The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals

ISBN: 0345452828
ISBN 13: 9780345452825
By: Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

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About this book

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s groundbreaking bestseller, When Elephants Weep, was the first book since Darwin’s time to explore emotions in the animal kingdom, particularly from animals in the wild. Now, he focuses exclusively on the contained world of the farm animal, revealing startling, irrefutable evidence that barnyard creatures have feelings too, even consciousness.Weaving history, literature, anecdotes, scientific studies, and Masson’s own vivid experiences observing pigs, cows, sheep, goats, and chickens over the course of five years, this important book at last gives voice, meaning, and dignity to these gentle beasts that are bred to be milked, shorn, butchered, and eaten. Can we ever know what makes an animal happy? Many animal behaviorists say no. But Jeffrey Masson has a different view: An animal is happy if it can live according to its own nature. Farm animals suffer greatly in this regard. Chickens, for instance, like to perch in trees at night, to avoid predators and to nestle with friends. The obvious conclusion: They cannot be happy when confined twenty to a cage. From field and barn, to pen and coop, Masson bears witness to the emotions and intelligence of these remarkable farm animals, each unique with distinct qualities. Curious, intelligent, self-reliant–many will find it hard to believe that these attributes describe a pig. In fact, there is much that humans share with pigs. They dream, know their names, and can see colors. Mother cows mourn the loss of their calves when their babies are taken away to slaughter. Given a choice between food that is nutritious or lacking in minerals, sheep will select the former, balancing their diet and correcting the deficiency. Goats display quite a sense of humor, dignity, and fearlessness (Indian goats have been known to kill leopards). Chickens are naturally sociable–they will gather around a human companion and stand there serenely preening themselves or sit quietly on the ground beside someone they trust.For far too long farm animals have been denigrated and treated merely as creatures of instinct rather than as sentient beings. Shattering the abhorrent myth of the “dumb animal without feelings,” Jeffrey Masson has written a revolutionary book that is sure to stir human emotions far and wide.From the Hardcover edition.

Reader's Thoughts


More like a collection of one off incidences and seemingly scientific proofs without any proper statistics nor citing of source.

Russell Warfield

Significantly less robust and more anecdotal and speculative than I was expecting it to be, and often to its detriment when he lapses into wild non sequiturs, denting an 'argument' which never really takes shape. At several points, it feels as if a more fitting title would be something more like 'I Have Spent Some Time With Cows'. Having said that, taken for what it is, it's a charming piece of observation and empathy, with many of its disquieting passages supporting my recent decision to go vegan this new year - particularly in relation to dairy cows. Also redemptive it its more philosophical, concluding chapters which speak more self consciously and unashamedly from the heart, while bringing up some interesting concepts. If like me you were expecting a research-led investigation into the emotional life of animals, offering some verifiable conclusions from which we could draw some clear sighted ethical conclusions, this isn't it. But taken as a personal meditation on Masson's experiential knowledge of the subject, it's a fine enough read. And as a lot of other user reviews would appear to attest, a lot of readers are moved and convinced by its fevered tone, presumably resulting in a good number of new veggie/vegan recruits, so it's also to be commended for that of course, if nothing else!

Mary Jo

This book brings to light the emotions of animals. I think the only reason that seems far fetched is because we don't want to accept that we are eating something that is a lot like us.

Lisa Vegan

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I often don’t like animal rights books with little anecdotal stories because I’m afraid they won’t be believable. But I loved all the stories of the animals in this book. It’s not a gruesome hard hitting type of book and can be enjoyed by everyone, in my opinion.


Masson makes a very strong case for vegetarianism; not so much veganism. He lost me when he declared eating honey as robbing the bees. To his credit, he is honest as he describes his own journey towards vegetarianism; and his research on the possible emotional life of animals is solid. The book could serve as an aid to exploring this choice if one were to read it all with other works on sustainable farming practices.

Joy Carson

For anyone who loves farm animals and knows they are thinking , feeling beings.


I might have to seriously consider going vegetarian, or vegan. The animals (or their by-products, such as eggs, milk and cheese) we eat are put through torturous procedures to fatten them up, or to make them produce more eggs and milk than is natural. Not to mention, that eating animal fats in any form is not good for you.But this book is also about the emotions of animals, namely cows and pigs, chickens, ducks and geese, to name a few.Not my usual kind of book, by far, but I found it quite interesting.

Moira Clunie

if i were to give you a reading list to help you understand why i'm vegan, this book would be on it. when i first read these stories, i'd been vegetarian for more than a decade and had already stopped eating dairy and eggs. even so, the book completely changed my perspective on pigs and other farmed animals, animal rights and compassion as a reason for vegetarianism. comparing the situation of farmed pigs, cows, goats, sheep, ducks and chickens with animals in sanctuaries and similar species in the wild, masson illustrates the effect of farming practices on animals' behavioural range and emotional lives. his argument is not anthropomorphic, but simply assumes that an animal is happy when it can live according to its nature; the institution of animal agriculture doesn't allow for animals to follow their instincts and express normal behaviours. chickens like to dust-bathe, cows like to raise their baby calves. one particular pig who lives in a beach community north of auckland likes belly scratches and singing to the moon. i'd highly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about the wellbeing of animals, and especially anyone who cares about animals but eats animal products.


