The View from the HudsonIn Praise of Swine

Not long ago, we had a bit of a dust up here in my Hudson River town. The normal whitetail deer population is supposed to be about 5 per square mile. In this area of the country, we have around 60....

Not long ago, we had a bit of a dust up here in my Hudson River town.

The normal whitetail deer population is supposed to be about 5 per square mile. In this area of the country, we have around 60.

I can’t tell you what havoc this causes. Car accidents, disease (they carry the deer tick, which in turn often carries the dreaded Lyme disease). They eat our gardens and annoy us. But more importantly, they are destroying the “understory,” the lower portion of our forests, the areas that provide food and cover to innumerable smaller species.

This caused a strange battle in the village – many of the environmentalists came out in favor of a program to let hunters “harvest” these animals and provide the meat to a local foodback. Win/win right? The problem is that some people could not bear to think of the slaughter of animals in our midst.

Before going any further, I have to disclose that I am pro-responsible-hunting and I make part of my living though hunting and fishing programs. I have a specific reason for this, although hunting is expressedly against my religion (kosher food – and deer are kosher – must be slaughtered in a ritual way which is meant to reduce the suffering of the animal). The reason I am in favor of hunting is that I believe a lifetime in my backyard, followed by several terrible minutes is much better than the lives we make animals live in a factory “farms.” Also, I like venison.

I also admit that the taste of ham and other pork products can be quite delicious. But I have sworn off pig meat. This started as a religious inclination, though I hypocritically gobble seafood whenever I can. Somehow pork seems more unkosher – even though the bible has no such hierarchy – unkosher is unkosher.

I swore off the meat of the hog when I read an article about the fact that researchers have included our porcine friends in the category of animals that have a sense of “self.” The sages of Judaism taught that all animals have a soul, and it’s long been known that pigs are even smarter than dogs.

What they found was something even more astounding. Pigs can recognize themselves in a mirror, When pig sees his own reflection, he says to himself, “That’s me.” We don’t know what “me” means to a pig. But it means something.

When my best friend, a dog named Midnight, sees a reflection of himself, he barks at the dog on the other side of the glass.

The way they measure a sense of self in animals is simple – they stick a pig in front of a mirror, then place some food behind him. Most animals, including Midnight would try to get the food on the other side of the glass. A pig turns around and eats the food. He said, “That food is behind ME.”

The pig joins elephants, dolphins, magpeies and apes in this special club. I think all of these species should be on the “no-eat” list. Call it my own kosher law.

It’s well know that pigs experience depression. Imagine what happens to a sentient being in the conditions that they are subjected to in the average factory farm, separated from their families, never seeing light, with only a tiny box for their entire miserable life?

I bet he’d trade that for a lifetime in nature until he is shot by a hunter. (Another disclosure, I have been known to eat wild boar on occasion for this same reason).

Now I had no quarrel with the vegetarians and vegans who fought the hunting laws in my village. I have one acquanintence who fought it in speeches at village meetings, letters to the local newspaper, even working for a party to oust the Democrats who were considering the proposal. But then again, he will not wear leather shoes or a leather belt. Fair enough.

But the people who fought hunting at the risk of other species, and even though the deer population is so high that they often contract a malorder called wasting disease yet go puncture the cellophane wrap around a pork chop as if it was manufactured in that form, and then fry it up? A person who adds ham to a soup recipe without ever thinking of where the animal came from? I invite them to trade places with a factory-farm swine.

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