In “Lesser Beasts,” Mark Essig explores the complex and often contentious relationship between humans and pigs throughout history. The book delves into the various ways in which pigs have been used by humans, from their domestication and breeding for food, to their use in scientific research and experimentation. Essig also examines the cultural significance of pigs in various societies and how their image has evolved over time.
Chapter 1: The Domestication of Pigs
The first chapter of “Lesser Beasts” traces the history of pig domestication, beginning with the wild boar in Europe and Asia. Essig explains how the process of domestication was gradual and involved selective breeding over many generations. He also discusses the various reasons why pigs were domesticated, including their ability to adapt to different environments and their value as a source of food.
Chapter 2: Pigs in Mythology and Folklore
In this chapter, Essig explores the role of pigs in mythology and folklore. He discusses how pigs have been used as symbols in various cultures, often representing qualities such as greed, laziness, and even wisdom. Essig also examines the various stories and legends that have arisen around pigs, including the Greek myth of the goddess Demeter and her transformation into a pig.
Chapter 3: Pigs in Science and Experimentation
In this chapter, Essig delves into the use of pigs in scientific research and experimentation. He discusses how pigs have been used as models for human disease, as well as in the development of new medical treatments. Essig also explores the controversy surrounding the use of pigs in research, including the debate over the ethics of using animals in scientific experiments.
Chapter 4: Pigs in Agriculture and Industry
This chapter focuses on the role of pigs in agriculture and industry. Essig discusses the various ways in which pigs have been used in farming, including their use as a source of manure and their role in the development of new farming techniques. He also examines the impact of industrialization on the pork industry, including the rise of factory farming and the use of antibiotics in pig production.
Conclusion: The Complex Relationship Between Humans and Pigs
In his conclusion, Essig reflects on the complex and often contentious relationship between humans and pigs throughout history. He discusses how the image of the pig has evolved over time, from a symbol of greed and laziness to a symbol of intelligence and resilience. Essig also addresses the ongoing debate over the treatment of pigs in agriculture and science, and suggests that a more humane approach to pig farming and research is needed.
Overall, “Lesser Beasts” is a thought-provoking and informative book that explores the many ways in which pigs have been used by humans throughout history. Through his extensive research and analysis, Essig provides readers with a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between humans and pigs, and challenges us to rethink our attitudes towards these fascinating animals.