Ongoing cognitive behavior research could only add to the wave of anthropomorphizing food animals, I suspect. As we discover how smart pigs are, for example, we draw too many irrational conclusions about how we should relate to them.
Animal Behaviour, researchers present evidence that domestic pigs can quickly learn how mirrors work and will use their understanding of reflected images to scope out their surroundings and find their food. The researchers cannot yet say whether the animals realize that the eyes in the mirror are their own, or whether pigs might rank with apes, dolphins and other species that have passed the famed “mirror self-recognition test” thought to be a marker of self-awareness and advanced intelligence.
To which I say, big squeal. Why should the pigs waste precious mirror time inspecting their teeth or straightening the hairs on their chinny-chin-chins, when they could be using the mirror as a tool to find a far prettier sight, the pig heaven that comes in a bowl?
The finding is just one in a series of recent discoveries from the nascent study of pig cognition. Other researchers have found that pigs are brilliant at remembering where food stores are cached and how big each stash is relative to the rest. They’ve shown that Pig A can almost instantly learn to follow Pig B when the second pig shows signs of knowing where good food is stored, and that Pig B will try to deceive the pursuing pig and throw it off the trail so that Pig B can hog its food in peace.
They’ve found that pigs are among the quickest of animals to learn a new routine, and pigs can do a circus’s worth of tricks: jump hoops, bow and stand, spin and make wordlike sounds on command, roll out rugs, herd sheep, close and open cages, play videogames with joysticks, and more. For better or worse, pigs are also slow to forget. “They can learn something on the first try, but then it’s difficult for them to unlearn it,” said Suzanne Held of the University of Bristol. “They may get scared once and then have trouble getting over it.” [More]
It seems to me eating "smart" animals is at least as confusing on some mental level as eating "cute" animals. It's why I am growing increasingly nervous with strenuous campaigns to "educate the public".
If we tell them all the information it should include stuff like above. If we tell them our version we look like run of the mill shills and are easily countered by stories like this. Moreover, active media confrontation only garners more exposure to such data.
Between the information explosion and the medical community trying to cope with the cost and consequences of obesity, I could see a generation long decrease in meat consumption to levels similar to other countries. (To my surprise the US is not tops in this category, and you'll never guess who #1 and #2 are!)
Increased feed costs will simply be the coup de grace, unless we can refocus our sales to nations way down the consumption list, I think. Our meat industry is going to have to be about trade and the right product mix.