More than just meat: Pigs are filthy, insensitive creatures only a myth

The belief that the filthier the pig, the better tasting its meat is, has led us to keep pigs in a fashion that is not only inhumane but also makes it impossible for them to stay clean

Maneka Gandhi December 12, 2016 16:01:06 IST
More than just meat: Pigs are filthy, insensitive creatures only a myth

When I move away from the city (if there is a place left in India which is not "developed" by then), I shall keep pigs as "pets" or rather co-sharers of the place I inhabit.

If there is one common animal about whom our ignorance is the greatest, it is the pig. Greedy, fat, filthy, gross, selfish and insensitive are some of the adjectives applied to them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Friendly, forgiving, good natured, fun-loving, sociable and intelligent — with one of the highest IQ level among all animals including a dog — are the true quali­ties of the pig.

More than just meat Pigs are filthy insensitive creatures only a myth

Representational image. AP

Busting the myths

An import from Europe, the belief that the filthier the pig, the better tasting its meat is, has led us to keep pigs in a fashion that makes it impossible for them to stay clean. Left to itself, the pig is as clean as any jungle creature. Yes, he does wallow in the mud, but so does a deer, an elephant, a buffalo and birds like sparrows. And, it is not because they love mud, but to gain relief from flies and other parasitical insects that our garbage and sewages have inflicted on the city.

Pigs like being scratched on the back. They lick you if they like you. They follow their "owners", greeting them with grunts. They wiggle with pleasure and understand instructions. They rub themselves against their owners' legs to express delight at seeing them. They also make excellent parents, shepherding and protect­ing their young — much better than dogs or cats would.

Albert Schweitzer wrote about a pet wild hog (an animal that is still hunted to death in India especially by tea and coffee planters) that lived outside his house in Africa. "How shall I sufficiently praise your wisdom, Josephine! To avoid being bothered by gnats at night, you adopted the custom of wandering into the boys’ dormitory and of lying down there under the first good mosquito net. How many times because of this have I had to compensate with tobacco leaves, those upon whom you forced yourself as a sleeping companion. And when the sand fleas had so grown in your feet that you could no longer walk, you hobbled down to the hospital, let yourself be turned over on your back, endured the knife that the tormentors stuck into your feet, put up with the burning of the tincture of iodine, with which the wounds were daubed, and grunt­ed your thanks when the matter was once and for all done with."

Torture in pig farms

Would you eat your dog? Or your cat? You not only eat this loyal, friendly and intelligent creature as pork, ham, salami, bacon, rashers and trotters, but you kill it in the vilest ways possible — hitting it with a hammer on its head in Kerala, setting it on fire in Delhi, putting iron rods up its anus in Tamil Nadu and sticking 20 or more small knives into its trussed body, a practice fol­lowed all over India so that the blood runs out slowly. Have you heard a pig scream? It cries like a child screaming for mercy. In India, we don’t kill a pig at once. The belief is that if it takes a long time to die, the meat will be more tender. I don’t know about the truth of this, but I certainly know that the meat will be extremely poisonous, as bile and acids increase in the dying pig.

"Modern" pig factories are like poultry farms; industrial com­plexes where the pig is not a living breathing creature, but a "pork producer". Pig farmers abroad don’t call themselves that. They are officially known as "pork production engineers". The magazine Hog Farm Management writes: "Forget the pig is an animal. Treat him like a machine in a factory. Schedule treatment like you would lubrication. Breeding season like the first step in an assembly line. And marketing like the delivery of finished goods."

Here is how the "machinery" is kept all over the world:

Each pig is placed in a stall so cramped that it can hardly move: it's called a ‘bacon bin’. The floors are slatted over large pits into which the urine and faeces of the animals fall. The air is unbreathable, saturated and stinking of ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulphide. Pigs have a highly developed sense of smell. Indeed, traditionally they were used in France to smell out a rare species of mushroom. But here, they breathe this putrid air day and night. It makes them listless, they lose weight, start coughing and develop respiratory problems— which is why they are constantly fed tetracycline antibiotics.

These confined pigs, apart from developing pneumonia, very quick­ly get painful lesions on their feet and legs. They sit and stand abnormally to try and relieve the pain and very soon their joints and muscles become crippled as well. Bedding could reduce the pain — but who would provide bedding to pork chops? According to the editorial in Farmer and Stockbreeder: "The animal will usually be slaughtered before serious deformity sets in."

A normal pig will give birth to not more than six piglets a year and breed once. These factories pump the sow with hormones, progestins and steroids so that her "production" is over 20 in several birthings. Each time the piglets are taken away from her within a week. She calls and cries for them till her milk dries away. And, she is immediately made pregnant again. This goes on until the stress kills her.

Imagine the intelligent and sensitive creatures tortured by standing in their own waste, their legs full of painful running sores and their skeletons deformed. Many go completely mad with the pain and fear. They start attacking and biting the tails of the pigs next to them. But the factory managers have an answer to this as well. First, the pigs are kept in darkness, as they have found that pigs are less active in the dark. They cut off the pigs' tails.

A dietary challenge

What are these creatures fed, that is, apart from sulpha drugs and hormones? They are fed recycled waste, raw poultry and pig manure — that is their own waste. When I first started the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre, we hit upon the "brilliant" idea of asking hotels for their waste food for our animals. After a month of negotiations, the first consignment came. It was so stinky, dirty and stale that our animals gagged — and preferred to stay hungry. I refused to take any more.

That food, that bilge, goes to the pig feeding factories. And that is what you get in your pork and bacon and salami. Over 80 per cent of the pigs slaughtered have pneumonia, stomach ulcers, dysentery, trichinosis, every kind of worm, abscesses and now something called pseudo-rabies. If you want all these diseases, stay on a pork diet.

What is happening to us? How can we condemn Hitler’s chambers of death and the thousands of people who took part in the kill­ing — when each one that eats meat is part of this inhuman system of mass torture. The animal, a sentient, pain-feeling and knowledge-filled creature, is kept with contempt and killed brutally, a process institutionalised on a mass scale and growing as our appetite for pork increases. It is plain and simple murder — and your perverted appetite (for man’s body is vegetar­ian) cannot justify it.

Is this the same gentle, humane India which we talk about, steeped in tolerance and mercy? As long as you eat pork, man’s inhumanity grows.

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