly normal among certain tribes in New Guinea.

But there, it's not really anything more eyebrow-raising than "a low-tech version of U.S. sheep ranchers bottle-feeding orphaned lambs", as's article on pigs puts it. Taking care of the pigs, the only domesticated animals they have, is one of the main tasks of traditional New Guinean women.

The traditional society in this area doesn't have that much equality between the sexes. In Women Speak Out! A Report of the Pacific Women's Conference (1976) - from where also the black and white photograph below right is taken, it is written in the section about common legal problems for women in Papua New Guinea:

"[Wives] were expected to work long hours in the gardens, then walk home carrying huge loads of firewood and food, then go to the river for water, then cook dinner - and through it all, tend the children. While they did all this work, the men occassionally hunted or fished - or mostly sat under the trees and 'protected' the women from enemy attacks."

As for pigs,

"Women did all the work of caring for pigs - even breast-feeding sick piglets - but their husbands owned them and decided when they would be traded, killed for a feast or given to someone else."

A normal day for traditional New Guinean women might look like Neil Nightingale describes it:

"Each day they take the animals to the gardens and tether them close by. If they are constructing new sweet potato mounds the women allow the pigs to root around in the ground they are about to prepare. In this way the pigs get to feed off any remaining sweet potato tubers while helping the women by churning the soil. In the evening the pigs accompany the women back to their homes. Some spend the night in specially built sties; others sleep in the same huts as the women and their children. While food is prepared for the evening meal the animals are thrown scraps and even whole sweet potato tubers."

Women and pigs have a fairly close relationship:

"The pigs often have names and are treated as part of the family, being stroked, fondled, and gently spoken to as the children prepare for bed.
By tickling their udders and imitating the action of a suckling piglet females can be encouraged to lie down quietly on their side to be gently de-ticked."

In the last sentence it becomes obvious that Nightingale doesn't know very much about pigs, as he explains the pigs' lying down on their side when they get their tummies rubbed as some kind of mechanical reaction to the feeling you get from suckling piglets. Mind you, also a barrow or boar will lie down on his side when he gets his tummy rubbed, simply because it feels good.

The New Guinean pigs, though seemingly treated like pets in our culture, will eventually be killed, but, again, not like regular food animals in Western culture.

As Joyce Kilmer writes,

"Pigs are the only domesticated animals and their value in this culture is a difficult concept to grasp. Although nurtured by women, they are the most important measurement of a man's solvency."

Pigs have great economical, political and mystical importance. They are used to buy brides, sacrificed to appease ancestral spirits and to pay compensation for killing members of another tribe (Nightingale describes how he witnessed about twenty pigs and the equivalent of a thousand UK pounds in cash being handed over as part payment of a large debt for the killing of one man), and in many other important ceremonies. In some parts, "huge pig-giving festivals" are held once every few years, in order to "impress neighbours".


Alison Scott has on her blog mentioned baking "Cheesy Orange Pigs". If you scroll down the page to the comments, she will share the recipe ...

Damn, I should really try to find the photos of the pig-shaped imo-mochi (potato mochi) I made once. They looked so cute frying in the oil.

Under Milk Wood

"The sunny slow lulling afternoon yawns and moons through the dozy town. The sea lolls, laps and idles in, with fishes sleeping in its lap. The meadows still as Sunday, the shut-eye tasselled bulls, the goat-and-daisy dingles, nap happy and lazy. The dumb duck-ponds snooze. Clouds sag and pillow on Llaregyb Hill. Pigs grunt in a wet wallow-bath, and smile as they snort and dream. They dream of the acorned swill of the world, the rooting for pig-fruit, the bagpipe dugs of the mother sow, the squeal and snuffle of yesses of the women pigs in rut. They mud-bask and snout in the pig-loving sun; their tails curl; they rollick and slobber and snore to deep, smug, after-swill sleep. Donkeys angelically drowse on Donkey Down."

Dylan Thomas: Under Milk Wood - A Play for Voices

Read the whole text at Project Gutenberg, or, even better, buy the book or borrow it from your local library.
I read it in high school, and it made a deep impression on me, as did a collection of short stories by Dylan Thomas as I read them during my early university years. I had forgotten about this part with the pigs, though, until I came across a quote from it on (Yes, it's exactly what you think - natural fertilizer made from piggy excrements. But the recipe on their site for "Piggy Poop Tea" is NOT what you think.)

Friday, 6 April 2007

Pig doodlings

This seems to be the day for not very serious posts to this blog.
Here are some pigs I doodled when I had a bit of gouache paint left:

(Click to see them big)

Pig pie #3

I don't know where this comes from originally, because I've only found it randomly linked to in discussion forums and such. But it's another pig pie!

Kind of flat.