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I don't find pigs to be cute. And that doesn't matter.

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

I've visited rescue pigs a couple of times, petted their wiry hair and listened to their grunts. I didn't find it charming. A friend of mine arranges a very special annual trip see the elephant seals at Pt. Ano Nuevo, promising attendees that they'll want to come back every year. I went once. None of this interferes with my insistence that these and other animals be treated well.

Many animal advocates play an anthropomorphic card, going beyond the clear arguments for animal welfare and veering into the gauzy territory of pigs that are dressed up like Little Bo Peep and sheep that like to watch TV in the living room. Using "fur babyness" to justify better treatment of animals abused for food, fiber and product testing delights some but I fear leaves the majority thinking we're nuts - and ignorable.

This pig has no sense of fashion or delight in wearing these clothes. Doing so makes this animal no more or less deserving of humane treatment and minimal human intervention.

Animals matter for their own sakes, not because they've earned consideration by being like us. They're simpler in some ways, more complex in others, but share our ability to suffer. We don't need them to have hair that feels good under our hands, make noises that please our ears or to bogusly smile. We mostly need to leave animals alone, intervening primarily when human behavior or inventions harm them.

To justify the welfare of animals by perceiving humanness in them is to trivially promote them while profoundly demoting them. It suggests that if we all just understand how much pigs like to snuggle and cows like to meditate that we'll all finally get it. That places animals' value on a scale that reads in units of human perception. But animals' experiences matter for their own sakes. Their lives don't need to make sense to us, we just need to get out of their way. And take our dresses and TVs with us.


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