J500 Media and the Environment

Pigs of an African Past by alyv

Nabombe Silangwa doesn’t understand why Americans use the term “pigsty” to describe a dirty room. She doesn’t get the phrase “to eat like a pig” either.

“Where I come from, pigs are the cleanest animals we have on a farm,” she says.

cute-pig1For Nabombe, pigs were the pride and joy of her family’s small farm in Zambia.

She describes pigs as “neat freaks,” as obsessive compulsive. She says they won’t eat food if it’s touched anything but their snouts, and that their living quarters are divided – one corner for food, another for waste.

How far the “civilized world” has digressed.

According to an article by Jeff Tietz for Rolling Stone, pigs on American factory-farms have slightly different living conditions:
• Pigs can’t move.
• Pigs can’t breathe.
• Pigs can’t wash.
• They stand in their own feces – that is until it drops through a 1-foot hole along with anything else that might fit (placenta, piglets, syringes).
• They die of infections from the small quarters and their diminishing immune systems.
• Their stench assaults the nostrils of residents several miles away.
• Their feces creates pink pools of toxins, which bring death to any who dare come near.

Rather than a cherished member of the family, as they were on Nabombe’s African farm, pigs held in factory farms are a threat to the lives of any organism in the vicinity, including humans.

Neighbors of one factory hog farm – a Smithfield Foods farm in North Carolina – say they can’t leave their homes some days because the odor is too overpowering. Many residents continue to collapse from the stench, and few homes can mask the smell.

Pigs in America are an emblem for the dirty, the foul, the uncivilized, the wretched. And why should they be any different? We made them that way; we gave them the reputation we so ardently abhor.

My friend Nabombe doesn’t understand America’s portrayal of the pig.

I wish I didn’t either.

Something about this seems too dramatic; I’ll let you be the judge. Personally, I would recommend putting this one on mute. The pictures do tell a compelling story.


Thanks to the University of Western Ontario for the picture.

Thanks to You Tube for the video.


5 Comments so far
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In CAFOS, the pigs also have their tails docked (while fully conscious) so that they won’t nip at each other (a behavior only exhibited in confined quarters; similar to debeakiing of chickens). In his book “Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food,” Gene Baur relates a story about his time taking Ag classes at Cornell; a grad student took the students out and showed them how to dock the pigs tails and notch their ears (for id); slowly the students overcome their initial repulsion and each took a hand at the activity. They later were told that the piglets died (Baur suspects that they bled to death from all the cutting).

It’s not surprising that Ms. Silangwa is not from the U.S. as we do seem exceptionally slow in questioning our farm animal’s lives. For almost 10 years, now, the EU has had treatment standards on the books (http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/farm/pigs_en.htm) that actually reflect earlier (1998) protection standards (http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/farm/index_en.htm).

Comment by marybethw

The more I hear about the horrible things that are done to these creatures, the more it makes me want to cry. I don’t understand how people can be so cruel, so completely oblivious and apathetic to the well-being of living things that share the earth with us. It’s disgusting.

Comment by alyv

The perspective of a girl from Africa is so interesting on this topic. I think the fact that we DO use these wrong analogies, like calling a room a pigsty, clearly shows us how disconnected we are from the animals that we eat. We don’t know their characteristics, because we don’t like to think of them as anything other than food….

Comment by amandat09

It is very cruel how animals are treated in factory farms. Your post makes a good point. I can’t understand it either why people are so cruel. And for what reason?

Comment by oneandonlyhypnos

[…] not what happens. When you pause, when you take time to connect with people, you get to meet immigrants from Zambia and urban farmers in Kansas City. You get to see people, really see them. And you get to learn more […]

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