Loving Animals to Death

James McWilliams in The American Scholar:

ScreenHunter_556 Mar. 16 18.03Bob Comis of Stony Brook Farm is a professional pig farmer—the good kind. Comis knows his pigs, loves his pigs, and treats his pigs with uncommon dignity. His animals live in an impossibly bucolic setting and “as close to natural as possible.” They are, he writes, so piggy that they are Plato’s pig, “the ideal form of the pig.” Comis’s pastures, in Schoharie, New York, are playgrounds of porcine fun: “they root, they lounge, they narf, they eat, they forage, they sleep, they wallow, they bask, they run, they play.” And when the fateful day of deliverance arrives, “they die unconsciously, without pain or suffering.”

Comis’s patrons—educated eaters with an interest in humanely harvested meat—are understandably eager to fill their forks with Comis’s pork. To them, Comis represents a new breed of agrarian maverick intent on bucking an agricultural-industrial system so bloated that a single company—Smithfield Foods—produces six billion pounds of pork a year. Comis provides a welcome alternative to this industrial model, and if the reform-minded Food Movement has its way, one day all meat will be humanely raised and locally sourced for the “conscientious carnivore.”

Except for one problem: Comis the humane pig farmer believes that what he does for a living is wrong. Morally wrong. “As a pig farmer, I lead an unethical life,” he wrote recently on The Huffington Post. He’s acutely aware that he “might indeed be a very bad person for killing animals for a living.” Comis’s essential objection to his line of work is that he slaughters sentient and emotionally sophisticated beings. His self-assessment on this score is unambiguous.

More here.