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Speciesism

October 27, 2020 - Laphams Quarterly

Ubiquitous Medieval Pigs

Ubiquitous Medieval Pigs
La Porcherie (1640)Credit: Isaac van Ostade

"Three deaths are better than life,” an Old Irish riddle runs: “the death of a salmon, the death of a fat pig, the death of a robber.” Of these three deaths, the fat pigs fell the most frequently: across the early medieval West, they were ubiquitous.

Pigs were the consummate meat of the early Middle Ages. Horses and oxen have pulling power, cows and goats and sheep make milk and manure (and skin for parchment and packaging), sheep grow wool, and poultry lay eggs. But domesticated pigs were only destined to be butchered. It took them less than two years to reach their maximum weight, so efficient were they in converting whatever they found or were fed into meat. The osteoarchaeological record shows that farmers slaughtered almost all their pigs before they reached their third birthday, and many of them much earlier, with the exception of breeding sows and stud boars.

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