By Gabriela Magaña
It is common in today’s society to see animals as part of the human diet. Most people recognize “pork” as an ingredient in their food. However, not many people stop to think what the ingredients on their plates are. Some others have already made the connection of “ingredients” such as “pork” being actual living beings just like humans are. The question is why this issue doesn’t spread out and make a chain reaction on people’s habits.
Pigs are not just another animal species. They are the fourth most intelligent creature on earth; if given a task, they would accomplish it faster and better than a cat or a dog. In piglets’ early days, old-fashioned farmers and researchers have observed they can respond to given names within seven days of birth. In this early stage, they too can learn to play and respond to verbal communication, similar to baby humans in the same stage of life. Piglets have been observed to be insightful, curious, inquisitive, social, compassionate and intelligent. They demonstrate their highly sociable skills by greeting each other by rubbing noses, sleeping together and huddling in nests. They also cooperate in social groups and demonstrate affection by grooming one another.
One of the most valuable aspects in humans is their sense of memory and direction. Not so different from us, piglets are capable of retaining memories and recognizing fellow pigs (up to 30 individuals). In the same way any living being would act in a moment of survival, piglets can find their way over long distances in order to find food and guide their fellow partners. They even remember where food is hidden and the rest of the piglets in the pack would follow each other to it. Different from what other species do, they stick together and follow the lead of the other. When forming groups, they are capable of understanding the dynamics of the group and recognizing who is more aggressive or not and act according to others’ emotions, an aspect that had been only recognized in apes, apart from humans. This is what is called “the theory of mind,” which is the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others, as well to understand that others are different from them.
Although this and more aspects of piglets’ life have been somewhat diffused, most of the people have not made the connection of living beings and food. This is the case of an acquaintance of mine who owns a farm and raises pigs and other animals “because people need to get fed,” as she puts it; needless to say that the food she considers people “need” are the pigs that she raises and claims to love and later sends to the butcher and the pigs become dinner. She is convinced that her actions are right, and she says that “working with any animal I’ve encountered has opened my eyes” and “I look at this [raising livestock] as if I am feeding multiple families.”
Like her, there are people who refuse or are not interested to see the proven fact that people actually do not need animal products to live a healthy life. I consider it important to point out that this misconception of human diet has big flaws and in order to modify this point of view, it would be good to open ourselves to the possibility of raising all animals to the level humans are. By doing this, we could come to the point of questioning the acceptance people have when it comes to making speciesist decisions. For example, why do people choose to eat pigs, but not cats?
Therefore, I think it is important to question ourselves when we make choices in our everyday life, choices that affect other living beings. Issues like what is on our plate and the origin of the ingredients we use. When we realize the behavior of living beings, like pigs, we can reconsider what we have been told food is, and re-evaluate what we actually need for a healthy diet.