I’m in Pescadero on the California Coast for a few days and find myself next door to a gigantic and very dusty pig. Ivy looks almost too heavy for her stumpy legs. When I walk by, she strugggles upright, legs about to buckle, hooves splayed out like much-abused shoes, skin folded into a leathery carapace like that of a rhino. She grunts and snorts at every lumbering step, inviting me to offer alms.
Even lying down appears to be strenuous exercise, given her bulk. She carefully bends one knee and allows herself to list sideways a little, hesitating just a second before she gives way and keels over in a cloud of dust. She is a powerful warning against gluttony.
It may not be practical for every family to keep a pig, but it does occur to me that considerably less garbage would find its way to the landfill with an Ivy to take care of the vegetable leftovers. She eats everything except cabbage. While her diet is essentially the same, not counting the cabbage, she is certainly far more efficient than my modest little worms, if distinctly more odoriferous.
Early in the 20th century, many towns in the US kept piggeries as the most economical waste management solution, perhaps inspired by the roaming pigs that kept house in the streets of New York City until the 1880s and 90s, as well as the many clandestine stationary hogs that many poor people stashed in cellars and hallways as a cheap source of protein.
Just this morning I heard on the radio that Al Gore advises us to cut out at least one dish of meat from our diet every week, to help curb global warming. I suppose a swill-fed Ivy could still deliver a guilt-free carnivorous feast. On the other hand, as I contemplate this hog snorting up a puff of dust in her carefully moulded dirt bed, it is apparent to me why various cultures consider pork unclean.