Pork and its Perils.

Original title page

This anonymous fifteen page tract issued by the Vegetarian Society of Manchester, is a delight to read for its degree of hostility towards the poor old pig, who is “not only unfit for food, but one of the prime causes of many loathsome and painful maladies.”

We begin with an examination of the beast itself:

“Gaze at that object in a filthy mud-hole by the roadside. At first you distinguish nothing but a pile of black, slimy mud. The dirty mass moves! A grunt! The mystery is solved. The sound betrays a hog. You hasten by, avert your face, and sicken with disgust. Stop, friend, admire in its native element, your savoury ham, your toothsome sausage.

Look over into that sty, our pork-eating friend. Have you done so before? Would you prefer to be excused? Quite likely; but we will show you a dozen things you did not observe before. See that contented brute quietly reposing in the augmented filth of his own ordure! He seems to feel quite at home. Look closer and scrutinise his skin. Is it smooth and healthy? Not exactly so. So obscured is it with tetter, and scurf, and mange, that you almost expect to see the rotten mass drop off, as the grunting creature rubs it against any projecting corner which may furnish him a convenient scratching-place.”

Thus far, the view from outside the sty. Let us now clamber inside the sty for a closer look. Observe, if you will, the fore-leg of the beast:

“Do you see an open sore or issue, a few inches above his foot, on the inner side? Do you say it is a mere accidental abrasion? Find the same on the other leg; it is a wise and wonderful provision of nature. Grasp the leg high up and press downward. Now you see its utility, as a mass of corruption pours out. That opening is the outlet of a sewer. Yes, a scrofulous sewer; and hence the offensive, ichorous matter which discharges from it.”

Our author goes on:

“What must be the condition of the body of an animal so foul as to require a regular system of drainage to convey away its teeming filth? Sometimes the outlets get closed by the accumulation of external filth. Then the scrofulous stream ceases to flow, and the animal sickens and dies, unless the owner speedily cleanses the parts, and so opens anew the feculent fountain, and allows the festering poison to escape.

What dainty morsels those same feet and legs make! What a delicate flavour they have, as every epicure asserts! Do you suppose the corruption with which they are saturated has any influence upon their healthfulness?”

But that is just the outside of the beast. What about its inside? “Sickening and disgusting as is the exterior,” our author writes, with characteristic fondness, “it is, in comparison with what it covers, a fair cloak, hiding a mass of disease and rottenness which grows more superlatively filthy as we penetrate deeper beneath the skin.” I will spare my readers’ stomachs the full details, but suffice it to say that the interior of the pig is “a broth of abominable things.”

Let us now turn to the cheerful subject of the diseases that one can catch from eating pork. First there is scrofula:

“The chronic sore eyes, glandular enlargements, obstinate ulcers, disfigured countenances, unsightly eruptions, including a long list of skin diseases, all proclaim the defilement of the blood with this vile humour. The vast army of dwarfed, strumous, precocious children tell the same story. That dreadful scourge, Erysepelas, owes more to pork than to any other predisposing cause, while that terrible disease, leprosy, so common in Eastern countries, is by many attributed, in large degree, to pork-eating.”

Biliousness, consumption and dyspepsia are likewise attributed to pork eating, and our author gives a wonderfully lurid description of how one can pick up tape-worms from the rotten, diseased, scrofulous, abscess-ridden livers of pigs.

Of course, there is always someone somewhere ready to defend the pig, and to dismiss these claims as alarmist vegetarian tarradiddle. For example, some folk would argue that the pig is actually a clean animal if you give him the opportunity to be so. But our author is more than ready to counter this, and other, pro-pig arguments:

“Can any person who knows anything of the real nature of a hog make such an assertion? Have you never seen a hog wallowing in the foulest mire right in the middle of a green, fragrant clover pasture? The dirty creature will turn away from the nicest bed of straw to revel in a stagnant, seething mud-hole. If one of his companions dies in the lot or pen, he will wait until putrefaction occurs, and then devour the stinking carcass. He will even devour his own excrement, and that when not unusually prest with hunger.”

Finally, some advice for those who own a pig:

“Turn him loose. He will soon find his place, like the five thousand which ran down into the sea in the days of Christ. If he must be raised, use him for illuminating or lubricating purposes, only don’t eat him!”