A while back, our friend + neighbor, Lara, sent us an email with a subject that read “No more bacon after this video….” Said video (below) showed a woman leading a pig named Lucy through a series of fairly impressive tricks—from sitting on command, to playing a mean avant-garde keyboard riff with her snout, to a little guitar strumming with her hoof.
Point well taken—pigs are smart. Smarter than dogs, some would say. Smarter—even—than cats, though our cat, Allister, would likely take offense to such a notion. But with hard science backing up such observations, most would be hard-pressed to argue the point. According to an article in the New York Times—
“(Researchers have) found that pigs are among the quickest of animals to learn a new routine, and pigs can do a circus’s worth of tricks: jump hoops, bow and stand, spin and make wordlike sounds on command, roll out rugs, herd sheep, close and open cages, play videogames with joysticks, and more. For better or worse, pigs are also slow to forget. ‘They can learn something on the first try, but then it’s difficult for them to unlearn it,’ said Suzanne Held of the University of Bristol. ‘They may get scared once and then have trouble getting over it.'”
If you didn’t at least silently give that last statement an “aw,” you’re totally a terrible jerk.
Some would argue that an animal’s intelligence isn’t nearly as relevant as its sentience or the mere ability to register fear, pain, etc when considering moral issues with regards to them, and I’d wholeheartedly agree. But it does give many of us pause when considering, say, eating bacon or consuming any other product derived from pigs when we see how smart and seemingly cognizant they are.
And it raises serious questions, I think. Like, why do we eat some animals and not others? Is it just because some are furry + cute and look adorable when you superimpose the words “I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER?” overtop of a photo of them while others are kinda gross and smell like farm funk? Or is it just because it’s been hard-wired into us that cats + dogs are our domesticated companions and pigs, cows, goats, etc are animals to be used for food regardless of their intelligence; regardless of their ability to feel pain when they’re killed or branded or a tag’s shot through their ear; regardless of the undeniable woe that a mother cow goes through when a calf is taken away from her immediately after birth so her milk can be used for us instead; regardless of the literal insanity that’s brought about packing beak-less chickens into cages until their skin is featherless and rubbed raw?
We’re not the preachy types when it comes to being vegan, but it just doesn’t parse to us. When it comes down to it, we’ve always thought it’s been a simple matter of distancing oneself that’s allowed so many of us to go on eating and abusing animals for so very, very long.
But when you see a video like this—for us at least—it seems pretty hard to assert that this obviously intelligent animal would somehow be cool with us killing her simply because we think her meat tastes awesome when you fry it up. I’m sure it does—I remember that it does, in fact, and I miss it—but is it worth killing her and enslaving millions of animals just as smart and feeling as her?
It isn’t. It simply isn’t, especially with all the amazing options out there for cruelty-free foods. And especially when you consider the wildly effective health benefits that come with cutting meat + dairy and the impressively lessened ecological impact that results from adopting a plant-based diet.
Just in case you’re not yet convinced though, we’re throwing in another video Lara sent us recently. This second pig not only knows how to swim, but he’s also clearly a moral superior to many of us, risking his tiny, tiny pig life to save…a drowning baby goat. What???