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As Charming as a Pig:The Discursive Construction of the Relationship Between Pigs and Humans

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In the past, pigs were kept near their guardians' (owners') homes, ate leftovers from their guardians' kitchens and enjoyed a generally close relationship with humans. The closeness of the relationship, combined with its ultimate end in the killing of the pig, led to a sense of shame (Leach, 1964). This shame manifested itself in negative expressions about pigs within the English language, which remain to this day. However, the relationship between humans and pigs is becoming increasingly distant, with decisions affecting pigs' lives made in the offices of agricultural industry executives far from the intensive farms on which the pigs live. The new relationship has led to the evolution of a new discourse about pigs, that of the modern pork industry. Because of its technical and scientific nature, this new discourse does not contain the explicit insults of mainstream discourse.Yet, embedded within it are a series of implicit ideological assumptions designed to justify the confinement and exploitation of pigs in high intensity farms. This paper investigates the discourses surrounding pigs in both mainstream (British) culture and the pork industry and discusses attempts to challenge these discourses.


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