Aug 19, 2014

The Pig Who Sang to the Moon

by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

This book makes a very strong case for turning vegan. In it, Masson looks closely at the emotional lives of common farm animals: the pig, cow, goat, sheep, chicken. Also ducks and geese. He presents evidence that these animals are quite sensitive, amiable and sociable creatures, which made them easy to domesticate in the first place. They make friends, often from other species. They get lonely, mourn the loss of their young or companions, show fear at approaching death. They display gratitude and trust towards those who treat them kindly. They like music.They can dream. One scientist, Masson informs me, says that even bees dream (about flowers). Yes, the book is full of anecdotes but there is also scientific evidence presented of how certain animals' brains have very similar functions to ours. Of course they can feel: emotions are more basic than logical thought (and so many animals display that, too). So, the point of it all is that these animals have the same basic needs and desires we have: to live comfortably, be with their companions, raise their offspring. Knowing that should influence how we treat them. I was aware before of the awful conditions pigs, chickens and cows are usually kept in, but did not know other things for example how goose down is stripped from living birds (kept in crowded conditions) so that they can grow more feathers and be stripped again. It is so painful for them they often go into shock, and after four or five "pluckings" they die. It seems to me that sheep are goats are not treated so badly as the others, but Masson points out that we still take their young away from them, cause them stress and pain and often misunderstand or ignore their needs. Not to mention eating lambs: Mary had a little lamb / Her father shot it dead / And now it goes to school with her / Between two chunks of bread.

A tough thing, to be the child of a farmer. But the book isn't all about animal distress! Much of it is intriguing accounts of how how animals feel, the depth of their emotional lives. Other things too, like the fact that in ancient Egypt pigs were not eaten but valued for their work in agriculture- they were used to thresh grain and to plant it, too. Goats show a sense of humor. They don't actually eat tin cans but will eat the paper labels off cans, or shirts off a clothesline! Wild ducks know which ponds on private land are safe during hunting season, and will flock there the day before the season opens. How do they know? Pigs' skin and organs are so similar to humans that scientists are studying how to use them in transplants. And more. Compelling book.

Rating: 4/5      277 pages, 2003

Note: if you have written about this book on your blog, do tell me know in the comments. For some reason google blog search fails me: I get pages upon pages of results from top-name booksellers, animal-rights websites (relevant, but not what I want) and media sources, not blogs. I looked through eight pages of results without finding one normal reader's blog. Why?

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