On April 11, 2014 a pig will be roasted in Ezra Stiles College as part of the Medieval (K)night Celebration: Its flesh will be eaten, students will revel over its corpse, and the carcass will feature prominently in the Stiles courtyard. My hope in writing this op-ed is to save that pig’s life and bring an end to this college-sanctioned pig roasting. There is no reason for a pig to be publicly roasted at a college-sponsored event, especially given the traumatic nature of such an event.
On March 24, I received an email from Shon Arieh-Lerer ’14, which began, “Dear People who Support Animal Rights at Yale.” His email went on to state that the Stiles pig roast was one of the most traumatic Yale experiences he has yet encountered for he has a pet pig, Art. He wrote the following about Art: “His favorite food is toasted pita bread, and when he gets anxious I sing bluegrass to him to soothe him. Also, he can dance and he can identify colors, and I can talk about him all day.” So when Shon ended his email asking for a vote of confidence and the willingness to petition Master Stephen Pitti directly, I of course said yes.
The evidence that pigs are smart, curious, emotionally competent beings is beyond question at this point. They dream, they feel, they sunbathe, and they communicate with each other constantly. According to a PBS report entitled “The Joys of Pigs: Smart, Clean and Lean,” most animal experts agree that pigs are more trainable than both cats and dogs. It is difficult to imagine that anyone at Yale would support a public dog roasting, despite the fact that dog meat is consumed in many parts of the world.
But that is all beside the point. While I am a vegetarian and would gladly advocate for meat-free dining halls any day, I don’t believe that the question of consuming pork is what is at stake here. Instead, what is at stake is the comfort and well-being of our own community members who are offended and emotionally traumatized by the event — myself included.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I am not in Stiles and have never attended the event in question. But based on my research, Medieval (K)night and the accompanying pig roast are relatively recent traditions. Medieval (K)night is also not directly related to the college namesake, the great theologian and scholar, Ezra Stiles, nor to the Ezra Stiles College mascot, the A. Bartlett Giamatti Memorial Moose.
I’m not calling for the end of Medieval (K)night. From what I understand of Renaissance Fairs and the like, the traditional meat offering is turkey legs. This would seem a viable, if not ideal, alternative. Interestingly, according to the Ezra Stiles College website’s description of Medieval (K)night, “Each spring, Stilesians don armor, viking hats, shields and swords to enjoy a Medieval feast, complete with turkey legs and Beowulf reenactments.” Whether this statement is intentionally misleading or is an administrative oversight, I cannot say. However, this year’s Facebook invite for the event states that “Devouring the wild boar” will take place at 10 a.m.
I don’t think that human bonding should take place at the expense of animal suffering. Let’s build cruelty-free celebrations that respect the feelings of all Yale students.
On April 7, I wrote an email to Ezra Stiles Master Stephen Pitti, containing much of the aforementioned and standing in solidarity with Shon and Art which I signed “Thank you for your compassion and consideration.” His short reply was, “Thanks for writing.”
At the end of the day, this isn’t about Shon, Art or me, but about progress. It’s about creating traditions that lead our University towards a better future for human and non-human animals alike. In closing, I would like to quote the ending of Shon’s original email to me: “Can we do this one for Art, guys?”
Taylor Nicolas is a junior in Branford College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.