A journey into the mind of a pig, as told by our children’s book author, Leslie Crawford
Leslie Crawford was born and raised in Denver by two parents who adored reading. When it came to environmentalism they were not unlike the majority of their generation – it was a topic rarely discussed at the dinner table.
And yet. “As a kid, I was always worried about the planet," she says, "and would fret regularly about trash and pollution.”
It wasn’t until her time at Tufts University that Crawford really began to confront these anxieties. Just as her undergraduate studies began, so did her on again, off again relationship with vegetarianism.
“For many people, bacon is the hardest thing to give up,” she laughs. “I understand. My own kids still eat it.”
In place of promoting a strict moral code, Crawford’s upcoming children’s book, Sprig the Rescue Pig (published by Stone Pier Press, distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing) sets out to inspire empathy. Crawford wants the story to help children and their parents begin to consider what a pig is. “I think, overall, the more empathy, the better, no matter what,” she says.
The first in our farm animal book series, the story begins with Sprig aboard a crowded truck bound for a grim fate. When the truck stops, Sprig catches a whiff of something utterly delicious and decides he must have it. So he leaps off - something that has happened in real life more than you might think - and sprints into a brighter future.
Sprig’s adventure is, in many ways, informed by Crawford’s commitment to the earth - to its scents and sounds, and to the animals who inhabit it. At her San Francisco home, where she lives with her two children, Gideon and Molly, she currently cares for 6 chickens, 5 rescue pigeons, and a lizard. “I love having them. It gets me closer to nature,” she says. “It gets me out of my home.”
It’s exactly this curiosity that nudged Crawford into the mind of a pig. No matter the content, no matter the audience, when Crawford sits down to write, she tries to imagine herself in different shoes, with different skin - in this case, with wiry hair and a long snout capable of smelling things hundreds of feet away. This journey was undertaken along with some important research. She consulted several pig experts, including farm animal welfare specialists and Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig, for help on what makes a pig a pig.
“There’s no way around anthropomorphizing,” Crawford admits. “We simply can’t know what it’s like to be a pig or a chicken.”
But if we can imagine pigs with wit and curiosity akin to our own children’s, and recognize one for the individual it is – smart, affectionate, inquisitive, and friendly - then quite possibly we can reimagine what it means to eat them.