25 May, 2009

Pages, pigs

My time, recently, has been entirely occupied with writing and editing and fretting over details that didn't seem important when I thought I was proving something, some other time in the previous four years.

So rather than a real post, you get a couple of photos of working from who-knows-what.

And some thoughts that other people had about keeping pigs in sow crates and farrowing pens:

From: xxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Pigs
Date: 20 May 2009 9:30:52 AM
To: xxxxxxxxxxx

I heard about the controversy in NZ with Mike King and pork.

And now the pig farmers are fighting back:


It doesn't take much philosophical training to find some pretty serious shortcomings in the case that the pig farmers make. This argument happens to be my favourite:

Pigs brought up in pens were especially bred for that purpose and it would be cruel to remove them from that environment once they had been reared in it, he said.

?!? I count no less that four serious shortcomings in argument presented in this single sentence:

1) Does being bred for "a purpose" mean that the animals are in some special natural state? Slaves were brought to America for the purpose of being slaves. Does that mean that they are in some special natural state? The appeal to "purpose" gets you no where (unless you are god--but I don't happen to believe in divine purpose arguments either...)

2) Do these pig loving farmers have any evidence that it is cruel to remove pigs from their pens? I assume that they have academic papers verifying that their happy pigs become most unhappy in rooting around in green pastures.

3) The pens are not just pens, but rather they are horribly confining pens. To make their argument work, the farmers need to defend the use of horribly confining pens not the mere use of pens in general.

4) Even if I granted the farmers their story that it would be cruel to remove the pigs from their pens, this is no justification whatsoever for keeping the next generation of pigs in pens! That is to say, even if the current generation of pigs has gone mad as a result of being raised in solitary confinement (and I believe that there is ample evidence that they do go mad) and cannot socialise with other pigs, this does not mean that the next generation ought to be reared in the same way!

Oh well, I'm sure that NZ will be outraged for a week or two then return to their fantasy that uniquely amongst peoples of the world they are clean, green animal lovers when in reality they couldn't give a shit.

Cynically yours,


PS Maybe I should try to write an opinion column--I think that I have seen some equally trashy reporting of this issue in the Herald that warrants some kind of slap on the wrist for stupid journalism.

Anne Else seemed to pre-empt the whole public outrage, with a point that the pile of liver, that seems to constitute the main-stream media, has missed: the link between pigs in cramped factory farms and the transmission of disease between pigs and from pigs to people... Swine 'flu!

She followed up with a post on a sociological (sort of) aspect from the sow crating issue. It's a fair point: even if food products were labeled as ridiculously emotively as "this bacon is made from pigs who lived in agony and misery --- your purchase condones such barbaric, torturous practices" there would be people who didn't feel that they were able to afford to buy alternative products (and who didn't think as far as whether they needed to be eating pork in the first place).

The point is, I think, saying that consumers should be aware of what they eat and should make their preferences known with their purchases is a shoddy argument that tries to let industries continue doing things they shouldn't do at all, and which the law should not allow.