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Pigs and dogs

February 28th, 2011 · No Comments

Pigs and dogs: a double standard
Updated: Monday, 28 February 2011 at 9:57 AM
The behaviour of Louie the pig in this BBC film is so like that of a dog, including the apparent enjoyment he takes in performing tricks for his owner, that it left me wondering at the conspicuous difference in our attitudes to dogs and pigs.

Pigs are often raised in intensive, factory farm conditions, bundled into an overcrowded, smelly truck, windowless like the one-way trains to Buchenwald, then slaughtered (under conditions which we hope are humane but how sure are we of that?), then eaten. In very large numbers.

Dogs are treated with enormous sympathy and affection, loved as members of the family, taken to the vet when suffering from even a slight ailment, and are there treated with kindness and deference. If we kill a dog, we “put it to sleep”, often cradling it in our arms and weeping while the vet does the painless injection. Just imagine, for a short moment, factory farms of dogs raised under the conditions to which we subject pigs by the millions, followed by a one way trip to a doggy abattoir. Or alternatively, imagine Louie the pig, being given one last trot around the agility circuit before . . .

Most of us are aware of the double standard, and are perhaps vaguely uneasy about it, but we probably don’t think about it often. If we do think about it, we perhaps justify it on the grounds that dogs are ‘smarter’ than pigs. Even if the relevance of that assumption were not open to dispute (there seems no reason to think that intelligence is correlated with the ability to feel pain or fear), is the assumption of mental superiority even true? If you wanted to devise a test of a dog’s intelligence, you would probably come up with something like the obstacle course of a standard dog-show circuit. And it is precisely this test that Louie passes, with flying colours and what looks very like enjoyment.

I offer no solution, but here is the film for your consideration. Sometimes a double standard needs no more than to be pointed out.

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