Monday, November 27, 2006

News: President Bush Signs the "Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act"

Today President Bush signed into law S. 3880, the "Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act," which, according to the press release from the White House, "expands criminal prohibitions against the use of force, violence, and threats involving animal enterprises and increases penalties for violations of these prohibitions." This legislation largely slipped under the proverbial radar, unfortunately. For the text of this act, which strengthens the (already effective) 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act, click here. Suffice to say that there was and is a lot of opposition to the overly broad reach of this bill, which would subject activists to fines and/or imprisonment for merely "disrupting" an animal enterprise. A cogent analysis of the possible effects of the AETA can be found on the blog Green is the New Red. Industries that utilize non-human animals are, unsurprisingly, excited about the law. See, for example, the response of the National Pork Producers Council, which, like all supporters of the act, claim that it won't be used to curb legitimate protest. Given the redefinition of activists as "terrorists" here I'm not so sure...

Aside: Henry Beston (via Karsten Heuer)

I've just finished Karsten Heuer's excellent Being Caribou, an account of his 2003 epic journey with his wife Leanne Allison to follow the Porcupine caribou herd from its winter range in the Yukon to the calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and back. It's a marvellous book (and film, by they way, although the latter is a bit hard to find in the states), one that provides those of us in "animal studies" (and Americans in general, of course, although they'll likely be less receptive) with provocative food for thought. How can you not love a book that begins with this insight from Henry Beston's 1928 classic The Outermost House:
We need another and a wiser and perhaps more mystical concept of wild animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creatures through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken a form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and the travail of the earth.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pig Crop Circle

In July 2006 the Daily Mail reported that a gigantic crop circle in the shape of a pig had appeared in a field southwest of Junction 9 on the M11 in the English countryside. The article failed to speculate whether this pig had human or extra-terrestrial origins, noting only that "crop circles have been baffling scientists, farmers and the general public for years." As it turns out, however, this 250m-wide pig was created as part of a team-building exercise by Black Pig, a Royston and London-based creative services agency. Sarah-Jane Higgins, the Managing Director of Black Pig, noted:
It really is unexplainable but has made a huge impact in the area. It looks fantastic, whoever or whatever created the pattern has clearly worked hard to put it there and it is amazing that it is in the same year as our 10th birthday - how bizarre!
There are some excellent photos of this crop circle, both in its finished version and as a work-in-progress, on the Black Pig site.

Pass the Pigs / Pig Mania

Long before I imagined that I would be writing a book about pigs I was given a dice game by a friend called Pass the Pigs. I hadn't really thought much about it, other than to ponder the fact that I can't imagine a similar game involving cats, dogs, etc. Well, my usual internet procrastination that I call research led me to the discovery that the game is relatively new. In fact, it was first marketed in 1977 as Pig Mania. The game was created by David Moffat, who, in response to being sent a photo of a porcine crop circle this summer (more about that later), wrote the following (available here):

The International Tale of the Pigs: From Germany to California

By David Moffat

While working at a ski resort in Berchtesgaden, Germany, a waitress gave me and my friends a small rubber pig on New years Day. It was meant to be a good luck charm. In our idle time we used to put the little pigs in our beer glasses to see whose pig would float up and down the most times. While removing the pigs to drink the beer we noticed that when a pig was “rolled” like dice they would land in various positions, on their sides, snouts, feet, or back we added another pig and began “rolling” both pigs at the same time. We noticed that some positions were more difficult than other to occur.

We made up a scoring system dependent on the “Fall of the Pigs”. We soon had a fun little pastime. Years went by with the little pigs hibernating in a drawer at home until I opened a restaurant pub in Bakersfield, California, my home town, which is about 100 mile north of Los Angeles. Not wanting to have dice thrown on the bar, I brought out the two little pigs from retirement. Soon there shouts of “sooee” and much laughter as patrons played the game. Because of the popularity of the game, myself and several friends decided to put the game on the market. We formalized the rules of the game. It was introduced to the public in the United States 1977 as ‘Pig Mania”. In 1984 it was introduced in Great Britain as “Pass the Pigs”. In the rest of Europe it took on various names according to nationality. Now the game is enjoyed around the world by millions.

A lucky charm indeed became very lucky!

I suppose I'll now have to buy a copy of the original game. You can find them on E-Bay with some frequency. If you'd like to learn to play, there are several on-line versions, including this one.

Tragedy Strikes the Pig Stand!

