It was inevitable from the get-go that Matthew Herbert‘s One Pig project would attract condemnation from animal rights activists and, well, it since has.

For those of you unfamiliar with One Pig, here’s the brief explanation that Herbert proffered on his dedicated Herbert Pig blog back in May 2009:

in 2010 i will release a record entitled ‘the pig’
it will be made up entirely of sounds made during the life cycle of a pig.
i will be there at its birth
during its life
present at its death
and during the butchery process.
its body will then be given to chefs new and old
there will be a feast
it will all be recorded

This is what PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) had to say when they got wind of Herbert’s farmyard interventions:

“No one with any true talent or creativity hurts animals to attract attention … Pigs are inquisitive, highly intelligent, sentient animals who become frightened when they are sent to slaughterhouses, where they kick and scream and try to escape the knife. They are far more worthy of respect than Matthew Herbert or anyone else who thinks cruelty is entertainment”

Today, Herbert has published his full response to PETA on his blog:

“I’m very puzzled by PETA’s assertions about my one pig project. particularly their accusation of disrespect. the pig I have been following was born on a family run farm, it spent its entire life with its siblings, had plenty of straw to rummage through, was kept in an partially open air sty, was fed a mix of local cereals grown by a local cooperative, had good amounts of room to explore and things to stimulate it. it was killed (not by me) along with its family at 25 weeks rather than the usual 20 weeks for an industrially raised animal. the farmer cares deeply for the wellbeing of the animals on his small farm, and members of the community can spend time with the animals by appointment. it is still however a working farm, the pig was always grown for meat by the farmer, not by me and I wasn’t there to change that. I knew very little about the raising of pigs from practical experience and was there to learn, not to preach, prod or adapt the recordings to some hidden agenda.

“The pig was always going to be killed, and for me to not bear witness to that difficult fact, would have been to cheat myself and the listener from the friction that comes from raising animals for food. i knew about the huge, cruel, intensive pig farms that are the norm in most of the world but i hadn’t got a hope of getting access and doing the project there, so i chose to recognise a better way of raising pigs instead. because of a perverse and secretive food system in the UK, I don’t have the rights to see how my food is kept, killed or prepared and consequently i wasn’t allowed to record the actual death of my pig. I think that this is the real outrage. should it not be a legal right to be allowed to see the conditions in which animals are kept? should it not be a legal right for the public to see what methods are used to grow, harvest and prepare what they put in their bodies?

“I eat meat. as I get older, I feel less proud of that fact. however, since I do eat meat, I think that I have a responsibility to understand the implications of that decision. as much as I didn’t relish the prospect of witnessing the death of a pig I had seen being born and raised, I felt it an important reality to face. it seems utterly absurd to me that PETA’s knee jerk reaction is to chastise me in public about the integrity of that process of enquiry without even bothering to ask me about the motivation or history of the project. in an otherwise distant and anonymous food chain, this one pig’s life has been clearly and respectfully acknowledged.

“PETA have not heard a single note of music made from sounds that I have gathered since I have yet to write it. they appear to have drawn their own conclusions as to what this might all sound like. they have concluded it will be ‘entertainment’.

“PETA is absolutely right though about me hoping to attract attention, although I am trying to do that by drawing in an inquisitive ear rather than by ‘hurting animals’. I am hoping to attract attention to the idea that the we cannot build a sustainable society with a system founded on hypocrisy. we cannot visit zoos where marvellous animals are put on display for us, only to tuck in to a ham sandwich at the zoo’s cafe without bearing witness to the way the pigs were raised. we cannot feed our children deadly cocktails of miscellaneous body parts of badly treated animals held together with fat sugar and salt to add value for the benefit of vast private corporations. in america, for the first time, due in large part to a poor diet, children in some areas have a lower life expectancy than their parents. according to marion nestle’s book food politics, of the 75,000 chemicals in the US food chain, less than 10% are tested on human health. the idea of eating food without consequences must be demolished once and for all.

“I live in the UK where the government has handed control of the food chain over to the supermarkets. it has overseen a system that now imports more food than any time since the second world war. the system is a national disgrace and one that prioritises the right to consume more over the right to consume less. it prefers that we shop globally to shopping locally. it seeks to distance us from our food. in the same way it seeks to distance us from the people that make our clothes. or distance us from the pollution other countries are making on our behalf. or distance us from human rights abuses committed in our name to support that system. it doesn’t wish to show us the effects of our choices. it seeks to create a vacuum in order for private business to flourish and for their elite version of dirty capitalism to thrive. If i’m not allowed to see or hear the pig die who I may have ended up eating one day, either by my government, or by an over zealous PETA who think that to acknowledge that death in a public sense is tantamount to torture, then we are even further away than I thought from the sustainable, enlightened, engaged society we so desperately need.

“I thought art and music was, in part, supposed to endorse the idea of challenge. isn’t part of its core purpose to struggle in public with the compromises and frictions of its time? the implication of this statement is that PETA would rather artists and musicians stood quietly to one side whilst such a poisonous and corrupt system cheerfully multiplied, unseen, unchallenged, unheard.”



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