AR-News: (MO) When cows mourn
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Sat Nov 8 09:34:56 EST 2003
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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