Is there really a difference between a farm pig and a pet pig?
Pig World Divided:
With the recent viral news about the man in Canada that adopted a mini pig only to later kill and eat the pig, it seems worth addressing if there is really a difference between the pigs we keep as pets and the pigs we eat. It is not a secret that the pig world is a divided place where many people reach down to scratch their beloved pet pig Wilbur while frying up the belly of Babe in a frying pan (in the form of bacon). And this is a constant source of tension within the pig world. Somehow, there are many pig parents that still think that there is a difference between a mini pig and a Smithfield or farm pig. Let's take a look at all the possible arguments used.
Mini pigs and farm pigs both share the intelligence that pigs are famous for possessing. If you were to be one of the people that ends up adopting a full-size farm pig (after being deceived by a greedy breeder), you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in regards to their IQ. A farm pig can learn to do tricks and figure out how to do all the things that have convinced people that mini pigs are highly intelligent. So, using this factor will not help to justify the rationale behind cuddling your mini pig but eating a farm pig. (https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8sx4s79c)
That all pigs are clean animals is pretty well established in the minds of anyone caring to look into the matter, but still some people believe that farm pigs are dirty. The problem with convincing people otherwise is that Smithfield and companies like them keep their pigs in conditions that force pigs to submit to being dirty. They don't have enough space to use the bathroom away from where they eat and sleep. So, being dirty is forced upon them and then used against them by the likes of Smithfield because the want to convince people that these pigs are dirty, stupid animals that deserve to be eaten. (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150924-the-truth-about-pigs)
I've had more than one employee of Smithfield Foods try to tell me that the pigs on their farms are violent and mean. One went so far as to suggest that these pigs would do to us what we do to them if given the chance. But, the evidence doesn't seem to bear out in reality. Case in point: Esther the Wonder Pig. Esther is a full-size farm pig who lives in a house with her family and is not at all how Smithfield would have us believe farm pigs truly are. And why is that? Is it that Esther is an exception? No, and the proof of this exists on sanctuaries across the world. Farm pigs are friendly and loveable animals just like the mini pigs many of us live with in our homes. (http://www.estherthewonderpig.com/)
So, there is always someone that will try to argue that mini pigs aren't meant to be food whereas farm pigs are. This completely ignores that the original mini pigs, the pot-bellied pigs, were used by Vietnamese farmers as a source of food. Arguing that mini pigs can't be eaten requires us to deny the truth to justify our ends.
Along the same lines as the previous point, some still try to use the argument that mini pigs are bred to be pets and farm pigs are bred to be eaten. But this use of intention as a justification seeks to claim that having something as one's intention justifies the action. Thus, by intending to kill someone, you would justify the act of murder because it was your intention. Or taken to an extreme, would anyone argue that Hitler's intentions for the Holocaust justified his actions? Hopefully it is clear that using one's intentions to justify one's actions creates a circular argument the proves nothing.
And finally others still hope to bring the all loving God into the mix and heap the blame on his shoulders. This requires asserting that God would support unnecessary animal abuse and execution simply because humans like to eat pigs. To think anyone would use God to justify harming innocent beings is an insult to the notion of an all loving being. That argument need not even be addressed, for the sheer ridiculousness of this claim is easily seen through objective eyes.
So how does anyone justify eating pork products while at the same time loving a mini pig:
Cognitive dissonance. Only by creating a mental divide within our heads that allows us to say we love pigs while paying to have unimaginable abuse and suffering heaped upon this very same animal is it possible for us to justify eating one type of pig while loving another. Thus, when one tries to come up with a moral/philosophical justification, they are doomed to failure in this endeavor. It would be like trying to justify eating some humans because they were larger than others. It is doubtful that anyone would take a size based justification as legitimate in regards to any other moral position. And it falls equally flat in regards to pigs.
What are we left thinking then:
There is only one morally consistent position to take. It is either equally wrong to eat a farm pigs as it was that the man on Vancouver Island in British Columbia killed and ate a pet pig. To think that calling an animal a pet somehow creates some moral justification for protecting their life is just self-deception. Sadly, the mini pig the man in British Columbia killed probably suffered far less abuse than the average pig on a factory farm goes through in a single day. And yet, most of the people outraged by his action are willing participants in the system that abuses pigs beyond our imagination. That being said, we are right to be outraged that this highly intelligent and loving pet pig was killed. The problem for many of us is, we should be equally outraged that any pig is being killed in the process of making food. Any pig parent being honest with themselves will immediately realize that eating farm pigs is no different than eating a mini pig. And to be consistent, and to truly be a pig lover, we must agree that pigs do not belong on our plates. Otherwise, what we feel is not love for pigs, but rather a selfish love for ourselves that only treats pigs as well as is necessary for us to get the benefit we wish to have from them.