Andrew Kenny
2 minute read
15 Jul 2014
7:00 pm

Pigs and morality

Andrew Kenny

The dreadful suffering of animals – clean, intelligent, dignified animals – is in the news. I refer to the death, humiliation and torment of pigs on a farm belonging to Thandi Modise, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.

Andrew Kenny.

Somewhat similar animal suffering happened on Zimbabwean farms, seized as part of comrade Mugabe’s land revolution. Extremely rich Zanu-PF ministers stole the farms and then, using guns and clubs, forced the black farm workers off them (thunderous applause from the ANC!). The farmworkers joined the despairing masses of the unemployed and many of the farm animals starved to death.

This was not the case with Ms Modise. She bought the farm perfectly legitimately and the farm workers, it seems, just drifted away of their own accord.

I am well aware that if I say a single word against Ms Modise, I might be accused of being a racist, a counter-revolutionary, a closet supporter of apartheid and a reactionary who cares more about animals than people. So, being rather cowardly, I shall concentrate on the suffering of the pigs.

In 1970 I stopped eating meat as a feeble gesture of sympathy for the animals we abuse. I am a hypocrite because I still eat fish and dairy products. In 1973, I took a temporary job as a farm worker on a pig farm in England. I wanted to see if pig farming really was as bad as I had believed. It was. These gentle, clever animals spent their whole lives in pain, fear, filth and humiliation.

And this farm was by no means as bad as a modern pig factory farm.

On Modise’s farm, the pigs, starving and desperate, resorted to drinking each other’s urine and eating each other’s corpses. Make no mistake, humans would do the same in such vile conditions – and have done so.

It seems the ghastly fate of Ms Modise’s pigs was caused by her neglect and arrogance and not by any intention to cause distress. But for the owner of a modern factory farm for pigs, the suffering is completely intentional.

In 1973, I took male piglets a week old, in front of their mother, and held them up so that the farmer could cut off their testicles with a razor blade. It still haunts me.

I believe that the suffering of farm animals is the greatest moral question of the 21st century.