Saturday 2 May 2009

Egypt's "cowardly" mass killing of pigs

In Egypt, mass slaughter of the country's 300,000 pigs is slowly beginning. The action was first announced as a security measure "to reduce the risk of a major swine flu outbreak in Egypt". On May 29th, faced with criticism from health experts and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, who pointed out that pigs actually do not carry the swine flu virus, Egyptian officials changed track and said that the cull was more a general health measure than a specific reaction to swine flu. They promised that "cleaner, larger pig farms would be established outside population centres".

The decision has caused an uproar in Egypt.

Egypt's pigs are raised by members of the Coptic Christian minority, garbage collectors in the Cairo slums, who feed them food scraps they collect on their rounds. Culling the pigs would severely threaten their livelihoods. According to the NY Times, "It remains unclear if the government will compensate the farmers for their losses. The Health Ministry originally said the farmers would be paid, but after many in Parliament disagreed, the ministry appeared to back down."

Journalist Per Björklund has written about the situation in his blog.
"Actually, no one I spoke to brought up this issue or portrayed the decision to slaughter the pigs as an attack on christians as a religious group. Instead, one of them offered another theory concerning the motives: 'This is nothing new. Some people have been propagating against the pig farms for a long time. The reason is that there is influential people who want our land, to build expensive apartments. They take this opportunity to get rid of us once and for all.'"

DSC_0007_s, originally uploaded by Per Bjorklund. He has some more photos from the Cairo neighbourhood he visited.

Animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot has written a letter to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak protesting the decision: “Taking advantage of the global hysteria over the propagation of ’Mexican’ flu, which has nothing to do with animals, in order to launch a campaign to exterminate pigs raised by a destitute section of the population is extremely cowardly."

She also urged the authorities not to proceed with their stated intention to set up what one agriculture ministry official called “new farms in special areas, like in Europe."

Ms Bardot called such facilities “horrific and shameful". “To want to kill all these animals and then later establish intensive piggeries where they will be packed tightly together and badly treated is unacceptable,” she wrote, urging Mr Mubarak to prevent the swine slaugher.

(Source: Times Online)

Let us all take action! Write emails to the Egyptian government protesting this ridiculous decision. Here is the government's website: - the link goes to Prime Minister Nazif's contact details, and you can also choose different ministries in the drop-down menu to get more email addresses. I haven't been able to find president Mubarak's email address yet, though ...

Here is a simple example of a letter, which you may use as is or modify:

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I am writing to you concerning the Egyptian government's decison to go through with mass killings of pigs. I agree with Ms. Brigitte Bardot, who wrote to President Mubarak recently: The way the Egyptian government is taking advantage of the global hysteria over the propagation of ’Mexican’ flu, which has nothing to do with animals, in order to launch a campaign to exterminate pigs raised by a destitute section of the population, is extremely cowardly.

As for the stated intention to set up “new pig farms in special areas, like in Europe", as a European who knows in what terrible conditions pigs are raised in our factory farms, I must say that such facilities are horrific and shameful. To want to kill all these animals and then later establish intensive piggeries where they will be packed tightly together and badly treated is unacceptable.

Please reconsider and prevent the mass slaugher of the pigs.

Yours sincerely,
[your name and location]

Tuesday 24 March 2009


Кулебяка is a traditional Russian dish: a big pirogue with some sort of filling. For the filling you can pretty much use anything (salty) you like: mushrooms, boiled eggs, spinach, cheese, rice, potatoes, cabbage, fish or whatever.

It's almost surprising how often it is made in the shape of a piggy.

A "svinokulebyaka" by meladan, posted in the LiveJournal community ru_piggy.

A sliced piggy-kulebyaka accompanies a recipe on the Russian recipe site ...

This lovely kulebyaka was made by LarkinaL and posted on the photo community

For an English-language recipe, check out Moti's Iraqi cuisine (he has a hammer and sickle variation).

Other popular non-abstract shapes include fish and crocodiles.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Pigs as symbols of capitalism

Piggy-banks are an obvious tool for accumulating capital, and thus a symbol for capitalism.

Read more about piggy banks! In the Anglo-Saxon cultural sphere, the pig shape is often dismissed as an etymological mistake between "pig" and "pygg" - a type of clay that was often used to make jars where money was stored. But as we have previously seen, pigs have been regarded as a symbol for prosperity since ancient times, so I don't entirely want to believe that explanation ...

Anyway, this video by Belarussian rock band Lyapis Trubetskoi has a lot of piggy-bank imagery.

Lyapis Trubetskoy «Capital» from Alexey Terexov on Vimeo.

