“Pigs have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than] three-year-olds.” (Dr. Donald Broom, Cambridge)
“Pigs are able to focus with an intensity I have never seen in a chimp.” (Dr. Stanley Curtis, Penn State)
I was happy to learn that Luna, the deaf Bulldog mix who escaped from Shaker Veterinary Hospital, was found and returned home after nine days in unforgiving January weather. I am happy for the Ratauls (Luna’s family) who were organized and unwavering, even as the days mounted. But mostly, I am happy for Luna, who is now safe and warm. A quote from one of the searchers, though, reminded me of the great divide between the accepted treatment of two comparable species: “This story really hit home. It really made everyone’s day to hear that she has been found.”
Unlike Luna, her porcine cousin (one of a hundred million who will be slaughtered in America in 2010) at a Smithfield facility in North Carolina has no one trying to save him this morning. He has no name, no collar to identify his family, no soft bed, no special treats, no strolls in the park, no sunshine, no cool breeze, no pets, no cuddles, no affection, no love. Easily as intelligent and aware as Luna, he will spend his abbreviated life in extreme deprivation (excepting the bare necessities) and unmitigated misery. He is a disposable commodity.
For our anonymous Smithfield pig, life is short, harsh, and brutally violent. Dominion author Matthew Scully was granted a guided tour of a Smithfield farm while researching his book. He wrote:
Walking around a place like Farm 2149, I do not need some utilitarian philosopher to do the moral math for me…. I do not need a contractualist philosopher to define for me an “appropriate object of sympathy.”… I do not need experts in evolutionary ecology or some other faddish field of the day to explain the hard and remorseless demands of natural selection. …Confronted with this wholesale disregard and destruction of life, all attempts to justify it strike me as vain talk, miserable excuses that cannot cover the inequity, the ungodly presumption of it, the scale and sorrow of it. Pigs and lambs and cows and chickens are not pieces of machinery, no matter how cost-efficient it may be to treat them as such. Machinery doesn’t cry or feel frightened or lonely.
Most people care about animal suffering (as evidenced by community reaction to Luna’s ordeal); only a callous few deem it insignificant. But rationally, how do we distinguish between Luna and the Smithfield pig? Convention is not an answer befitting our standing as thoughtful creatures. In the end, pigs hurt just the same as dogs, and compassion is not a finite quality.