The Pigs and the Flood (by Jared Milrad)

News is breaking today that Des Moines County sheriffs in Iowa shot about 10-16 pigs who presumably had escaped a factory farm, swam through a massive flood, and found safety atop sandbag levees. County officials feared that the pigs would cut the levees with their hooves or root there.

I am not one to criticize the actions of county officials who, according to their own best judgment, made a difficult decision in an emergency situation. After all, animals are killed in these situations all the time — including a bear who recently strayed into a populated area in Boston. And as one official points out, pigs are killed in slaughterhouses everyday — particularly in Iowa, where there were 15.5 million pigs on over 10,000 farms in 2002.

But the question must be asked: would we have had the same reaction to these animals if they were dogs instead of pigs? What about wolves instead of pigs?

For example, when family pets are shot, county officials often have a different reaction: offer up a reward for the killer. A $4,000 reward is being offered for a dog who was shot to death in Maryland.

In the case of the flooded pigs, what was the true motivation for shooting them? Was it, as one official argued, fear for people’s property? Or was it simply that we value different animals differently?

Some or all of the above may be true. But I for one believe that we should think very, very critically before we take a life, and minimize harm whenever possible. Moreover, while we may value different animals differently, each is still a sentient being who deserves our utmost respect.

We would ask nothing more for our dog, so why not for our pigs?


Our Common Concern :: a socially conscious blog

About Jared Milrad

Born in New York City, Jared split his childhood between New York and central New Jersey. He later graduated Summa Cum Laude from North Carolina State University with a B.S. in Fisheries & Wildlife Sciences and from Tufts University with a M.S. in Animals and Public Policy. Jared has long held an abiding interest in finding common ground between humans and in protecting non-humans. Currently a resident of Someville, Massachusetts, Jared has traveled to four continents and one day hopes to practice public interest law.
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2 Responses to The Pigs and the Flood (by Jared Milrad)

  1. I think it’s interesting to point out, as many animal rights activists do, that we tend to treat animals differently depending on seemingly morally irrelevant factors: pigs, after all, are smarter than dogs and can be very good companions, and so there doesn’t seem to be a reason to treat pigs as expendable when we don’t do the same with our more furry friends.

    But I don’t think that goes very far in showing that we ought to give pigs more consideration, dignity, value or whatever: it certain isn’t consistent to say that dogs are inherently better than pigs, but why can’t we say we put more value on a dog’s life and well-being because we’re emotionally attached to them? Instead of saying dogs have more *moral* worth than pigs, we might instead just say that dogs have a greater instrumental value, and so we care more for them.

    Also, your claim that both dogs and pigs are sentient is, I think, controversial: I’m not an expert, but as far as I know it’s unclear just how self-aware these animals are.

    Also, please feel free to leave me a reply if anyone’s has a comment to what I’ve written; I always appreciate hearing from others!

  2. great question to raise, but i’m not sure it’s all that different. it’s a fairly well-known fact (at least among those who were there) that many katrina dogs were shot by police after they’d been gathered in a local high school.

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