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The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals Paperback – November 23, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The horrors have been pointed out before-that factory farm chickens are genetically altered, debeaked without anesthesia, and crammed into overcrowded coops; that calves are separated from their mothers and kept in dark crates to become veal. Here Masson (Dogs Never Lie About Love) makes the case that the animals humans eat on a regular basis-pigs, chickens, sheep, cows and ducks-feel, think and suffer. Each animal gets a chapter, in which Masson interweaves folklore, science and literature (he quotes Darwin, Gandhi and the Bible) with his observations of the animals' behaviors. He relates how a pot-bellied pig saved the life of her keeper and visits Dr. Marthe Kiley-Worthington, of Little Ash Eco-Farm in England, whose cow does agility tricks; he also interviews those who raise animals for profit. But there is no subtlety in his sometimes nauseatingly Edenic anecdotes: abused animals always come around and we live happily ever after. The text is pocked with far-fetched hypotheses (e.g., "A woman coming across a young lamb in ancient times might well have nursed the lamb" to explain the domestication of sheep). Arguing that all farming of animals for food is wrong (even eggs), Masson rebuts the fallacy that farm animals would die out without us, but doesn't say how we are to make the transition. His peripatetic style lacks transitions, for example going from cock fighting, which gets only one paragraph, to meditations on why roosters crow at dawn. Despite the holes in his preachy argument, his narrative contains some solid, fascinating information on the emotional life of farm animals.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Masson is a champion of the rights of animals to live their physical and emotional lives to the full, unfettered by human demands. He has written about wild animals (When Elephants Weep, 1 995) and companion animals (The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats, 2002, Dogs Never Lie about Love,1997) and now turns his attention to the animals we raise for food. Domestic animals have been with us for roughly 10,000 years, yet they still retain the behaviors and instincts of their wild ancestors. Masson explores the emotional lives of our most common farm animals, devoting a chapter each to pigs, chickens, sheep and goats, cows, and ducks. Anecdotal stories mix with quotes from scientists, other authors' observations, and philosophical musings on the nature of each species. Masson is passionate in his beliefs, and a strong thread of animal rights runs through his entire narrative. Readers not convinced by his philosophy will learn quite a bit about the animals we mostly take for granted. A good choice for all collections. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (November 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345452828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345452825
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Masson has had at least four lives: first as a boy raised to become a "spiritual leader" (see his denunciation of such a life in My Father's Guru). While in the middle of his disillusion, he became a professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto. At the same time he trained to become a Freudian analyst. Upon graduation he became Projects Director of the Freud Archives, and was scheduled to move into Freud's house in London when fate intervened: Masson found documents which seemed to show that Freud was right in believing that many women had been sexually abused as children, and that he was wrong to give up this belief, perhaps impelled by societal displeasure at his discoveries. Saying this publicly turned Masson into a psychoanalytic pariah, and he gave up both his professorship and his analytic career to delve into the far more fascinating world of animal emotions. Two of his books, WHEN ELEPHANTS WEEP and DOGS NEVER LIE ABOUT LOVE, were New York Times best-sellers. He became vegetarian as a result of his research, and later, when he looked into the feelings of farm animals, he became even stricter, and no longer eats or uses any animal product (vegan). Harpercollins published his most recent book: THE DOG WHO COULDN'T STOP LOVING: HOW DOGS HAVE CAPTURED OUR HEARTS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. He lives on a beach in New Zealand with his two sons, Ilan and Manu, and his German wife, Leila, a pediatrician who works with children on the autistic spectrum (using the bio-medical approach), Benjy, a golden lab, and three cats. They often travel to the States, Europe, and Australia. He is now fascinated in the "us/them" phenomenon, between humans but also between humans and animals.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Connelly, VegNews on November 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Scholar and prolific author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson burst on the scene as one of the foremost contemporary writers about animals with the publication of "When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals" in 1995. "Elephants" was groundbreaking, showing that non-humans of all shapes and sizes lead complex emotional lives. The book became a New York Times bestseller.
