Looking for a visual representation of my feelings of exhaustion, I Googled images of “food or rest.” My first page of results included both images of cows and pigs (being transported to slaughter for 52 hours “without food or rest”) and of a female android named Aiko. “She doesn’t need holidays, food or rest and she will work almost 24-hours a day. She is the perfect woman,” said her creator, Le Trung.
My search results brought me this telling illustration of why my next book project juxtaposes animals and automatons to explore what we learn about inequity and rank injustice. Which bodies are marked as requiring neither food or rest—two basic elements without which one cannot survive? And how are these determinations dependent on gender and class?
“I clean morning, noon, and night! I’m so happy!”
Of course, I don’t meant to suggest that Aiko’s troubles, whatsoever they may be, can compare to the plight of the millions of animals inhumanely transported and slaughtered for humanity’s endless needs. Whatever happened to the Twenty-Eight Hour Law, our country’s first federal regulation explicitly protecting animals from cruel treatment? I’m not sure how the 52 hours cited above were calculated, but there are extensions—either “accidental or unavoidable causes” or quite simply because the owner requested an extension in writing.
From William Youatt’s encyclopedic tome on the pig, aptly titled The Pig(1847). He also wrote on The Dog(1855) and The Horse(1831), so he might have had a little franchise on this theme (it brings to mind the excellent Reaktion Animal Series). As I looked into it, I found that he also penned Cattle(1838) and Sheep(1837). Isn’t it telling, that the two animals that were in more intimate relationship with humans (dogs, horses) were graced with the preceding “The,” while those that are food (cows, sheep) aren’t? The “The” confers upon the dog and horse a greater potential for individuality. Cows and sheep, on the other hand, are referred to in the plural, a move that generalizes and homogenizes.
This is from Arthur Gibson’s 1883 The Adventures of the Pig Family, a representative example of literature that humanized animals—using them as stand-ins for entirely human behavior. In this case, Mrs. Sarah Pig is a veritable Angel in the House. The pig family’s performance might have undermined the discourse of separate spheres, even as it reaffirmed it.
Look, Mr. Pig is home for dinner, after a long hard day:
And speaking of dinner—as if this gathering of texts was not motley enough!—I end with a mention of Charles Lamb’s A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig (1888), a satire which I look forward to reading through. It has a little bit of anti-Chinese sentiment, at least in these horrible illustrations,
but, also moments where the way he pokes fun at the reverence for roast pig offers a chance for empathy:
Happy National Pig Day!