Clinton Goes Vegan; Wild Pigs Invade Upstate New York

Okay, okay, there’s no obvious connection between these two events, unless you want to count cosmic irony. But by reporting on them together, I hope to snap readers out of their post-911 anniversary blues.

First, Clinton: Yahoo! News reports he gave up meat, dairy products and eggs after his 2004 quadruple bypass, and has since lost more than 20 lbs. His plans to bring his weight down to 185.

Well, good for him, I suppose. I’ve got nothing against veganism or vegans. I once dated a woman who was a strict vegan — fed herself on soy milk, shitake mushrooms, fish-free California rolls, etc. She knew I was a determined carnivore and accepted me that way. In fact, the divergence in our diets made it possible for us to eat out at half price. We’d order a single entree; I’d take the meat, and she the vegetables. That left us more money for booze.

Now, I’m told that some vegans turn militant, or at least apostolic. Chef Anthony Bourdain has called them the “Hezbollah-like splinter faction of vegetarians.” Not on my side of the Chouf Mountains, baby. Arizonans may not be as dedicated as, say, Carolinians (North and South), when it comes to putting the beasts of the fields to ignoble use, but we do our part. Halfway between Phoenix and Tucson is a real, live ostrich ranch — a bit rich for my blood, but an effective ils ne passeront pas! in the face of the tofurkey evangelists.

On this point, I feel, all of us owe a big, fat “Muchas gracias” to our Latino neighbors, both new and old. Used to cooking in lard, these people will ensure that anyone who wants to can stay unfashionably fat, happy and inhumane for as long as he likes.

On to the hogs, or, as New York’s Invasive Species Council calls them, feral swine — a name that could apply rightly enough to many people. The council reports they’ve multiplied into the hundreds these past few years, and are threatening nearby farms with their “rooting, wallowing and voracious foraging.”

It’s tempting to take a romantic view of this infestation, imagining that some domestic pig, having read Atlas Shrugged, covinced his fellows to break their chains. (Orwell’s readers will be relieved to note that none of these creatures seems to have imposed his own form of collectivist tyranny on the others.) Nothing doing, says Patrick Rusz, director of wildlife programs for the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy. He explains: “We’re not talking about Porky Pig getting loose from the farm…These are Russian wild boars. Those animals are Houdini-like escape artists and they breed readily in the wild.”

A more likely explanation is that the pigs escaped from private game preserves — ranches where wild game are kept, and where guests can hunt them, in exchange for a fee. I have three words: build a fence. And three more: an electric one. Ray Bradbury once wrote a story about a company that sent people back in time to hunt dinosaurs on its own preserve. Imagine what hitting a raptor on a tipsy evening could do to the grille of your Expedition.

Whatever the cause, whatever the solution, I can’t help but be impressed with these animals’ appearance. They’re svelte – cut, even. Wallowing must take up much less of their day than rooting or foraging. Yes, their snouts are long, but they soften the effect, adding a touch of sensitivity, as Adrien Brody’s does for him. If all pigs looked like these, then “pig” might become a backhanded compliment.