Masson has since published three books about cats or dogs. All were fine works and fun reads, yet, as each focused solely on one species, none captured Masson's affinity to bring the reader onto the printed page as did his first animal book. While his dog and cat books touched your heart, "Elephants" seeped into your soul.
With the publication of "The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional Lives of Farm Animals," Masson makes a grand return to his previous lofty accomplishment. Like "Elephants," "Pig" focuses on beings in addition to the chosen one who gets a mention in the title. Sharing with the reader the emotional complexities of many animals is one of Masson's greatest strengths; certainly no writer today is his superior. When he writes, "Farm animals-perhaps because of the fate that invariably awaits them-seem able to feel something I cannot," it makes you wonder if he's being too modest, while questioning whether you, the reader, can feel what he, the author, does.
In "Pig," Masson covers all of the modern-day farmed animals, devoting chapters to pigs, chickens, sheep and goats, cows, and ducks and geese. His research is superb; whether you are a long-time ethical vegan or a committed carnivore you will discover something you did not know about each of these beings. Are you aware that a pig is easier to house train than a dog?
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By K. vK Bomben on December 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Masson has done it again: He's marshaled his fine intellect and compassionate heart to write another fascinating book about animal emotions. This one, about farm animals, could make carnivore readers squirm because they might not want to consider the feelings of the cows or pigs they eat. Nevertheless, I would encourage everyone to read what Masson has to say. As with all his books, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon is filled with interesting facts and observations, and Masson's musings are always extremely entertaining.
I especially enjoyed the chapter on ducks because dozens of them come to my lawn every day. Before reading the book, I'd not known that ducks form close friendships and loyally watch after each other. (One duck that Masson mentioned was a seeing-eye duck for a blind friend.) Sadly, I also learned from the book that gangs of male thug ducks sometimes rape females. Masson does not make farm animals out as paragons of virtue, but no one can question his sympathy toward them. And I certainly share that sympathy.
The book is a must read for anyone who loves animals. But, actually, my hope is that the book gets into the hands of people who do not love animals because Masson has a superb ability to enlighten and persuade. Perhaps the book will sensitize people to some of the unspeakably heartless ways that farm animals are treated. With understanding, change can come, and Masson surely wrote the book with that goal in mind. He has done more to promote animal welfare than any writer I know.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Wanda Perkins on May 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have been a vegetarian for 11 years, unwilling to eat anything that required "killing" an animal. After reading "The Pig Who Sang to the Moon", I cannot with a good conscience continue to eat the foods produced by animals/birds. The suffering they endure for my benefit cannot be justified. I am now beginning my path toward veganism and the small, but necessary, contribution I can make to alleviate the suffering of animals for the selfishness of man.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Robert I. Hedges HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The Pig Who Sang to the Moon" chronicles the plight of farm animals, particularly those in mass-market farms in the United States and New Zealand, though the author also is careful to discuss farming procedures and techniques from all over the world. The book is written from the pro-vegan point of view and is genuinely disturbing and eye-opening.

I find myself in a conundrum in evaluating this book, and find myself agreeing with the vegan reviewer from Ontario that while the book is well written and heart-rending, it is not academically ground breaking other than in collecting the information in a species-specific chapter format. The author tends to rely on conjecture of animal feelings, preferences, and emotions to a degree that sometimes strain credibility, though the writing is generally excellent. He frequently dismisses anthropomorphism in others, but seems to engage in it frequently himself, and frequently engages in arguments and rhetorical questions that are tenuous at best, as on page 231 where he posits "If we kill animals with so little concern, what is to stop us from hurting one another?" Of course this is never addressed or discussed further, and I believe shows that while the author genuinely attempts to tell a factually accurate, yet moving, story, his biases are so prevalent as to call into question some of his conclusions. I don't believe that all farmers are evil (I am not involved with the agricultural industry, by the way), nor do I believe that all employees of companies like Cargill and ADM are evil.

Some of the chapters are better than others, and I particularly found the chapters of chicken, turkeys, ducks, and geese enlightening.
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