Reaktion £9.99 (224pp). £9.49 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Pig, By Brett Mizelle
How odd that Reaktion's Animal series has covered 38 creatures, most recently Camel, Giraffe and Lobster, before reaching what may of us regard as the most sympathetic and (there's no way of getting round it) tasty of beasts.
Brett Mizelle confronts this contradiction in the opening to his informative exploration of pigs and us. "The human-pig relationship, despite being almost always centred on the killing of the former by the latter, was not always so distanced or as alienated as it is in the industrialised world today." He suggests that wild boars "in some sense 'chose' domestication". They benefited from proximity with humans.
This bond may be seen as "a treaty between consenting intelligent parties... at least, of course, until slaughtering time." Unfortunately, the human half of this agreement has tended to vilify the swinish element. Unearthing a notably weird statistic, Mizelle points out, "There were at least 37 prosecutions of pigs between the 9th and 19th centuries."
The pig soared in esteem during the 18th and early 19th centuries when crowds flocked to see phenomena such as Toby the Sapient Pig. Robert Southey complained that the English admired learned pigs "far more than Isaac Newton".
Though the book is rich in hoggish lore, noting for example that "porcelain" derives in a roundabout way from pigs but "piggy bank" comes from a kind of clay called "pygg", it is defective for readers on this side of the Atlantic. This is particularly evident in the chapter on "Meat", where Mizelle, a Californian professor, devotes a mere 11 lines to the sausage and twice that amount to the hot dog. This imbalance is partially redeemed by an old poster for the British company Marsh & Baxter showing a pig pulling a half a dozen plump sausages on a little cart. The strapline: "Drawing his own conclusion."
Italian porcine marvels such as culatello and prosciutto get a mention but only because someone happens to make them in "downtown Seattle". There is a whole page on Spam but no allusion to the glorious British pork pie.
However, this book reveals that Britain has banned sow stalls, unlike the US where the Smithfield Company alone "processed 27 million hogs in 2005". Mizelle describes pigs as "exceptional animals; intelligent, social and enthusiastic." It is a shame that more of his countrymen do not feel the same way.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Led Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Freddie Prinze Jr on 24: 'Kiefer Sutherland was the most unprofessional dude in the world – I hated every moment of it'
Guardians of the Galaxy review: A superficial and half-hearted Marvel film
Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants revealed: Meet the baker's dozen
R Kelly 'dropped' from Ohio music festival following backlash
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >