SPRINGFIELD, MO—In just over a month, local pig farmer Dan Hankins will load this season’s yearlings into a trailer and transport them to the slaughterhouse. Fattening pigs, as they are known in the pig-slaughtering trade, make for delicious bacon, and this season’s crop is among the best the 58 year-old Hankins, who has been a pig farmer his entire life, has seen in years.
“They’re just so cute you want to eat ‘em up,” Hankins says with a wink, “That’s a little pig-killing humor.”
But aside from their impressive appearance, there is another difference in this season’s stable of future breakfast treats. Several of the pigs seem to be aware of their impending doom.
“This season we’ve been trying some new approaches to preparing our fattening pigs for slaughter,” Hankins explains, “Not only have we been feeding them all natural grain, we’ve also done some team-building exercises. We even have movie night once a week.”
The problem arose when Hankins was searching for the kind of movies he thought his pigs might enjoy.
“There aren’t too many good, wholesome pig-centric movies coming out of Hollywood,” Hankins says, “I ended up rotating Charlotte’s Web and the two Babe movies week to week. That’s when the troubles started.”
It turned out that Hankins had underestimated the intelligence of his pigs. One pig in particular, Spare Rib, showed signs that he was aware of his scheduled fate. And Spare Rib soon became restless.
“That Spare Rib, we give them food names so the kids don’t get too attached, started trying to communicate with the other animals,” Hankins recalls, “I think he was even looking around for spiders to help him write up a note, but we have the exterminators out every year to keep spiders away. Pretty soon you could tell he was trying to talk, but it just sounded like a person making pig noises, which is somehow even worse than just a regular pig grunt. I almost hauled him to the slaughterhouse right then and there.”
Eventually, Spare Rib managed to learn a few simple Spanish phrases, but so far it hasn’t been enough to convince Hankins to spare him.
“I guess he thinks I should learn Spanish so I can communicate with him,” Hankins says, shaking his head, “I mean, you’re in America, at least learn the language.”