AR-News: (MO) When cows mourn

Animalara2003 at Animalara2003 at
Sat Nov 8 09:34:56 EST 2003,1713,BDC_2516_2410994,00.html

It's time to end exploitation of farm animals, author argues 
By Clay Evans, Camera Books Editor
November 8, 2003 
The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals by Jeffrey 
Moussaieff Masson. Ballantine, 277 pp. $25.95. 
"Radical" can be a curse word or something to be celebrated, depending on the 
audience. But when it comes to social movements — for civil rights, suffrage, 
tax revolts — it's fair to say that nothing would ever change if the "radical 
fringe" didn't first force the issue. 
So it is with animal rights, and author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has 
developed a reputation in recent years as a proud radical campaigning on behalf of 
animals. His best-selling books "The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats," "Dogs Never 
Lie About Love" and "When Elephants Weep" have fearlessly argued the "radical" 
proposition that animals, like humans, suffer and experience emotions. 
Now Masson has taken on the daunting task of extending his arguments to the 
animals we raise to eat and otherwise exploit. "The Pig Who Sang at the Moon" 
is his lively plea for understanding of that suffering. 
"The position I take in this book is a radical one," he declares in his 
introduction. A few pages later: "When we think about farm animals, it is important 
to keep in mind that the purpose of their existence is almost entirely 
defined by their death or exploitation. ... No amount of philosophical blather can 
get us past this immovable rock of, may we call it human treachery?" 
Ranging into territory that most mass-published authors — even Matthew Scully 
in "Dominion," his powerful plea for humane treatment of animals — dare not 
tread, Masson concludes that we should cease all commercial exploitation of 
farm animals. No more meat. No more dairy. No eating eggs or wearing wool. 
He makes his case with a heady mix of anecdote, demonstrating both human 
cruelty and celebrations of animal emotion, snippets of research and polemic. 
Yet Masson himself declares that he himself isn't yet fully vegan ("I will 
eventually get there," he says) and when interviewed, he acknowledges that he's 
demanding the all-but-impossible from the human race. 
"There is no way to be pure," he says by phone from Rhode Island. "People who 
want to be pure get on your nerves. I've been to restaurants with really 
radical vegans (those who eat and wear no animal products) and they just torture 
the waitress. ... There's always somebody holier than thou." 
If Masson's dream seems impossibly distant, he readily acknowledges that any 
steps taken to improve the lot of farm animals is worth taking. He believes 
that people agreeing to even one meatless day a week is cause to celebrate. 
"It's necessary ... for radicals to acknowledge that any progress is 
progress," he says. 
Progress, he believes, may turn on more humans coming face-to-face with the 
animals they consume. Especially in the era of factory farming, most Westerners 
(Masson is an American now living in New Zealand) seldom have the chance to 
experience animals behaving naturally. Chickens delight in dust baths; cows 
vocally mourn the loss of their calves at weaning time; goats and horses become 
depressed if isolated. 
Masson takes a lot of time to educate readers about factory farming. Not just 
the inhumane treatment, but also the fact that corporate agribusinesses harm 
their communities. Massive hog farms, for instance, often receive government 
subsidies, then pollute the environment with foul, leaky lagoons of excrement; 
intensive hog barns become such breeding grounds for infection, he writes, 
that they usually are abandoned after a decade or so — and left for communities 
to deal with. 
"Nobody but the giant corporations themselves profit from such disregard for 
animals, for human health, for the environment," he concludes. 
Ultimately, he believes humanity should let animals — even those long 
domesticated — live natural lives. They have a right, he says, to be happy, and that 
means being themselves. 
The beginning of an answer to that situation, he argues, is "farm 
sanctuaries," places where a few fortunate farm animals are spared the fate of the 
slaughterhouse and the general public can see who (not what) they are (Masson lists 
several such organizations). 
"That's the future, to see them up close. I didn't know that pigs wag their 
tails, and will come when called. I was just blown away, and that's what this 
book is about," he says. 
"The Pig Who Sang at the Moon" is both heart-rending and informative. Masson 
plays to the crowd somewhat with "happily-ever-after" stories of rescued farm 
animals, and his radical stance will surely provoke defensiveness among those 
who prefer not to know. But even if all readers won't go all the way with him, 
most will come away with a sense that something has gone horribly wrong in 
humanity's treatment of its fellow travelers. 

"I would not enter on my list of friends the man who needlessly sets foot 
upon a worm." - Cowper
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