A Day No Pigs Would Die is a children’s book about rural farm life. Throughout the book, the reader is introduced to various kindness and cruelty, through the eyes of a young boy.
When his pet pig, Pinky, turns out to be barren and the apple orchard doesn’t produce much fruit, Robert helps his father slaughter Pinky. The scene begins:
“I had to hit her hard with the stick a few times to move her forward. It probably hurt her, but what did it matter now.” (from page 136)
The book is a coming of age story for a young Shaker boy whose father kills pigs for a living. The book title comes from the final chapter where Robert’s father dies. Robert’s sadness is comforted a bit by the knowledge that his father’s funeral day means no pigs will die.
A Day No Pigs Would Die was a formative book for me. I read it as a young girl and I remember crying my eyes out, just as I did when I reread it recently before giving it to my nephew. Reading A Day No Pigs Would Die helped seal my decision to be vegetarian and it strengthened my conviction. (If only there were more children’s books like this one, we might create a generation of compassionate vegans.) The book came at a time when I felt very alone in the world, when I didn’t know another vegetarian my age, and when no one else I knew had the love-hate relationship I had with the rest of the omnivorous human race.
Robert clearly loves his father very much and even forgives him for killing Pinky:
“I’d forgive him even if he killed me.” (p. 140)
But he never agrees with his father that killing pigs is acceptable. Robert recognizes his father’s hard work and his aim to care for his family. And Robert truly loves his father. Yet a moment prior Robert was angry:
“I hated Papa that moment. I hated him for killing her” (p. 137)
He was a powerless child who had no option but to follow his father’s orders. It feels justified, but the killing is unsettling. Every bite of Pinky’s flesh reminded Robert of his pet:
“none of it was easy to swallow.” (p. 149)
Vegans recognize every pig as a Pinky.
We know that virtually all slaughters are completely unnecessary.
We understand that modern-day farms aren’t like Robert’s farm.
We know that most people eat dead pigs because they like the taste, not because this year’s crop was bad.
We know that most pig killers are like Robert’s father: they’re hard workers doing what they think has to be done.
We can love and forgive pig killers and pig eaters.
We just wish there were more days when no pigs would die.