Humane treatment of pigs is on the menu this season.
My family's Easter dinner has always included a bulky baked ham. I often slash the top into diamond shapes, mix apricot jam with hot mustard and a bit of honey, and spread that layer on top, then stud every intersection with a clove. Sometimes for old times' sake, I add those passé pineapple rings with their bull's-eye maraschino cherries. They get basted with the drippings, and when the ham comes out of the oven, it glistens, its aroma carries into every room, and the slices, cut thin and thick, are the pink color I associate with celebration. On holidays, trans fats get a pass.
Born in Prague, I could rhapsodize about bologna, knockwurst, and bloodwurst. My aunt's fresh pork roast had no equal, baked with its surround of red sauerkraut and swimming in its own juices. My mouth waters as I write this, but....
Last October, the front page of the Arizona Republic featured a photo of a sow confined in a narrow cage. The picture was used to illustrate Proposition 204, passed by Arizonians in a landslide victory. This farming initiative goes into effect Dec. 31, 2012, and will free other pregnant pigs – sows are repeatedly artificially impregnated – from intense confinement in stalls that measure a mere two-by-seven feet. They're so small, the animals can't even turn around.
The use of these "gestation crates," has also been banned in Florida, but not in the other 48 states. No law bans "farrowing crates" anywhere in this country, either. This is the enclosure to which a sow is moved during the process of giving birth and in which she is similarly confined and immobilized while she is nursing, and which separates her from her piglets when she isn't. Europe has banned both of these practices. Isn't it time the US did, too?
Earlier this month, one of America's foremost restaurateurs, Wolfgang Puck, announced that his menus will feature dishes that come only from farms where animals are allowed to roam free. One hopes that a greater awareness, and other restaurateurs, will follow.
'Don't ask, don't tell' won't cut it