Pig Flesh: Seriously Funny?
Let's first consider some examples from the "subsubsubsubgenre" of Jewish punk. Tel Aviv's Not Kosher uses a pig's head in their logo, and the cover of their Seriously Funny album shows a pig doing stand-up comedy. '90s Iowa punks Total Passover said, "Lips that touch swine / Will never touch mine / So get kosher," in the song "Get Kosher." Australia's Yidcore features a guitarist who sometimes performs with a pig mask ("Part Charlotte's Web. Totally unkosher," says the band) and, in animated fashion, turns a Hitler-like pig character ("Pigler") into a sausage in their latest music video.
Allow me to kill the mood for a second. The joke here makes light of the fact that Jews don't eat pork. It finds humor in that. For the most part, the consumption of pig flesh is portrayed as taboo and wrong: something we should distance ourselves from. But the fact that it's humorous ignores the suffering of pigs who are killed to have their flesh turned into pork. The joke implies that it's OK to eat meat that is kosher, and I certainly disagree with that idea.
It must be noted that the "Jews don't eat pork" joke can be used by vegetarian advocates as well. Last year, Heeb released a "Food Issue" featuring a picture of a pig on the cover and a spectacular six-page feature and interview with Animal Liberation author Peter Singer. Jewsweek once ran a Purim-themed article that used the "Jews don't eat pork" joke as a vehicle to promote vegetarianism (with a giant picture of a pig at the top of the page). In an article for the issue of New Voices that just went to press yesterday, I wrote, "By and large, these are the same animals—except the pigs, of course—that are sold as kosher meat."
I do find the joke funny, but I think vegetarian advocates should tread carefully when making any jokes about meat. We shouldn't forget, to refer back to the concept of the "absent referent" that I explored in my last post, that behind every piece of pork we joke about is the suffering and death of a pig. And we should remember that the approximately 123 million pigs killed each year in the U.S. need the help of vegetarian advocates just like other farmed animals do, even though Jews aren't usually the ones eating them. But since Jewish vegans certainly aren't the ones eating pigs, let's permit ourselves a bit of a chuckle!