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


This is a gentle book which takes a look at the lives and minds behind the domestic farm animals we assume we’re familiar with. This would be an excellent book to recommend to omnivores who are considering the merits of vegetarianism; it democratically explores the idea that farm animals are more than “meat on the hoof” without being pushy toward the reader.


Life changing. I returned to being veg overnight after reading this. Went vegan several months later. Grateful it exists.

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.


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.


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


One of my favorites. Could be life-changing, in that it may turn you vegetarian.

Joy Carson

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


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!


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.

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!


Interesting book that explains about the emotional life of farm animals (cows, pigs, chickens, geese and ducks) by using primarily anecdotes. I didn't find it as compelling as the first book I read by this author When Elephants Weep but I still teared up on a couple of occasions, for instance when he writes about a pig mom who "nose at a straw that isn't there to make a nest she'll never have for another litter she'll never raise." That really got to me!I liked his many references to Darwin because I didn't think of Darwin as one to believe in the emotions of animals but apparently he did - interesting. Also, I feel a bit wiser about the ways of animals and how we basically just do wrong by them - and that many of them are wiser than we think. I've learned through the bunnies I've lived with and I see not reason why it shouldn't be exactly the same with every other type of animal: the more you know them, the less you want to harm them and the more you want to see them happy.But overall, I felt like the anecdotes in this book was not as emotionally charged and therefore the arguments wasn't as convincing as in When Elephants Weep.

Tracy Ann

Nice style of writing, easy to read, and interesting! It appeals to all ages, and makes you think.

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.


If a book can convince you of (or at least make you understand) veganism, this is it. Writing with love and respect for farm animals, Masson makes a very strong claim for the emotional and self-conscious lives of farm animals, denouncing, consequently, our abuse and ownership of these sentient creatures. I read this is under two days and strengthened my resolve to pursue my current path of respect for all living beings and recognition that, beyond the prejudiced view that we hold of them, their claim to life is as justified as our own, as human animals.

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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