In my casual search for pig-related news today, I discovered that the Pig Stand in San Antonio, featured in an earlier post for its wonderful pig-shaped building, has closed. Well, it's actually more complicated than that. According to an informative posting on (where the attached photo of the Beaumont Street branch sign was 'borrowed'), the pig that now graces the Pig Stand on Presa Street in San Antonio was discovered sitting in a junkyard in the 1990s. It apparently was used as a car-hop shelter at another drive in, but once restored, was added to an existing Pig Stand restuarant.

The Pig Stand branch in Dallas, which opened in 1921, is supposedly the first drive-in restaurant in the United States. The Pig Stand chain once included more than 120 restaurants, and claims to be the home of onion rings, Texas Toast, and chicken-fried steak. But over time the chain sold off most of its resturants and its current owners filed for bankruptcy last year. This week all of the remaining restaurants have closed due to a failure to pay back taxes. Apparently the restaurant was so in debt that the San Antonio branch tried to pay its workers with food! It is not clear when, or if, they will ever re-open. I hope that whatever happens, though, that folks will preserve these restaurants' fabulous architecture.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Floyd of Rosedale

Speaking of pigskin, today the Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated Iowa for the first time since 2000 by a score of 34-24, bringing Floyd of Rosedale back to the Twin Cities. The competition for Floyd goes back to 1935, when the rivalry between Minnesota and Iowa was particularly heated. The morning of the game, Minnesota governor Floyd Olson sent a telegram to Iowa governor Clyde Herring that read as follows:
Minnesota folks are excited about your statement about the Iowa crowd lynching the Minnesota football team. I have assured them that you are a law abiding gentleman only trying to get our goat. The Minnesota team will tackle clean but hard. Clyde, if you seriously think Iowa has any chance to win, I will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog. You are getting odds because Minnesota raises better hogs than Iowa.
Minnesota won a hard fought game in Iowa City 13-6, so Herring obtained a prize pig from Rosedale Farms, nicknamed it Floyd, and personally walked him into Olson's carpeted office several days later (see photo above). Olson later offered up the pig as a prize in a state-wide essay writing contest. Floyd was won by 14-year-old Robert Jones, who later sold the pig to my graduate alma mater, the University of Minnesota. Floyd was later sold again, this time to a hog breeder on the Iowa-Minnesota border. Floyd died there of "hog cholera." Olson commissioned Charles Brioschi, a St. Paul-based artist, to sculpt the Floyd trophy (which can seen on the Minnesota Public Radio page, which has a great story about the original game, which had a lot to do with race, as Iowa featured a pioneering black player, Ozzie Simmons), which is now headed back to Minnesota. Go Gophers!

Friday, November 17, 2006


All the talk about the big Ohio State-Michigan game this weekend got me thinking about the ball, the "pigskin." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of "pigskin" as slang for "football" goes back to 1894, when the University of Chicago Weekly noted that "Roby put the pigskin over the line." As far as I can tell, current NCAA and NFL footballs do not have any porcine content, although they don't specify where the leather comes from exactly. The Wilson Company makes over 700,000 footballs per year at its Ada, Ohio factory. You can watch an overly dramatic video about football production here. The exterior of a football is usually made of leather (cowhide, I assume), which surrounds an inflatable bladder, now made of rubber. Animal bladders were used until the mass production of vulcanized rubber. The Straight Dope notes that rubber bladders were being used in 1871, just two years after the beginning of college football. Props to the NBA, by the way, for going with an animal-free basketball, although apparently the players dislike it, arguing that it is harder to grip than the traditional leather basketball.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pink Floyd's Pig

Here's a video of the band and crew raising the inflatable pig at Battersea Power Station for the cover art of their 1977 album Animals. On the second day of the shoot the pig broke loose and "sailed away," disappearing from view and disrupting air traffic to Heathrow airport. The pig landed on a farm in Kent, was repaired, and filmed again the following day. That saga is described here by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis Design, the firm that produced many of Pink Floyd's album covers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

When Pigs Attack

I was looking for the USDA's daily "Hogs and Pigs" numbers this morning when I stumbled upon the following headline from the Daily Mail (UK):

Nurse 'savaged' by enraged giant pig

A pig attacked Mrs. Carolyn Robinson, 51, as she was riding her horse in the New Forest in Hampshire. The pig charged her horse, which threw her to the ground. As Mrs. Robinson notes:

It was then that the pig attacked me. I got to my feet but the beast pushed me into a hedge and was trying to bite my legs. It got hold of my coat in its mouth. I had very little strength to fight it off because I was weak from the fall. It was terrifying. Ive never been attacked by anything before, let alone a pig. I didn't know how I was going to get out of the situation.

The pig was eventually chased off by Mrs. Robinson's daughter and a person walking their dog. Mrs. Robinson suffered fractured ribs, a concussion, and substantial bruising.