The animation, by Alexei Terekhov at, depicts various politicians who are officially anti-imperialist and opposing globalization, but who in fact are more or less hypocrites motivated by personal lust for power and wealth.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Turn capitalism into fighting its ailments! With piggies! has a number of sites that raise funds to fight against hunger, breast cancer and animal abuse, and for child health and rainforest conservation.

The fundraising is done on one hand by the "one click per day" principle - if you click a certain link, you will be taken to a page with ads by sponsors who fund for example mammograms. On the other hand they sell all kinds of merchandise, and part of the revenue goes to fund for example food aid.

Capitalism can be viewed as a culprit in some of the ailments these projects are alleviating - in a socialist state, for example, healthcare and literacy would be funded by the state, highly prioritized and freely available to all citizens, while in a market economy you can much more easily fall out of the system and not get any healthcare and education if you don't have the money to pay for it (yours truly lives in a market economy and cannot afford healthcare at the moment).

Still, I guess this is a pretty clever way to use capitalist tools (advertising, consumption) for the common good.

If you buy a hand made clay piggy from Chile (where they say three-legged clay pigs bring luck!) or one of these likewise hand made piggy potholders from Thailand (made by a cooperative of retired art techers), each of the piggies purchased will fund 25 cups of food for people in need.

You can even fund a non-profit microloan for a pig in Guatemala.

Saturday 22 November 2008

Pig tooth amulets

Sergei's tooth

I made a necklace out of my pig Sergei's tusk. This is only perhaps half of his tusk - it broke off at one point.

Wild boar tusks have been worn as hunting trophies since ancient times wherever boars have been hunted. They symbolize power and manliness, since boars with their intelligence, strength and willpower are very difficult and dangerous to hunt (even in the age of rifles). In New Guinea, domestic pig teeth are a symbol of men's wealth - the more you have in your necklace, the more important you are. (See what I've written previously about pigs in New Guinea.)

But boar and pig teeth have also been used as magic charms. Those who have read or seen Howard's End will remember that there is primeval symbolism in the form of a wych elm tree, in which the countryfolk have stuck pig's teeth, so that you can chew on the bark to relieve toothache.

Britain and North America: tusks and toothache

In his 1947 book Ozark Superstitions, Vance Randolph gives a study of superstitions among the in his words most superstitious people in the United States. He met a man in McDonald county, Missouri, who kept the blind tooth (the hindmost upper molar) of a pig that he gave his children to wear around their neck whenever they had a toothache. A boar's tusk was believed by others to have the same effect when worn in your pocket; if the toothache was on the right side, you would wear it in your right pocket, and vice versa if it was on the left side. The boar's tooth supposedly also protects against venereal diseases. (The book also accounts of people during the Civil War who believed that seeing a "monstrous black hog" was a death omen, but that belongs in another post ...)

The Journal of American Folklore
Vol. 4, No. 13 (Apr. - Jun., 1891), featured an article on "The Amulet Collection of Professor Belucci". Among the hundreds of items it lists: "36. Aids in dentition of infants, five objects. Pig's tooth, bone." ("Fighting Ignorance since 1973") explains how in the origins of the tooth fairy, there are pigs: "
If an animal eats a lost baby tooth, the new teeth coming in will supposedly resemble that animal's such as a dog's tooth or pig's tooth. Letting the tooth be eaten by mice or rats will ensure that the child grows strong, sharp teeth (such folk rituals were recorded as late as 1929)."

South and Central Asia: tusks and the evil eye

Charles Godfrey Leland in 1891 popularized "Gypsy lore" in his book on Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling. "The pig, as is well known, is a common amulet, the origin thereof being that it is extremely prolific", he writes. Boar's teeth "are regarded as protective against malocchio--a general term for evil influences--especially for women during pregnancy, and as securing plenty, i.e., prosperity and increase, be it of worldly goods, honour, or prosperity."

The amulet on the left is from Vienna. (An illustration from Leland's book.)

On the website All About Sikhs, you can read about similar superstitions among Punjabi peasants: "Eating pork or wearing the teeth of a pig round the neck protects a person from the evil eye and witchcraft. [...] Some women make their children wear round their neck nazarbattus (protectors from the evil eye), [to protect from the evil eye], or sometimes for the same purpose hang pig's teeth round their neck."

Turkmen people, despite being Muslims, raise pigs. (V.G. Moshkova in her study The Tribal Gol in Turkmen Carpets, mentions a specific pattern called dunguz burun, 'pig's snout'.)
In Turkmen wedding traditions, "to escape alien eyes the bride wore a cape covering her head along with amulets and charms which were believed to possess guarding forces. All kinds of wedding clothes had a thread from a camel's wool, a pig's tooth, silver plates, beads with "eyes" fastened to them; the cape was furnished with a sawn-on triangular pouch with coal and salt inside (some nations believe that salt has guarding properties)."

