And The Real Pigs Are?

iStock_000003620670XSmallBoost Mobile has a new series of advertisements and they are trying to be disturbingly funny.

One features a woman riding a bicycle-made-for-two with several feet of underarm hair cascading in the wind… and her passenger’s face.  As she waves and her firecracker-red armpit hair billows in the wind, she asks the audience, “What? You think this is wrong?” and then proceeds to tell us what really is wrong- cell phone companies that charge hidden fees.

Yet another ad features a man carrying another full-sized adult man in a baby carrier around a grocery store.  He again asks the audience if we think the scene is “wrong” and tells us what is really wrong- again it’s the hidden fees.  Boost Mobile then tells us that with them, we will be, “UnWronged.”

The most recent commercial that I find myself seeing frequently on television is one with pigs.  They are sitting in a fancy-looking restaurant and eating… a ham hock and they tell us that it isn’t wrong that they are merely, “enjoying the flavors of a fallen friend.”

This would be funny like the other commercials- ironic, a little disturbing and somewhat disgusting, if it weren’t completely true.

Currently CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) all over US are doing exactly what we find so disgusting in this commercial.

To begin, the name in and of itself is disturbing. Picture what a “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation” must look like.  The mental image associated with such terminology is metallic, cold, severe and without the slightest element of humanity.  Personally, I picture animals tied down with feeding tubes shoved down their throats as they spend their days motionless in cages, the prisoners of an American style of eating where we want unlimited meat and have no desire to pay more than a few dollars for it.

Think of it this way: would any person want to eat in a Concentrated Human Feeding Operation?

Currently “pig-meal” is fed to cattle in CAFOs all over the US and cattle of course are vegetarian… or are, at the very least, genetically designed to be so.

To make matters worse just as it is in the Boost commercial… it isn’t only cows eating pigs…its pigs eating pigs.

If you’ve ever seen the classic animated film, “Charlotte’s Web,” you’ve gotten at least the vague idea of what a pig eats… whatever is put in front of it.

Pigs who are unfortunate enough to live and die in factory farms are the ultimate garbage disposals- they’ll eat whatever corn, vegetables, fats, bones and scraps that are fed to them, even if it is the “flavors of a fallen friend”- and it isn’t as if they have a choice in the matter.

Piglets in CAFOs never learn how to be pigs. After only 10 days of life these pigs are taken (unweaned) from their mothers and placed in the confinements in which they will live the remainder of the terribly sad and tragically short lives. Because their mother’s milk cannot fatten them nearly as quickly as the hormone and fat-saturated formula force-fed them in the CAFOs, it just isn’t “financially responsible” to allow the young piglets to wean.  Each pig is in a cage that is so tiny that they cannot turn around, move or even properly lie down.

Pigs are universally understood to be clever, sensitive and empathetic animals and are often compared to dogs in their temperament and intelligence… imagine your dog living like this…

“Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us ever pause to consider the life of the pig- an animal easily as intelligent as a dog- that becomes the Christmas ham” (Pollan, 306).

These sensitive and thoughtful young pigs who are intelligent and do have “feelings,” become depressed by their lifestyle of pain and suffering, living over a lagoon of their own feces and, unable to socialize, they begin to act out. Because the cages are back-to-back in the CAFOs, and because of the early weaning and depression, the piglets will often “nurse” or “suckle” on the cute curly tail of the pig in front of them.

This, however, can become excessive and cause infection in the pig whose tail is being suckled. In factory farms things such as infection and diseases spread like wild-fire thanks to the close quarters and unsanitary conditions. So infections aren’t an option. What to do?

Instead of giving the pigs more time to wean, more space to move and a clean place to live, factory farms merely chop off the tails of the piglets, they euphemistically call it, “tail-docking”… and they do it all without so much as a drop of anesthetic.   They use a pair of pliers and take it off- but not all of it.   Leaving a small part of the tail will guarantee that if a pig’s tail is suckled or chew that it will hurt- it will hurt a great deal and the pig will struggle, fight, kick and squeal in resistance.

Remember- they have the intelligence of man’s best friend… and by continuing to eat pig we are, condoning this behavior. It is language of consent every time we order “pork” on a menu, every time we serve it to our family. We are eating a tortured animal.

Now, vegetarianism isn’t for everyone and there are humane and sustainable ways to eat pig. But just because it says, “grass-fed” or “organic” on a label doesn’t really mean anything. The USDA and FDA don’t really have a definition for “grass-fed” and “organic” simply means that there are no unnatural ingredients- it doesn’t say anything about tail-docking or pig-cannibalism. The only way to know, to really know is to go to your local farmers market, ask about their practices, go to see the farm, learn for yourself. By simply having a 5×5 foot square of grass outside of the mass of cages a farmer can claim their pigs are “grass-fed” or “free-range,” and that is true for all other types of livestock as well.

Yes, your pig meat will cost more, and yes you might not be able to eat it quite as often, but how much is torture worth? How much does the life of an animal cost? How much would you pay to save your puppy from such a horror?

Ask yourself those questions… and then ask if the few extra dollars are really that much.

Americans aren’t just paying for meat with our money- we’re paying with our souls.

—————————————————— For more information on CAFOs, factory farming, tail docking and other horrors of the American livestock farming read:

Hamilton, Doug. Modern Meat (A documentary for Frontline; aired on PBS, April 18th 2002).

Nierenberg, Danielle. Happier Meanls: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry. (Washington DC: Worldwatch Institute, 2005).

Ozeki, Ruth. My Year of Meats. (New York; Penguin, 1999).

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (New York, Penguin Books, 2007)

Indispensable and life-changing- you will NEVER eat the same way again!

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001).

Of course you can also visit:

and many, many more!

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  1. Thank you, Erin, for an inspiring and informative article! Animal Joy

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