Once upon a time, I had a beautiful young wife.
Because we recognized that human population growth is a major contributor to environmental destruction and mass extinction, we decided not to create human children.
My wife was infused with maternal instinct, and it made her sad we weren’t going to make children together.
She loved animals and animal plush toys starting when she was just a tiny baby.
One day it occurred to me to give her a present that would rekindle the spirit of her childhood– it was a cute, sweet, baby pig plush toy.
She was going away to graduate school the day I gave it to her.
She named the baby pig “Piggy,” and as she held Piggy to her heart and kissed him, she said he’d be the son we never had.
At first, our Piggy was just a sweet, cute, endearing fantasy that she created and I participated in with a kind of bemused, poignant affection.
But over time, Piggy took on a life of his own.
Perhaps it seems childish or delusional, but we increasingly believed he was animate, that he could move on his own, that he had personality, thoughts, feelings.
He became like a real son, albeit a son who never needed diaper changes, who’d never grow up to be a rebellious teenager.
As you might expect, we started paying more attention to biological baby pigs.
My wife volunteered at a baby pig sanctuary.
Whenever we saw pigs on farms, we’d try to get to their fence and have Piggy play with them, or at least talk to them.
Then we read the incredibly moving book The Good Good Pig, by Sy Montgomery.
This book inarguably shows that pigs are sentient, have personhood, and can be just as important in families and social life as humans or pets can.
One problem our family had was that I was raised eating “pork,” especially barbecued pork.
But one day, when I was eating pork ribs and hot sauce, I noticed Piggy’s deep brown eyes looking at me accusingly, reproachfully.
I realized I was offending him, disappointing him, and probably outraging him.
I wasn’t yet a vegan, but I already knew that after I ate animal flesh or dairy products, I always felt somewhat queasy and sluggish, if not actually physically ill from the toll that flesh foods take on your digestive system.
So for the sake of Piggy, I gave up pork.
I knew that any baby pig (whether plush toy or biological) is horrified and terrorized by even the most “humane” situations in which humans manage pigs and then later on kill them.
And it’s even worse to see how industrial “pig farms” enslave pigs in brutal conditions and subject them to constant abuse.
When I became 100% vegan in late 2015, one reason I did it is so my little Piggy wouldn’t see his father being a customer of the animal exploitation industries that harm pigs and many other animals.
If you have children who love their animal plush toys, you too may realize that your children experience cognitive dissonance when they see humans eating and otherwise harming animals.
The bottom line is that some people view our little Piggy as just a plush toy, but for us, he’s a real entity who helped us have empathy for non-human animals.