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Lesser Beasts Audiobook

Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig

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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.

©2015 Mark Essig (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (504 )
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  •  
    Ashley 08-06-15
    Ashley 08-06-15 Member Since 2014
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    "I learned so much."

    It is well researched, well written, and well performed. 5 Stars all around - and will highly recommend to everyone I know.

    I love pigs, as they're interesting and intelligent animals. This book taught me things that I hadn't already picked up from the internet. It gets... difficult to hear at times, as some things in life aren't all butterflies and unicorns, but still well worth the knowledge.

    18 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pavel Jilinski 06-03-15
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    "Story of the pigs and humans"

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

    20 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Average White Guy ATLANTA, GA, US 10-14-15
    Average White Guy ATLANTA, GA, US 10-14-15 Member Since 2015
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    "very interesting"

    who knew pigs did so much for the world? this was a pleasantly informative read, with a positive ending.

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-25-16
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-25-16 Member Since 2017

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "Entertaining"

    The dog and pig domesticated themselves. In the distant past, wild pigs came into early human settlements and stayed. Pre-Christian European societies loved the pig. Move into the desert areas and the pig was shunned. In England there were penalties for destroying oak trees as acorns made the best pig food.

    What I found most interesting was the early European explorers would drop a boar and sow on an uninhabited island to make it into a future food supply stop. The Spanish conquistadores introduced pigs to South American. Essig claims it was the pig that allowed China to feed its massive population.

    Essig not only covers the history of the pig but the anatomy, physiology, factory farming and the culinary arts of the pig. The book is well written and research. It provides all you would ever want to know about the pig in an entertaining and educational manner. Essig also reviews the religious views of the pig throughout history. I know that Winston Churchill is the most quoted person in the world, but I never expected to find a quote from him in a book like this. The quote is “A dog looks up to you, a cat looks down at you, but the pig looks you in the eye and treats you like an equal.” This book was a delight to read.

    Joe Barrett does a good job narrating the book. Barrett is an actor and award winning audiobook narrator.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Dipaola III New York 06-23-15
    Peter Dipaola III New York 06-23-15 Member Since 2012

    Pete D.

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    "Good micro history"

    If you like micro histories like Steven Rinella's American bison then you'll love this one.

    13 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lonnie 10-06-16
    Lonnie 10-06-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Exactly As The Title Says"

    This is literally a historical account of the pig,swine, hog, boar... Whatever you want to call it. Its history with people, who eats it and who doesn't (and why), and a history of farming the pig from antiquity to modern day.

    Narrator did a fine job, but I had to take a star away for what could possible be the worlds worst Homer Simpson impression (it is unclear that the narrator has ever heard Homer Simpson based on it, in fact)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Laurie Green 02-26-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Great historical information!"

    I really enjoyed learning about the history of where pigs thrived, how they were raised and how society viewed them. I think this is a great book for anyone that eats pork, raises pigs or is considering raising pigs like I am. Just a warning for the hog producers that are CAFO farmers - you may want to skip the last few chapters if you don't want to hear any criticism about "factory" farming, but that part of the book is very short and finishes the timeline of the historical path the author traces for the pigs we know today.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Howard Grove City, PA, United States 01-25-17
    Howard Grove City, PA, United States 01-25-17 Member Since 2016
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    "I always took pigs for granted"

    If you’ve ever been around pigs you know there is nothing pleasant about them. But I was not aware of how helpful the beasts are to mankind. If I ever need to settle a new continent, I will be sure to take some of these hardy, self-sufficient creatures along and pardon them for their malodorous qualities. I enjoyed this book and will hereafter regard swine on a higher plane of being. Especially when enjoying sausage and bacon!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Troy Hallewell 01-11-17 Member Since 2014
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    "Great information! Will recommend!"

    Great information! Will recommend to anyone interested in food production or pigs in general. Enjoyed highly!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elaine 01-11-17
    Elaine 01-11-17

    I'm a country potter, gardener, flute player and tin tinker living with my husband, an electrical engineer & cabinet maker.

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    "Know your bacon "

    There's a lot to learn in this book. Not all of it make me happy to know. I think it is important, at least for me, to eat less of somethings but to try to enjoy them more and be more aware of them. Quality over quantity is my name and this book help me think that way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • AReader
    London
    3/18/16
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    "Fascinating"

    Packed full of interesting information. Read by Joe Barrett. What's not to like? Only the fact that after hearing this you will never eat supermarket meat again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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