The Pigs

For this research the use of 21 dead pig was required. Instead of referring to each animal as a carcass or as tissue, Pia visited the pigs prior to their slaughter and was determined to name, wash, and dress each in the same manner she would a human.

The Australian Anatomy Act[1] meant that human cadavers could only be used within teaching, and not experimentation. The restrictions on using human cadavers led us to using pigs as our subject bodies within the research project. Pigs are a reasonable alternative to human bodies: they have similar skin depths, fat deposits, and organ arrangement, or as forensic researcher Schoenly [et al] describes, the similarity is “due to its similar internal anatomy, fat distribution, chest cavity, omnivorous diet, and lack of heavy fur.”[2]

I further investigated the use of pigs in research, and in particular, the method of slaughter that would occur. Had I access to human cadavers donated for the purpose of research perhaps I would not have resisted using the bodies the same way that I did my pigs, as those bodies are willingly and consciously offered. However, in Australia, human cadavers are not used outside the medical teaching anatomy room. I came to understand that the pigs were going to be slaughtered regardless of whether it was I (or rather, Ian) who signed the order form. The pigs came from the human consumption chain, and like all living organisms they incur a death at some point. However, I could avoid and save the pigs from unnecessary travel and ‘mental suffering’ by insisting that the piggery owners perform the euthanasia. They could thereby ensure the pigs experienced a normal, and thereby non-stressful, evening before they would be moved into another enclosure where they would be head-bolted away from their peers. Captive bolting is a method of slaughter, which is “effective, versatile, portable and safe to use compared to a free bullet.[3]

“While my research never intentionally set out to discuss the use of animals in research, it was something that arose during its undertaking. Our attitude towards animal products in apparel use has always been contradictory. We want the properties of the animal’s skin or fur, its texture, handle, lustre and tenacity, but we do not want to be reminded of its past ‘life’ and that it subsequently died for our use. Rather, we prefer to deny its (and our own) death. This feeds into many of our psychological issues about death and its denial; that humans are unique amongst their relatives in the animal kingdom in terms of the search for psychological balance in the face of awareness of inevitable death. The pigs were being used as surrogates through which I could navigate the terrain between the living and the dead, specifically because of their similarities to humans. Their dead bodies would be conduits for human decomposition, and in the fashioning of the experiment, the fact that they were pigs was an added layer of reasoning to the exploration. I was drawing attention to the dead human body, through its similarity to the decomposition of the pig body, and thus awareness of the animal became built into the process.  I was directing what should be done to the pigs and I was responsible for ensuring that the process of taking the body from mortem to final resting place was fashioned with concern for integrity of care.”

-Pia Interlandi [A]Dressing Death: Fashioning Garments for the Grave 

[1] ACT Parliamentary Counsel, “Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1978,” in A1978-44, ed. Australian Capital Territory Government ( Australian Capital Territory Government, 2012). Retrieved 25 August, 2011

[2] Kenneth G.  Schoenly et al., “Comparative Performance and Complementarity of Four Sampling Methods and Arthropod Preference Tests from Human and Porcine Remains at the Forensic Anthropology Center in Knoxville, Tennessee,” Journal of medical Entomology 44, no. 4 (2007). P 882.

[3] Ibid.