To the extent that
you prevent an animal from living the way he or she evolved to
live, you are creating unhappiness for that animal. - Jeffrey
"We are expected to keep them out of sight."
- "meat"-chicken farmer
The fate of farmed animals since World War Two has been to be
locked up. Their fate is to be buried alive in a brown wash of
one another and one anothers' manure, sealed up in bodies and
buildings that reflect not their will but ours until we kill them
or they have the luck to die first. Their feelings are buried
inside. "Farmers" can say they don't have any feelings.
Their sound is either shrieks or silence - that and the sterile
scientistic jargon in which we've impounded them.
The Pig Who Sang to the Moon is a must read for humane
educators and for anyone who thinks that animals exploited for
food are emotionally eviscerated brainless automatons. The "farmers"
and corporations want us to think so, like the guy who wrote in
The New York Times in November, regarding industrially-raised
turkeys: "every bit of natural instinct and intelligence
has been bred out of these turkeys."
Masson takes us on a journey to meet and experience animals who
are commonly regarded as "food," before they are stupidly
hacked and squished into blobs and icky liquids packed in cellophane
and grease. He invites us to empathize with "a pig looking
up to the full moon, emitting mournful sounds much like singing,"
the exuberant rooster who having found food, "calls both
hens and chicks together to eat it while he stands like a father
and host at a banquet," the sheep who responds to his name
being called by jumping through the clover with "all four
feet a few inches off the ground at once," the goats who
so "loved to hear the sound of their hooves" on a corrugated
roof they would wait in line and take turns, the calves signaling
"to let other calves know that they are about to commence
He invites us to listen to the "penetrating piping of abandoned
ducklings," "the slow quacks between adult ducks indicating
affection," and a gander trying desperately to help his mate
with a broken wing limp over a vast plain to their southern wintering
She had set out on the long journey to the Falkland Islands by
foot. He would not leave her, so after flying for a few hundred
yards, he would alight and wait for her to catch up. He would
fly ahead, to show her the way, then return "again and again,
calling to her with his wildest and most piercing cries, urging
her to spread her wings and fly with him to their distant home."
Having gotten to know chickens and turkeys and ducks and studied
the faces of factory-farmed animals in footage and photos over
the past twenty years, I see in this image of the desperate gander
and his struggling mate a symbol of the agony in the birds and
mammals we've imprisoned "in situations where they cannot
express the emotions they inherently possess" apart from
desperation, fear, loneliness, degradation and defeat. Farmed
animals carry within themselves an imprint of their "distant
Those of us who run farmed animal sanctuaries try to create places
where the animals we rescue can express many of the vital emotions
they inherently possess. If you haven't visited a farmed animal
sanctuary, but would like to, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon
takes you to several of these earth islands and tells you how
to reach them literally. It was lovely having Jeffrey Masson,
the author of When Elephants Weep and many other bestselling
books, and the award-winning filmmaker Stanley Minasian, visit
our sanctuary in preparation for the book and the marvelous film
about making the book, The Emotional World of Farm Animals
with Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.
The Pig Who Sang to the Moon is a stirring, wryly humorous,
sorrowful and engaging book that left me wondering why, after
all Masson knows and declares - that animals cannot be humanely
raised for food, that we should stop raising them for food and
that he would not help a farmer with advice on how to raise animals
less inhumanely - he himself is not yet vegan: "From theory
to practice has not been easy for me," he confesses.
My opinion of this imposition is given in part on page 227: "Many
people who have thought about it even more deeply than I have,
like Karen Davis," Masson writes, "will not eat eggs
even when they come from the chickens on her own sanctuary and
even though they have the best life you could imagine for a chicken.
She wants people to move away from the idea that their taste has
a 'right' to be satisfied and that animals in general, and chickens
in particular, may be used to satisfy that taste."
This said, I highly recommend the book and the film. For those
who are not yet vegan, the suffering animals you meet in both
works will haunt you with their imploring question, "Why
are you doing this to me?" You will want to stop doing that
to them, and you will stop, because there are abundant vegan food
choices available to all of us, while the animals called "food"
are stripped to the bone of comfort and joy, and because, as Masson
and the film both say and show, "farm animals have the capacity
for all the deep feelings of their forebears [and] they are remarkably
similar to human beings in their ability to feel anxious, bored,
sad, lonely, or deliriously happy." What more do we have
to be told to show compassion in our diet?