Interestingly, the pigs are there to eat the acorns in the New Forest that would otherwise poison the local ponies. This "pannage season" lasts for sixty days. Apparently there are about 200 pigs in the forest, although local officials have asked for more given this year's huge crop of acorns. An unnamed spokesman for the Verderers--the guardians of the forest--said that attacks by Commoners' pigs, ponies, or cattle were rare but certainly needed to be reported so that the problem animals could be dealt with. Animal behaviorist Dr. Ann McBride from Southhampton University noted that "Pigs can kill. They are very strong and have large teeth that can seriously hurt someone."

As another aside, the New Forest was created in 1079 by Willliam the Conqueror as a hunting area for deer. It is used by locals (the "Commoners") to pasture ponies, cattle, pigs and donkeys. The right to allow pigs out in the forest is known as the "right of mast" and apparently is not available to all Commoners, although I have no idea who has that right and how they obtained it. According to a BBC article about the New Forest, where I found today's image, certain pregnant pigs, known as "privileged sows" always have the right to be out in the forest. I guess I need to figure more of this out...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hogs on the Highway

I thought that Hogs on the Highway was merely an album by Texas band The Bad Livers until I picked up today's L.A. Times and found this:
Frozen pigs hog the road after truck, big rig collide

Traffic squealed to a halt Monday evening in the truck lanes of the Golden State Freeway when a truck collided with a big rig, spilling dozens of frozen pig carcasses across 80 feet of pavement, authorities said...
Thankfully they didn't include a picture. The unnamed writer noted that "CHP officers said it was unclear why whole frozen pigs were being shipped." Hmm...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pig Tattoos, Part 2

I haven't had much success tracking down other pig-themed tattoos. These two, however, are quite interesting in that they both deal with pigs as pork. One trades upon the idea of pigs as gluttons and has the further "irony" of a pig craving meat while being meat. The other, if I recall correctly, came from a website tied to the movie Jews With Tattoos. I like this one a lot, as it makes one think of the whole history of food taboos and keeping kosher. I'd love to know more about this person's tattoo--could they be an observant vegetarian? Hmm... More later, I guess, about how I read the pork taboo question...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

My Pig Fetish

I know that folks in my world think that I'm a bit pig obsessed. Perhaps that's why my colleague Sharon S. gave me a beautiful Zuni fetish of a pig carved by Stanton Hannaweeke. Since it's the weekend I'm too lazy to take a picture of the actual pig that I've added to my (growing) collection of small pigs so here is another one of Stanton's pig fetishes.

Sharon noted that he has another--a sow with three piglets--that wasn't available when she was in the store. I guess I'll have to add it to the collection eventually...

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Return of Freddy

I'm clearly not in the right demographic to remember the 26 children's books written by Walter R. Brooks and illustrated by Kurt Wiese starring Freddy the Pig, "the smallest and cleverest" of the pigs on the Bean Farm. The first book, To and Again (later retitled Freddy Goes to Florida) appeared in 1927. Apparently they were quite popular in the 1940s and 1950s before going out of print. They have been republished recently by Overlook Press; I have a copy of The Freddy Anniversary Collection that includes the first three books, including my favorite thus far, Freddy the Detective. I especially like the silly song the rats sing about Freddy:

The sleuth,
He busted a tooth,
He's a silly old bonehead, and that is the truth

Freddy the pig,
He talks very big,
But all that he's good for's to guzzle and swig

Freddy the fat,
He's never learned that
It takes forty-nine pigs to equal one rat.

Needless to say the story culminates with Freddy's redemption, but I don't want to give away more than that.

The illustrations for the Freddy books by Kurt Wiese are fabulous, by the way. Overlook Press has published a great collection of many of the illustrations called The Art of Freddy that I also highly recommend. You can learn more from the Friends of Freddy website about these charming books. I think I'll be reading them to my niece and nephew this holiday season.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Take Good Care of Business to Get Better Results

That is apparently what the caption in Russian says on this vintage poster that I found on-line at the excellent Chisholm Larsson gallery. They have several other excellent vintage pig posters, as well as tens of thousands of other interesting images.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Georgia Pig

I'm back from a couple of weeks off, first to Yosemite for some hiking, camping and climbing then to Atlanta for the first Halloween trick-or-treating for my niece and nephew. As a result of my ramblings, I'm a bit behind on the pig posting. Here's a photo, though, of the sign for the Georgia Pig, considered one of the best bar-b-que joints in the U.S. and A. It's in Brunswick, Georgia, just off the I-95...