These are only two kinds of boar and pig tooth related superstitions, and I'm sure there are more in other cultures of the world. (Voodoo, perhaps?)

Thursday 2 October 2008

Current call for action: Rosi!

Rosi is a dazzlingly beautiful 9 year old potbellied pig lady. She was abandoned at the Hoffnung für Tiere ("Hope for animals") shelter near Dresden, Germany, when her humans divorced. Apparently there was no place for their faithful companion of nine years in their lives anymore.
Due to Rosi's age and the fact that she has developed a breast tumour, the shelter doesn't believe she will find a new home anytime soon, if ever. But you can become her "godfather"/"godmother" and sponsor her so she will be able to live the last years of her life happily and comfortably at the shelter.
Here is the shelter's potbellied pig page with more about Rosi (in German, with many pictures). If you know German you can use the sponsorship form, and if not, you can contact the shelter directly.

A pig-shaped three course dinner! With recipes!

Nissin pig cup noodles!

Wye Jon Lee reports about the Nissin cup noodles with animal figures. There are dogs, pandas and foxes, but my favourites are of course the pigs! The soup doesn't contain any actual meat. Wye Jon Lee says the "heads" are pretty much tasteless, but the pig soup overall has an aromatic curry flavour.
You can find these instant noodles in Japan and many other Asian countries. Cup noodles are easy to prepare - just bring water to boil, add the contents of the bag to the water, and let simmer or stand in the water until the noodles are soft. Bon appetit!

Main course:
Pig pirozhki! features a recipe of Russian baked yeast dough pirogues in the shape of pigs, written by Anya (anette). The recipe is with meat filling, but you can substitute it with vegetarian alternatives. One personal favourite is a mix of potatoes, mushrooms, garlic and spinach. is in Russian only, but has an English-language recipe with the same type of dough. You just form the pirozhki into piggies instead, and give them "eyes" of black pepper.
To get more veggie action you can have sliced fresh cucumbers and tomatoes on the side, maybe with smetana? Of course, you can shape the cucumbers into pig form, too ...

Chocolate Peppermint Polka Dot Pigs!

Sarah at Once Upon a Cookie shares her recipe of lovely polka dot piggy cookies, adapted from a recipe in The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle. The mix of dark cocoa dough and white chocolate dots probably tastes as yummy as it looks!

Monday 25 August 2008

Two concrete examples of prejudice about pigs

Eddy!This is Eddy. He is currently the only pig staying at the Berlin animal shelter, where he came after his family abandoned him because of "changed living conditions".

This weekend the shelter participated in a local "family weekend" event, and invited the public to lots of fun activities and a market with good food and pet related goods. The weather was really bad, but quite a lot of people still came.

When I found Eddy, he made my heart sing. I talked to him in pigspeak and took several dozens of photos of him. While I was standing there, some other people came along, too.

Among the more neutral comments I heard was, "Yeah, you know, some people keep pigs in their apartment."

An older couple came along and stared at Eddy. Then the woman started to make faces, noises and gestures implying that there was a strong bad smell there.
But there was no bad smell at all! Only the smell of straw!

Then a family with two children, maybe 7-10 years old, came along. The girl kept muttering, "He's so fat."
Eddy isn't full grown yet, and he is quite slender for a pet pig. He doesn't even have a double chin. In accordance with his breed standard, he has a little tummy, but it would never cross my mind to consider him "fat" because of that. (Here is a full-figure photo of Eddy.)
I asked the girl why she said he was fat, but she just stared at me and left without a word. (The parents, as usual, were totally autistic towards their children and didn't exchange any thoughts with them at all.)

The only sensible explanation I have for these comments is that these people have learned that pigs are supposed to smell and that pigs are supposed to be fat, and they can't break free of those false images even when the actual reality is right in front of them.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Current call for action: Ferkelprotest!

Something I will feature from time to time on this blog is a link to a current pig rights-related action.

The first one is the German Tierschutzbund e.V. action against the castration of male piglets without anaesthesia. This obviously subjects the little pigs to terrible pain. Every year, over 20 million male piglets are castrated without anaesthesia.

But together we can fight to change German law, so that castration without anaesthesia will be outlawed!

On the website you can add your signature to protest against this cruel practise.

Are you not German? Find out whether castration without anaesthesia is also practised in your country. If it is, protest against it! Contact your local animal rights NGOs and fight together.