28/12/2011

Dairy farms tend to keep a steer or two every year, from the otherwise unwanted male calves, for meat. Most also keep an entire bull. Of course, the best cows on the farm, the mothers of the next generation, are inseminated artificially,1 but the lesser cows – those whose breeding and dairy worth fall between the magic numbers that make them worth breeding from, at the higher end, and not worth keeping, at the lower end – are inseminated the old fashioned way, by a surly, muscular, snorting lump of beef. Of course, farmers burn the horn stubs when the cattle they’re keeping are just calves, but a ton of flesh and bone is still not to be trifled with, and many farmers caught on the wrong side of the fence with a rampaging bull have reached inside to find hitherto unguessed abilities in sprinting and the high jump.

In this case, it stomped one of our pig’s heads in, at which point we discovered why they were so docile. They didn’t have any brains to speak of.

Of course, there was brain there, but half the headcase was empty – enough, in fact, that the pig was still wandering around quite happily when the bull had charged on to eventual capture. Infection set in quickly, but not before we were able to see that the brain was perfectly formed, but shrunken. This was no clumsy surgery, but a quality of the way the pig had grown.

From this, we figured out that the Professor had tried to create humanised pigs that wouldn’t raise so many “ethical dilemmas” (most of which, when it comes to biotechnology, are based on misunderstandings of the procedures involved). Since they didn’t have brains, they couldn’t have whatever it is that makes killing a human murder, just because they shared a few genes. By that age, I could see that such an attempt was naïve, but we kept the secret for him, and indeed from him. The pig had died, and that was all he knew. We never even told him that it was delicious.

1This is the famous procedure involving Putting One’s Hand Up A Cow’s Bottom, in a long plastic sleeve; in this position, the farmer can feel through the walls of the rectum to guide the inseminating probe to its target. It is exactly as disgusting as it sounds, and it’s the reason why you can afford to buy milk at all.

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