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Are Pigs Treated Better Than Coach Passengers?

If pigs could fly … well, they might have it better than humans flying in coach.

Pigs on a truck are probably on their way to the slaughterhouse. For humans on a plane, shoehorned into coach seats, it just feels that way.

According to the American Meat Institute’s “Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide: a Systematic Approach to Animal Welfare,” a swine or sow weighing 200 pounds should be allocated 4 square feet of space when being transported by truck during the summer months. (Although the guidelines are for travel by ground, they would presumably apply as well in the unlikely event that pigs were flown rather than trucked.)

How does that compare to the space occupied by the typical coach-class airline passenger? The average pitch in coach (the distance between the same points on seats in adjacent rows) is 31 inches. And the seat width in more generous coach seat configurations is 18 inches. So the area most airlines dedicate to their coach passengers, including the seat itself, is 3.9 square feet.

Advantage livestock!

To be sure, it’s not an altogether fair comparison. Humans on a flight are sitting, whereas pigs are standing on all fours. Pigs don’t benefit from the distraction of multi-channel inflight entertainment systems or the calming effects of purple-hued mood lighting. And pigs aren’t offered vouchers for a future trip if the truck is overloaded.

On the other hand, I’ve never heard a pig complain about a shoddy meal or the lack of space in the overhead bin.

Reader Reality Check

On a serious note, shouldn’t there be guidelines in place that define the minimum conditions for the humane treatment of coach-class flyers? Are we less than swine?

This article originally appeared on
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