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CHAPTER XI Hogs
The national peril of the United States is hogs. Of the peculiar and subtle influences which have driven most Americans into the pig business I find it impossible to formulate any reasonable account. Of course, there is the fact that the pig business has large monies in it, and that America is a country in which it would seem you have only to tickle a little pig with a hoe to turn him into a fine fat porker.

There can be no doubt whatever that a very large percentage of Americans think, talk, and raise pig throughout the whole of their natural lives. This industry appears to be of such a fascinating character that when once you have got into it you cannot possibly get out of it. Even if you wax unrighteously rich and get elected to Congress and move your family to New York, you still stick to pork and lard as if they were your brother. I understand that many of the ball-rooms in the big brown stone mansions in Fifth Avenue are waxed with lard.

I do not know whether there were any pigs in America before the Pilgrim[102] Fathers landed. But it is certain that there are millions of them there now, and that they eat apples and grow wondrous frisky and have a good time of it—till killing day comes around. And it is precisely here that the frightful Americanism of the hog begins. For the wicked pig, like the wicked man, has a knack of finding his way to Chicago—which, as all the world now knows, is the most bloodthirsty, sultry, and unregenerate city on the face of the earth. In this place they kill pigs by the thousand daily. Hoggish shrieks rend all the air, the stores and warehouses groan with the pig’s dismembered parts, and the odour of his frizzling adipose tissue is in every nostril.

It seems to me more than likely that the pig owes the beginnings of his present supremacy in the United States to the Irish, who are pretty thick upon the ground there. An Irishman without a pig in one form or another would in all likelihood take cold, or die of heart-ache. In his own distressful Island, the Irishman and his pig live on terms of freedom and fraternity that put the American Constitution to the distinct blush. Not only does the pig pay the greater proportion of rent that gets paid in Ireland, but he is the friend and playmate of the family, and is invariably accorded a cosy[103] corner for himself on the domestic hearth.

It seems only natural, therefore, that in emigrating to the States, the Irishman who could manage it would insist on taking with him one or more pigs, probably as much for company’s sake as for any other reason. And behold the result! What was a simple and very human foible on the part of the Irishman, has become, with the American, a raging and soul-consuming obsession. Pork, pork, pork, pork, pork! That is the cry that rises daily and hourly to heaven from the greater part of the United-States-half of North America. Everybody is concerned in it; everybody has money in it; everybody wants to get more money out of it. The pig is rushed through his feeds, weighed every morning till he has assumed the right specific gravity, hurried off by car to his doom, killed and slain on the no-waiting-here principle, and turned into hams, sides, lard, brawn, and sausages for the delectation of a hungry world before he has a chance to say George Washington.

America as a country, and the Americans as a people, depend upon hogs for their prosperity to an extent that is appalling. Upon the dead weight of him in the warehouses, and upon his firmness, or want of it, in the markets, hangs the[104] stability of all sorts of stocks, shares, bonds, debentures, and general securities. If pig is “up,” America is a land of contented households and smiling faces. If pig is “down,” she is plunged forthwith into the deepest woe and the meanest irritability.

All of which affords one further striking evidence that the Americans are really a wonderful people, and that they deserve the generous tributes of praise that they so consistently and lavishly draw upon themselves.

A nation whose principal diet is pea-nuts, and whose principal profit is derived from the sale of pigs, is obviously pretty low down in the scale of civilisation. A hog tender cannot by any chance be the finest kind of man, neither can a pork butcher or a wholesale ham merchant. And every American who is not a member of a trust, or a pastor of a church, or a boss billposter, or a missionary, or a comic singer, is either a hog tender, a pork butcher, or a wholesale ham merchant. At any rate, so one gathers from the authorised reports.

And just as nut-chewing is responsible for certain grave weaknesses in the American character, so is pig-dealing. The pig and the potato have made the Irishman the idlest man in the world. The pig takes no rearing, and the potato[105] is such a lively and prolific tuber that it will grow almost without planting. The Irishman has reaped the full disadvantages incident to these merits in the pig and the potato. And one feels sure that the American is suffering equally from the effects of the pig. I have no wish to reopen the box of horrors which was introduced to our notice some time back by the author of “The Jungle.” That gentleman did his work thoroughly, and the atmosphere is even yet redolent in consequence. It does not concern me that Chicago meats, tinned or cured, are not always entirely fitted for human consumption, or that the Chicago method of treating such meats are uncleanly, or that the Chicago idea of industrial efficiency is a perverted one. What does concern me is that Chicago is an American city, built by Americans, run by Americans, and made lurid by Americans—on pig.

To suggest to the American reformer that he should take steps for the immediate extermination of the pigs in America, steps, in fact, such as have been taken with a view to the extinction of the rabbit in Australia, would be to fill him with horror and amazement. He is all for the amelioration and improvement and cleaning up of Chicago; he does not see that it is the pig and the[106] great American people who are the root trouble. Prohibit the breeding and rearing of pigs throughout the United States, and you will have gone much further towards the cleaning up of Chicago, and, for that matter, the cleaning up of America, than you are ever likely to get by dealing simply with Chicago itself. So long as there are pigs, so long will Chicago reek. Abolish pigs, and you have abolished the worst features of the world’s foulest city.

The reformer will find that my suggestion is an impracticable one. He may even go the length of calling it frivolous and ridiculous. But we shall see what we shall see. America will one day either have to forsake pig or come to very bitter grief. She is already in considerable straits as to the marketing of her porcine staples. She has shoved them down the necks of her own people till they can no more. She is pushing them down English throats with all the force that in her lies, and the limit is within a very little way of being reached. Do as one will, one cannot consume more than a certain amount of American pig in the course of the day’s deglutition. Europe is taking far more than is good for her even now, and yet the American demand is for bigger sales and extended markets, to prevent the stuff from rotting[107] at home. The position is unfortunate in quite a number of senses; but it is precisely what any prescient American ought to have expected. America is overdoing it in the matter of pig, just as she is overdoing it in most other matters. When you have got the measure of people’s hunger and purchasing capacity you cannot appreciably increase them by any amount of advertising or bluff.

The Americans boast that they can sell everything appertaining to a pig save and except the squeal. I don’t wish to frighten them, but it would not surprise me in the least if within the space of a few years the large accumulation of squeals which they must, by this time, have on hand were to arise up as it were, and din their ears in a manner which they will not relish.

I may remark finally that in spite of everything that Chicago may say and publish in their praise, there can be no question that American pig products are of a most inferior and unappetising quality as compared with the real article. American hog meat exhibits a coarseness of grain and a crudeness of flavour which will incline any person of gustatory discrimination to the abstention of the Hebrew. Eggs and bacon constitute[108] the English national breakfast dish; ham and eggs are the sure rock and support of our country inns and cheap restaurants. Both these dishes have, however, fallen into sad disrepute during late years, and I have no hesitation in attributing this grave and heartrending circumstance to the fact that the bacon and ham nowadays served are almost exclusively American.

The gentlemen from the other side must excuse me if I appear as he would phrase it, “to tread somewhat too severely on his face”; but I really mean him no evil. Rather do I wish him all manner of good.

Besides which it is one’s duty to be patriotic; and charity—even in the article of pig—should begin at home.


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