The Fruits of Civilization (84-2) Pigs


Pigs are cognitively complex. ~ American behavioral zoologist Lori Marino & American-English zoologist Christina Colvin

Domestic pigs descended from wild boars: a gregarious species first domesticated in the Near East 9,000 years ago.

Domestication was not difficult. Drawn to feeding on human scraps, all it took to pen pigs was to put a fence around people’s leftovers. Selective breeding took some of the feistiness while favoring plumper pigs.

That swine are savvy is indisputable. These highly social creatures can solve complex problems at least as well as chimps, are playful and empathic, have excellent memories, and share the emotional range common to humans, other mammals, and birds.

Pigs really are rather clever. ~ English evolutionary psychologist Richard Byrne

Though taboo in the Middle East and Muslim world, pork is the most widely eaten meat: over 1 billion pigs are slaughtered worldwide every year. Americans consume 120 million of them. The US is 3rd in global porcine production, following Brazil and China, which slaughters 500 million pigs annually.

97% of American swine are kept in cruel industrial pens. This kills over 10% of the pigs before they can be slaughtered for food.

Per-capita pig consumption in China every year is 39 kilograms; about 1/3rd of a hog. Americans belly up to 27 kg per person per year.

Pigs have long been at the center of Chinese culture, cuisine, and family life. Pork is the country’s main meat. The Chinese eat the whole hog; everything from trotter to tail.

The Chinese character for family is a pig under a roof. Meat and pork are the same word in Mandarin.

Into the 1980s, every rural home in China had a hog. Pigs were part of the household recycling system. They consumed otherwise inedible waste and were valued for their manure.

Following a fatal outbreak of porcine blue-ear disease in 2006 that killed millions of pigs and sent pork prices skyrocketing, China set up a strategic national pork reserve of frozen pork and live pigs. China’s pig production has become almost as industrialized as America’s, with dismal confines for porcine.