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  • May
  • 16

Sir Francis and I

Posted by at 2:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

I found the tiny black piglet during my first summer home from college. We formed an instant bond—one that I feared would be broken when we separated for my return to school in the fall. At semester’s end, I anxiously pulled in the driveway of the farm where I’d boarded him for the winter. As I stood on the lawn, watching him play with his new little pig friends, I feared that he wouldn’t remember me and wouldn’t want to come home. But I hadn’t been there for more than a minute when he began to snort, getting louder as he closed the gap between us. He skidded into me like a baseball player and nuzzled at my calves. Finally, he flopped down, smiling at my feet, awaiting a belly rub.

Whenever we’re reunited, even if we’ve been apart for less than an hour, he makes a wonderful range of sounds, as if recounting the events that occurred in my absence. This time, with many long months between us, he had a lot to say. He chattered the whole way home.

He is named Sir Francis Bacon. He sits to receive his meals. He twirls with delight. He answers with variable interest when called and can differentiate between his toys when asked to do so. This is not because I am a particularly good animal trainer—my dogs look at me with indifference even when treats are dangled before them. Rather, I believe his responsiveness stems from our mutual respect. Sir Francis, like other pigs, displays emotional insight and a level of cognition that places his species fourth among mammals in terms of intelligence .

Recent studies show that pigs are more intelligent than 3-year-old children, recognize themselves in mirrors, and can play—and win—video games. This intelligence contributes to their keen sensitivity. One study concluded that pigs experience a lack of optimism, definitive hopelessness, and crushing depression when housed in an oppressive environment. They are fully aware of their surroundings, of their bloody raison d’être, from the factory-farm cage to the killing floor.

As much as the public needs to be aware of the horrific inner workings of factory farms, they also need to be enlightened about the remarkable nature of the animals who are slaughtered in massive numbers every day in the name of such “noble” ends as sandwiches. It’s hard to eat someone you’ve seen smile. And it’s even more difficult when you know your dinner experienced grief in the face of loss, had the ability to pull blankets over himself or herself on a cold night, and, just like you, enjoyed a shower in the heat of summer.

Why then would I make such a tasteless pun? Why would I name him partly after the fate he was spared? I called my pig Sir Francis Bacon after the statesman and philosopher to highlight their kinship. He’s no more “bacon” than his namesake. I’d never eat a brilliant philosopher, and I’d never eat my best friend.

Danielle Aykroyd is an artist and actor based in New York City. She is a recent graduate of Harvard University.

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  • Pig Lover Too says:

    Danielle this is a beautiful story. I have two potbellied pigs and they are a lot like Francis. They love to talk! They have expanded my compassion just by coming into my life. Thank you for sharing.

  • Gee says:

    How lovely what a wonderful pig and how lucky you are to have met each other.

  • Danielle Aykroyd says:

    Thank you for your lovely and loving responses! And I respond in turn: If only more people were like you readers, I wouldn’t feel the need to champion the cause of these remarkable, and truly venerable, beings. I wish I had the resources to care for each and every pig on the planet. I would raze every factory farm, every slaughterhouse, bless the earth beneath their crumbled foundations and build animal sanctuaries on their grounds. But until then, we must pass on the message and enlighten those who do not understand. Spread the word! With love and respect, Danielle Aykroyd and Sir Francis Bacon

  • Darby Snorpheart says:

    Utterly precious indeed.
    Your exquisite expression of the intelligence, dignity, and love deep-set in Sir Francis (and pigs generally) filled me with compassion; my eyes swollen with salted emotion and my heart heavy with sadness (it’s arteries lined with the guilt of longstanding porcine neglect).
    What a gloriously touching reminder of the ignobility of breakfast meat!
    May the friendship you found that fateful summer bring you a lifetime of joy.

  • Pamela says:

    Loved it!!! If only more people would feel the same as we do about animals, and understand that they feel just the same as we do. I pray everyday asking God to spare animals from suffering and hope that each day more people understand that killing them for food or any other purpose isn’t the right way. Thank you for your precious story.

  • edgar says:

    how utterly precious !!


  • Laura Frisk says:

    What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing your special moments with Sir Francis. I more people only knew . . .

  • Joy Tillman says:

    What a truly inspiring story, and this also confirms the intelligence, and love Sir Francis gives back to you in return. We need to watch, listen and learn from animals in general. A lovely story for all mankind.

  • Adrienne Pesin says:

    I stopped eating mammals years ago when my then small child refused to eat any animal. Her rationale: “I wouldn’t want them to eat me – why should I eat them”?
    Sadly, people rationalize so they may continue to have what they want. They do t want to know about that hunks of meats in the market they have on their shopping list. They will get angry if asked to think about conditions the ‘meat’ endured when alive and justify the ‘unpleasant’ process as art of our right and need to eat. Some have no problem looking at even a dog crammed terrified in a crowded cage and selecting it for dinner after it endured a slow painful death which is thought to improve flavor. Those who work the factory farms a d slaughterhouses are able to shut off emotion in return for pay or even vent their sadism. Now representatives like Peter King are putting forth legislation that would criinalize whistle blowers who expose the horrific abuses in these places through hidden cameras and recordings! We actually have elected officials who will go to such lengths that people will never have to hear about the realities if bell on earth and the animals can lose all hope of their plight reaching enough humanity to actually result in change.
    I’m with the pigs – I find the indifference toward the massive cruelty and suffering in the factory farming industry crushingly depressing and hopeless. I would like to find the best way to at least try to enact change beyond signing letters online.

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