I was stumbling around the back side of Aulla a few weeks ago, and came upon some of the never-ever-finished road work this section of Italy is known for. Behind the piles of stones and rubbish I noticed a wall full of new murals. They were signed by Paulo Neri.
Paulo doesn’t like the war very much—and he evidently doesn’t share the same style of reverence for pigs that I do. He seems to be comparing our digestive tracts and making the statement that since we’re similar, we should be treated the same, right down to eating spaghetti off a plate all’aperto. I’m not sure a democratic pig would choose to be strangled by a necktie, but that’s a small quibble.
We can argue that the pig liver has five lobes, compared to the human liver with four, and the intestines are very different (pigs produce three times more excrement than humans), but the rest of the organs are similar enough that wannabe doctors can use the Fetal Pig Dissection Guide to find out how to dissect a human—or something.
I think this mural is a call to treat pigs with respect. I suspect that in Paolo’s mind, this means not eating them. But then again, is it really better to decompose in an expensive wooden box than be eaten?
Still, I agree with Paulo to some extent. Yes, we should make some laws and clean out a very small cell at Guantanamo to hold the owners and stockholders of those industrial pig prisons they secretly build in the wilds of the Midwest so nearby folks don’t die from the stench of thousands of pigs in overcrowded, unconscionable conditions or try to fish in the pig-urine polluted rivers. (See Boss Hog for more on the swine who raise pigs on huge farms.)
Let’s let real people raise pigs only if they raise them the right way. Small farms, caring farmers…and you get great pork. If you haven’t tasted the Pata Negra, or black pork of Portugal, you haven’t lived. In some places, people do respect the animal. But they still eat them in the end. And I’m thinking it’s not such a bad thing.
But there’s a reason that animal rights people seem odd to some of us. Should we treat animals with more respect than people? Sandra Kobrin makes the point in Beat a Woman? Play On; Beat a Dog? You’re Gone.
Italian farmers raise some darn good pigs. Go to the interior of Sardinia and have the prosciutto from pigs feasting on acorns. Most Italians love their prosciutto, their lardo, and even their stinco di Maiale. I’m glad, because so do I. God bless the pig.