NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t





Journalist Barry Estabrook knows how to enjoy a juicy heritage pork chop. He’ll also be the first to tell you what intelligent, sensitive creatures pigs are. “I had no idea how smart they were until I got in the research,” Estabrook tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. Estabrook is the author of Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat, out May 4. The book emerged from the author’s desire to “I set out on the premise that if you’re going to eat an animal, maybe you owed it to yourself to find out as much as you could about the way the animal thought, its cognitive abilities,” Estabrook explains. In the course of his research, Estabrook spoke with scientists who taught pigs how to play computer games. He learned that pigs have a sense of self and that they can recognize themselves in mirrors. Pigs, he says, can look at another pig and calculate what that pig might do or how it might act. Estabrook also witnessed brutality at some large-scale pig operations first-hand. One facility he visited held 1,500 pregnant female pigs in cramped individual cages. “They were like people sitting in the seats of one of those regional aircrafts,” Estabrook says. “Their sides stuck out through the bars; they could not turn around. They could not move in any way at all and that’s the way those pigs basically lived their entire life.” Estabrook estimates that 80 percent of the sows in the U.S. live their lives in factory conditions where they are crammed into cages and fed an abundance of antibiotics to prevent disease. But, he adds, there are other options, such as one farm he visited in upstate New York, where the pigs are raised on pasture. “They don’t get antibiotics unless they’re sick, they’re never cooped up, the mother sows are not kept in crates,” Estabrook says. “They live in a great amiable sorority under the trees with a little mud puddle in the center of it, and the end result is this pork is incredible. It’s sold to some of the very best restaurants in New York City.” MORE