BOOKS: The Pig Who Sang To The Moon
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2004:
The Pig Who Sang To The Moon
by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Ballantine Books (1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019), 2003. 304
pages, hardcover. $25.95.
A former psychoanalyst best known for investigative work on
the history of psychiatry, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has written
chiefly about the psychology of animals and human/animal interactions
in recent years. In The Pig Who Sang To The Moon Masson explores the
emotional world of farm animals.
Each chapter relates the habits and sentient behavior of a
different species, and compares the corrupted activity of pigs,
chickens, sheep, goats, cows, ducks, and geese on modern farms
to the habits of their wild ancestors.
Masson argues that the difference between the behavior of
such animals outside of domestication and their radically altered and
shortened lives in capitivity is so great that we can infer from this
alone that they must be unhappy, even if they are not subjected to
specific abuse or maltreatment.
For us, the argument succeeds. We farmed with dairy cows,
sheep, and goats, and believed in our ignorance that because we
cared for our animals and allowed them to roam free in natural
surroundings, that they must be reasonably happy. After visiting
our local abattoir we saw for ourselves the horror of the
slaughterhouse, realized the error of our ways, gave up livestock
farming, and became vegetarians.
Masson’s anecdotes revealing the intelligence and range of
emotions of farm animals confirm our own experience, and many of his
points hit home uncomfortably.
No matter how well one treats farm animals, certain
cruelties are inevitable in raising livestock for slaughter,
including handling that is stressful for the animals, restrictions
of range and association with companions, and drastically shortened
lives. Factory farming involves all of these cruelties and many
more, intensified by close confinement.
We believe Masson could have more strongly pointed out that
the effects of animal suffering can now be scientifically measured.
Biologists can actually quantify the physiological changes that occur
in an unhappy animal–though few researchers investigating livestock
well-being would use such an anthropomorphic term, preferring to say
instead that the animal is “in a poor state of welfare.”
Masson points out that the food habits of modern society are
based upon institutionalized cruelty to other species on an
unimaginable scale. There is plenty of blame to share, including
among individual consumers who maintain ignorance of the suffering
that maintains their diet.
Masson asks, in effect, how strong is your conscience and
Knowing of the hideous cruelty of factory farming, will you
remain sunk in gluttony or vote with your supermarket dollars to stop
–Chris Mercer & Bev Pervan