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