Lesser Beasts

  • by Mark Essig
  • Narrated by Joe Barrett
  • 7 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Unlike other barnyard animals, which pull plows, give eggs or milk, or grow wool, a pig produces only one thing: meat. Incredibly efficient at converting almost any organic matter into nourishing, delectable protein, swine are nothing short of a gastronomic godsend - yet their flesh is banned in many cultures, and the animals themselves are maligned as filthy, lazy brutes.
As historian Mark Essig reveals in Lesser Beasts, swine have such a bad reputation for precisely the same reasons they are so valuable as a source of food: they are intelligent, self-sufficient, and omnivorous. What's more, he argues, we ignore our historic partnership with these astonishing animals at our peril. Tracing the interplay of pig biology and human culture from Neolithic villages 10,000 years ago to modern industrial farms, Essig blends culinary and natural history to demonstrate the vast importance of the pig and the tragedy of its modern treatment at the hands of humans. Pork, Essig explains, has long been a staple of the human diet, prized in societies from Ancient Rome to dynastic China to the contemporary American South. Yet pigs' ability to track down and eat a wide range of substances (some of them distinctly unpalatable to humans) and convert them into edible meat has also led people throughout history to demonize the entire species as craven and unclean. Today's unconscionable system of factory farming, Essig explains, is only the latest instance of humans taking pigs for granted, and the most recent evidence of how both pigs and people suffer when our symbiotic relationship falls out of balance.
An expansive, illuminating history of one of our most vital yet unsung food animals, Lesser Beasts turns a spotlight on the humble creature that, perhaps more than any other, has been a mainstay of civilization since its very beginnings - whether we like it or not.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Virtuous Carnivors?

The author is four square against factory farming and global warming. I think climate change was the term actually used. About a decade ago global warmers ran off to Vegas to change their name out of some sort of small scandal but I got the message: methane from hog farms will kill all the polar bears. Anyway, this screed is routine as sunrise and simply sumarized by the cartoon pig 'Babe' who learns to herd sheep without agressive barking such as might be doled out by an impolite boarder collie. The author seems to have a grudge against border collies. Unicorns never came up in the discussion.

I give the book five stars anyway since I only had eight potatos to eat today. I am on a beer and potato diet out of curiosity (I am not making that up) since I learned in the last audio book 'The Untold History of the Potato' (also five stars) you can live healthy on nothing but potatos. True, the only food I like better unbasted barbequed pork is prime rib and can not properly be called a vegitarian. Still, this was a good enough listen. Who would have thought 'hog drives' would be more long lived then cattle drives and done over similar distances?

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- David "Hellicopter Man"

Story of the pigs and humans

Great book for those interested in history and animals. Definitely on my way to become vegetarian after.
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- Pavel Jilinski

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-05-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios