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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 (401 )
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Performance
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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
  •  
    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 Palm Springs, Ca 10-06-16
    Lonnie Palm Springs, Ca 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
  •  
    David United States 04-14-16
    David United States 04-14-16 Member Since 2012

    Hellicopter Man

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    "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?

    34 of 64 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anika Page 12-08-16
    Anika Page 12-08-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Book is great, reader is not."
    If you could sum up Lesser Beasts in three words, what would they be?

    Emphysema Reads a Cookbook.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The Humble Pig! I loved the descriptions of ways of cooking, and the history. Quotes of real medieval and ancient texts are excellent.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Joe Barrett?

    Someone who could breathe without difficulty. Anyone who could breathe without difficulty. I don't like hearing the constant desperate gasps for breath. It's unsettling.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Very clever, although I would have appreciated more stories about worldwide pigs, and less stories about Jews, Christians and Muslims, who I don't have much experience with, and don't interest me. Pigs are popular in more than just Europe and the North American continent.


    Any additional comments?

    If you can get over the awful constant pants for breath, it's a great story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Sullivan Bernardsville, NJ USA 12-06-16
    Richard Sullivan Bernardsville, NJ USA 12-06-16 Member Since 2014

    Rich S

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    "Surprisingly excellent"
    Would you listen to Lesser Beasts again? Why?

    Yes


    What did you like best about this story?

    Extraordinarily interesting to see how pigs impact history and vice versa. I have no idea what made me buy it, not exactly what I would usually get. But i was extremely interested throughout the book


    What about Joe Barrett’s performance did you like?

    Excellent


    Any additional comments?

    You may ask if I am so surprised, why did i get the book in the first place? Well, not sure. My logic was that I've been happy with some of the history books I've listened to lately, and I like port....maybe i will like this. I really really liked it; top 3 books in the last year. The author does a great job weaving in pigs into history, religion and culture.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon Doolen 11-19-16
    Jon Doolen 11-19-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Yes, it is a book about pigs"

    yes I can't believe I just listen to a book about pigs. but I will tell you I learned more than I thought I would and it was interesting enough to keep me listening for many hours. it is surprising at how influential the pig has been on history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Colin B. 09-26-16
    Colin B. 09-26-16 Member Since 2016
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    "My first microhistory book - and loved it!"

    A really great listen. I bought the book on a whim and loved every chapter of it. Also loved the folksy accent of the narrator! Definitely would recommend to my friends!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • AReader
    London
    3/18/16
    Overall
    Performance
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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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