The Pig Who Sang To The Moon

ISBN: 0099285746
ISBN 13: 9780099285748
By: Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

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About this book

This is a book about farm animals - chickens, cows, sheep and goats - and what they think and feel. As with his previous bestsellers on animal emotions, Jeffrey Masson reveals that these creatures, so often despised or abused, feel complex emotions - among them love, loyalty, friendship, sadness, grief and sorrow.The domesticated animals which live on our farms are very little removed from their wild ancestors, and keep the emotions that belong to those animals when they lived free. This means that the confinement farm animals are subjected to is painful and that those enduring factory farm conditions are suffering little less than torture.Thinking about the wild ancestors of farm animals allows us to answer many questions that were once considered unanswerable. Those answers, however uncomfortable, are at last providing insights into the personalities and needs of the animals on whom we depend.

Reader's Thoughts

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.


I couldn't concentrate on this book to the degree that I should have done. I find it so hard to read about how we abuse animals via our factory farming practices.I found Masson's approach overly anthropomorphic at times. I don't believe that most farm animals seem less emotional to us just because we don't know them as well as cats and dogs. I can see there is a big difference in different animals' abilities to communicate. Even as an enthusiastic cat lover I can see this difference between dogs and cats, and I think I can rightly extrapolate how much greater this distance must be between something like dogs and sheep. Having said that, Masson gives some very touching stories about animals in loving homes or animal sanctuaries who have made special relationships with people, or with each other, and he argues well for things like the intelligence and sensitivity of pigs, and the companionship enjoyed by cows and sheep.I was however alienated by ideas like this."My friend Matthew Scully, who writes speeches for President Bush, was surprised to see a mother and her ducklings walking right by the White House in downtown Washington, and he wondered why they would nest in a city when there's miles and miles of river around the city. I think the answer, surprising as it is, lies in the ability of ducks to recognize that there are places where humans protect them from both their natural predators, other animals, and from their unnatural predators, namely us. Nobody would ever shoot a mother duck walking across a busy city street......"I don't know why the odd duck and her brood end up in the middle of cities, but it inevitably seems a mistake or oversight, never a deliberate ploy on the part of the duck to take refuge in a city centre, on the grounds that city centres are safe places for ducks. And it was occasional writings like this which undermined Masson's position for me.Having said that, even as a skeptic, it was hugely powerful to read on the one side Masson's arguments for the breadth of animals' sensibilities, and on the other about the horrendous environments in which most farm animals find themselves. As a vegetarian, and wannabe vegan, the book made me think again about what I buy and where I buy it, and it renewed my commitment to buy as expensively as possible when any animal produce is concerned.I think at the end of the day I feel that any sentient being, capable of feeling pain and discomfort, and capable of experiencing things like a mothering instinct, needs to be treated well, according to their nature, and with respect. Arguments that they can experience emotions in the ways that we can I find less convincing. It may be that I need more evidence, and we just haven't had enough work on the subject.All in all I found this a very sad read, but very worthwhile.


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.


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.


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.


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".


mixed feelings; i wanted to like it more, but i think this book would have benefited from further editing. it reads a bit like a personal journal, with sudden digressions, non-sequiturs, anecdotes unrelated to the topic at hand, and a generally sloppy feel about it. also annoyed by the endnotes - no easy way to cross-reference. the tone, however, is pleasantly familiar and easy. to my surprise, the author's main thesis and sub-arguments are basically abolitionist in nature, despite the fact that he was not vegan at the time of writing. these ideas are presented clearly and simply. to sum up, a quick, edifying, entertaining and somewhat untidy read.


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.


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.


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

Joy Carson

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

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.


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


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.

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