Pigs were domesticated about 10,000 years ago and are believed to be second only to dogs as animals that were first domesticated by humans.They are useful to people because they do not compete with us for food. They eat the stuffs that are not part of the human diet. They are valuable to people and to cities because they eat our garbage and turn it into a pound of meat per day.In both China and Europe where pigs originate, they were used to keep cities clean of human waste. Similarly, in such places as Site Solèy, Haiti, free ranging pigs are the only sanitation service available. They convert the local garbage and waste into clean meat.
The Eurasian pig is prolific. Among domesticated mammals, they are the ones that produce the most offspring. It is because of their prolific nature that they were taken from Europe to the Americas. Haiti was the first place in the Americas to receive a shipment of pigs from Europe. About one dozen pigs were delivered to the island in 1493. They reproduced rapidly and some took to the forested areas and became known as wild pigs or kochon mawon.Yoland Gilles, now 79 years old, recalls his childhood friends hunting free ranging pigs in the mountains of Pestel.
Pigs became so abundant in Haiti that they were taken to the neighboring Caribbean islands and to the US where they became known as feral pigs, wild US pigs. So abundant did pigs become in the US that meat derived from pigs became a part of the traditional US breakfast: bacon and sausage. Largely because of its abundance, pork chop became the food of the poor and an integral part of the diet of African Americans. It was not until recently with heavy advertisement from the beef industry that cow meat became the favored mammal meat consumed in the US. Because of the prolific nature of pigs, colonists also dropped pigs on small un-inhabited islands in the Atlantic so that they could populate these islands to be used as an emergency food supply for vessels going to and from Europe.
Throughout the world, the prolific nature of pigs became well known and was incorporated into religious celebrations. In Egypt for example, pigs were sacrificed to Isis, a spirit associated with fertility whose depiction has been adapted to make lithographs of the Virgin Mary. In Haiti, a similar practice arose with pig offerings to Èzili Dantò, whose name means mother of the country. As a mother figure, she is viewed as fertile and for that reason, pigs are sacrificed to her. Chickens are also sacrificed to Dantò because of their fertility and instinct to protect their offspring.The prolific nature of chickens and pigs is the reason why humans everywhere have come to depend on these animals for their food supply and why the traditional American breakfast includes eggs, bacon, and sausage.
Because of the utility of pigs in cleaning European cities and supplying people with a rich meat source, this animal was not offensive to Europeans. In fact, Saint Francis Bacon was associated with pigs and his name became that used for strips of pig meat now known as bacon.In addition, Saint Anthony, a Portuguese Ancestor is commonly drawn with pigs around him because he used to use pig fat to moisturize the skin of those suffering from various rashes.
The use of a pig at Bwa Kayiman was likely related to the ease with which wild pigs could be procured in Haiti at the time of the Revolution. Back then, domesticated animals were owned by plantation owners. In addition, a pig may have been appropriate if the service was to the Ancestral Lwa,Èzili Dantò, the patron mother spirit of the country.The notion of a land having a mother spirit is not uncommon; it is why one U.S. state is named Maryland.
Today, among some Christians and Muslims, pigs have a terrible reputation as filthy animals. This largely comes from lack of understanding of biology.Pigs’ consumption of garbage does not make their meat less palatable or less nutritious. Note for example that much of the fruits we eat grow in dirt, and are often fertilized with animal waste which does not make the fruits less nutritious or less healthy.Biblical authors did not grasp this concept and wrote in Leviticus that because pigs do not swallow their vomit, they are unsafe for Israelites to eat.Haitian translators of Leviticus have gone beyond this text and have written that pigs are not to be eaten by people who serve God. Translating “Israelites” into “people who serve God” seems to be a calculated misstatement to portray people who eat pigs as people who do not serve God.
The false translation misleads those who have put their trust in the text as sacred.Fortunately, farmers all over the world know better ; poor people all over the world know better. They know that pigs are a unique part of the ecosystem and they are blessed with an animal that will take their garbage, keep their community clean, and convert their unwanted byproducts into a pound of useful meat per day.
Because pigs have been domesticated and consumed for so long, people have been exposed to almost all viruses that pigs carry. This is why pig parts are used to replace human heart valves in people with heart disease. Pig tissues were used to produce insulin for diabetics because scientists know pig tissues are not dangerous to humans and are in fact lifesaving. The disdain cast on our Ancestors for sacrificing a pig at Bwa Kayiman arises from gross misunderstanding of the merit of this animal and of the importance of sacrifice as an element of faith.