There is something incredibly disturbing to me about the story behind this image. Apparently there is a tradition in Italy, as explained to me by my Italian Facebook friend and professional photographer Francesco Scipioni, in which a family raises a pig in their yard for several months and then slaughters him for a holiday meal. Scipioni captures the whole process in this photo gallery.
The lonely and frightened expression on the face of this pig is so visceral and so real, it necessitates a special kind of denial to block it out. What do I mean by special? Well, it’s one thing to be a slaughterhouse worker who deals with animals in an institution only as numbers or elements of production.
But, in stark contrast, these are people that raise an individual pig, get to know him as an individual animal, win over his trust and maybe even name him like their pets. The pig might even respond by seeking companionship and affection from his human owners, as pigs often will, when permitted to do so. Then one day his owners completely betray this trust and kindness by hanging him upside by his back legs and slashing his throat while he thrashes in agony and bleeds to death.
And what is the reward for such an act of senseless violence and the taking of a life by one who so values his life? A family meal? A traditional celebration? How long will we justify the unnecessary killing of animals as a symbol of family, culture and tradition? And how long will we pretend that the animals have no interest in their lives when we know better? Isn’t this mindset, when combined with the reality of modern industrial production, the seed of factory farming?