The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten by Julian Baggini

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Here’s a question for vegetarians: if a pig were raised in a comfortable and humane slaughterhouse, would you eat it? What if that pig were also genetically modified to want to be eaten – if being eaten was indeed its life’s ambition? How about a genetically modified chicken that had lost its sense of self, environment, pain, pleasure etc.? It’d be like plucking a potato from the ground.

Another one, for everyone: let’s say you’re a doctor, and you have a patient who falls unconscious while on life-support. Beforehand she asked over and over again to be taken off the machine, but to your chagrin, an ethics committee forbids you from doing so. One day a random passerby – a janitor, perhaps – accidentally knocks out the plug and disconnects the patient from the machine. You let it go and the patient fades away: after all, you took no measure in shortening the her life, you just failed to prolong it. Are you justified?

In his book The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, Julian Baggini delves into various thought bombs that will leave your mind blown. In each of its 100 chapters, he spends one page detailing a thought experiment and then two pages afterward discussing its philosophical implications. He writes with conciseness and clarity, including all of the necessary information without falling into pretension. Each chapter raises questions and dilemmas with no easy answers. The topics range from the necessity of torture, to supererogatory behavior, to the authenticity of godless morality, and much more.

The best part about this book is that Baggini does not force any of his own beliefs, whatever they may be, into his writing. He leaves the thought experiments open-ended so that they are ripe for analysis, and even when the subjects touch on hefty issues like abortion and atheism, he never takes a definitive stance or pulls you a certain way. You have to think for yourself.

This book makes me wish that I could major in philosophy and never have a care in the world about employment or the economy. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to a full-on brain workout; if thinking about deep issues leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you should skip this one (actually, don’t do that, challenge yourself and you won’t regret it!) But I’ll end this review by saying this: the chapter on Newcomb’s Paradox made me want to scream in intellectually stimulated delight while ripping my hair out because my brain hurt too much. Actually, I guess I was like that for a lot of this book. Read it.

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16 Comments

Filed under 4 stars, Book Reviews, Books

16 responses to “The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten by Julian Baggini

  1. No one needs to give up their pursuit of passion for paycheck v

  2. I love philosophy too and would have majored if it weren’t for the lack of jobs in that field! ;) This sounds so good, thank you for sharing; I’m going to add it to my to-read list immediatley! :)

    • Yeah, I already want to major in English and either double major or minor in Psych, so it’s unlikely I’ll be able to fit in philosophy. -_- But, it’s a wonderful book nonetheless. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Right and wrong are indeed not simple or easy.

    As a vegetarian, I would say no. Meat is terrifically resource-intensive to raise, much more so than plants (since they are one step-up in the food chain). There are a lot of reasons we need to cut way, way back on our consumption–especially of things we don’t need. Like meat every day.. All the more so when we are in the midst of a global food crisis. And I don’t even like meat.

    It is never just about the pig or about the killing. It is about the whole process of raising them to be killed, which has environmental implications as well as implications for what their quality of life is likely to be and the manner in which they typically die. Because it is a business, and businesses need to turn a profit, efficiency usually trumps humaneness.

    But with the person, I’d say my only concern would be getting caught.
    The difference between the person and the animal is we have the cognitive ability to make choices and to understand the implication of those choices. So we need to make wise choices for them. Human beings are free to make whatever choices they want–even if they are foolish choices.

    Killing is not always wrong but creating unnecessary suffering is.

    • Hm I see where you’re coming from, but just to play devil’s advocate, what if the pig were to be raised in an environment with a stellar quality of life and were to be killed in the most humane, painless way possible? I agree with your statement regarding the difference between human beings and animals; though perhaps you should check out the book because the author does a better job of developing the thought experiment than I did in my post. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • There is still a global food crisis on, it is still wasteful and unnecessary to eat as much meat as we do, and raising animals is still enormously damaging to the environment as well as resource-intensive. It is really just selfish to be eating pigs when many people can no longer afford to buy lentils or beans and are making do with potatoes.

        I seems to me the way we think of moral issues tends to be very black and white as well as unidimensional. But life is just not so.

  4. First of all great review! :)
    Second of all, as a vegetarian, the answer would be no. I feel like there is something wrong with the idea of raising an animal in comfort just to kill it in the end.
    But I’ll admit that you make a rather good point… it makes me wonder.

  5. This book sounds fascinating… great, just what I need. Another book to add to my to-read list. ;)
    I think one of the things I love most about your blog is the wide range of books you review. How do you even find some of these books?

    • I think my to-read list on Goodreads is over 500 books long… maybe over 800 books long… well. And that leads me to my next point – I actually find most of my books on Goodreads (actually, probably all of them now). It’s a wonderful website! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  6. Wonderfully reviewed. I think I will have to buy the book now.

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