This 2003 book by Masson, author of When Elephants Weep, is pretty self-explanatory. The author gives much anecdotal evidence that pigs, cows, chickens, sheep, goats, and ducks have much more to them than meets the eye - especially these animals that "live" (that may be too strong of a word) on factory farms. Warning: reading this book may lead to vegetarianism! For myself, I was eating vegetarian most of the time with exceptions allowed on occasion. Masson inspired me to eliminate those exceptions!


Not what I was expecting from the whimsical title and cover illustration. I was hoping for anecdotes that would show the reader how much more there are to farm animals than most people suspect. Far from stupid emotionless meat sources they have full lives of social structure, interactions and emotions.Unfortunately the book is written with a strident animal rights tone in which no farm - no matter how humane - is acceptable. One-time anecdotes, speculation, quotes from historical documents produce a diatribe, er, dialog, that is designed to turn off anyone with a scientific background or an ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.There is no doubt that large animal farms geared towards producing meat, eggs and dairy have and do keep animals in less than optimal conditions. Sometimes those conditions are cruel. I have no argument with that.I completely reject the author's claims that all farm animals should live in the wild and that their lives would be far happier than any life they could have, even if living in an animal sanctuary. He doesn't seem to realize that they would be considered a food source in the wild by other animals. Additionally the life span of an animal in the wild is much lower (with a few exceptions) than the same animal in captivity.The author's response is that the animals would be living as their ancestors did and would be happier. He argues that free range farms which inoculate animals against horrible diseases, provide veterinary care, ensure a balanced diet and access to water and shelter are worse than allowing the same animal to live in the wild. I don't think I can buy that argument.This book had a lot of potential but wastes it. My advice is to skip it.


I believe animals do have the capacity for rich emotional lives. What, after all are emotions? Nothing more than feelings. And while animals cannot speak, anyone who has spent time observing them closely and without judgment will tell you, they can certainly communicate and express what they feel. To say they can't because they don't express themselves like humans is to compare frogs to antelope, which is simply ridiculous. The anecdotes and research in the book are well detailed, though he takes some liberties and makes some leaps in logic. I don't personally like Jeffrey Masson's style with it's rambling and rigid, moralistic stance. It comes across as preachy and that since he believes it, isn't it obvious. No. It's obvious when you look at the information impartially, without Masson's personal opinion. And it's obvious when you have personal experience of close bonds with animals.There are still some people stuck in the self-serving, mechanistic worldview that says animals are just like machines and adding anything so subjective as emotion to the equation just messes up the scientific facts. Yeah, we used to think that about humans, too, but it's become very clear we are much more than the sum of our tangible parts. It's high time we acknowledged that it's also true of (other) animals.


This is not at all what I was expecting from the warm and fuzzy title. It is moralistic, and academic in the sense that it is full of references. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. I was expecting anecdotal tales about animals being anthromophized. I could not have been further from the real content. It is about how humans treat animals (poorly in this author's opinion.) I think it is best for vegetarians.


Let me preface this review by saying that after a decade of working with all sorts of animals, I fervently believe that most, if not all vertebrates, possess the same complexity of emotions that humans beings are blessed with. I believe that what we do to farm animals is tortuous and cruel and that humane farming MUST be a part of our plan for the future.....but this book is horrible. Even agreeing wholeheartedly with his point of view, I found him infuriating. If you do not wholeheartedly agree with him, you will utterly and outright dismiss the point he is trying to get across. Masson uses no scientific data or studies, even going so far as to make a point of saying how uncomfortable it made him to call a herd someone's cows because no living being can be rightfully owned. Garrr!Read Dominion and don't bother with this book. Seriously. Particularly if you have mixed emotions about the topic because you will not be able to really examine the issue at hand and will assume all animal rights activists are lunatics.


It's difficult to believe that this is the first real book, to my knowledge, which has explored the issue of whether or not farm animals have a sense of self. The sad part is, the less cute and cuddly animals often get the short end of the stick when it comes to people's sympathies. I guess the rationale is if the animal is awkwardly large and/or perceived as dirty (one myth that the author counteracts is that pigs actually abhor being dirty) they are less worthy of our attention and consequently abused without any intervention.I'm supportive of most of the author's basic arguments in that I think animals should not be sentenced to hellish lives on factory farms with complete disregard for their well-being purely to support an unhealthy obsession with meat in this country. Knowing that millions of animals suffer in this way every year while nothing is done makes me queasy. I'm not even sure that the emotional life of animals is even relevant when it comes to whether or not factory farming is an abusive practice; animals can feel pain, distress and possibly pick up on other cues about their imminent fate due to their superior senses. I recently visited a farm where a calf had been separated from its mother; the mournful bellowing of the mother cow was unlike any sound I'd heard before and hope to hear again.As for the argument that animals would perish without our domesticating them, I hardly think that the way in which they are produced now is any kind of life worth living, doomed as they are from the start. Many live short, miserable existences in factory farms—some are force fed and others cannot turn around or even stand. At least having a chance to survive with their own natural instincts in the wild would allow the population to regulate itself.

Mary Crabtree

From the author who wrote When Elephants Weep. Masson turns from exotic wild animals to farm animals and through anecdotal experience makes you consider the lives we commit animals to in standard farm practices. I think it's a book that can make one consider vegetarianism but it also is a book that gives consideration to those people who don't want to change their protein sources but may be able to see how much humane farming practices can add to the life of animals. I really liked it and especially liked the story of the "pig who sang to the moon".

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