Communist Pigs: An Animal History of East Germany's Rise and Fall

Communist Pigs: An Animal History of East Germany's Rise and Fall


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The pig played a fundamental role in the German Democratic Republic’s attempts to create and sustain a modern, industrial food system built on communist principles. By the mid-1980s, East Germany produced more pork per capita than West Germany and the UK, while also suffering myriad unintended consequences of this centrally planned practice: manure pollution, animal disease, and rolling food shortages.

The pig is an incredibly adaptive animal, and historian Thomas Fleischman uncovers three types of pig that played roles in this history: the industrial pig, remade to suit the conditions of factory farming; the wild boar, whose overpopulation was a side effect of agricultural development rather than a conservation success story; and the garden pig, reflective of the regime’s growing acceptance of private, small-scale farming within the planned economy.

Fleischman chronicles East Germany’s journey from family farms to factory farms, explaining how communist principles shaped the adoption of industrial agriculture practices. More broadly, Fleischman argues that agriculture under communism came to reflect standard practices of capitalist agriculture, and that the pork industry provides a clear illustration of this convergence. His analysis sheds light on the causes of the country’s environmental and political collapse in 1989 and offers a warning about the high cost of cheap food in the present and future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780295747309
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Publication date: 06/30/2020
Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 526,127
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Thomas Fleischman is assistant professor of history at the University of Rochester.

Table of Contents

Foreword: All Pigs Are Ideological, but Some Pigs Are More Ideological than Others Paul S. Sutter ix

Acknowledgment xv

Map of the German Democratic Republic and Its Bezirke xix

Introduction: Animal Farms 3

1 When Pigs Could Fly 17

2 The Great Grain Robbery and the Rise of a Global Animal Farm 48

3 The Shrinking Industrial Pig 67

4 The Manure Crisis 92

5 Pigs in the Small Garden Paradise 118

6 A Plague of Wild Boars 145

7 The Iron Law of Exports 167

Afterword: Garbage Dump of the West 197

Notes 209

Bibliography 245

Index 263

What People are Saying About This

Deborah Fitzgerald

A fascinating study of politics, nature, and agriculture in the former East Germany after World War II. This is a really key contribution.

Donna T. Harsch

Who knew that the pig would be a great subject around which to construct an entwined history of socialist economics and international relations? Like the extraordinarily adaptable animal that it showcases, Fleischman’s well-written study ranges widely and digs deeply.

Eli Rubin

A compelling and beautifully written book. Fleischman’s analysis complicates our standard narrative of the GDR as being defined by the environmental pollution it left behind, and shows how the problems it encountered run deeper than the Cold War. By looking at its history through the prism of an animal—the pig—we learn a tremendous amount that we had not previously known. This is an original and important contribution to a growing field of political ecology in history.

Quinn Slobodian

One of the most innovative books of German history I’ve read in years.

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