Ever had the sneaking suspicion that animals may be plotting against you? Maybe it was that squirrel who gave you a funny look, or that pigeon who appeared to coo derisively as you walked past. While many people love our furry counterparts, still more are terrified of them. Whether it be due to a traumatic event, or just generalised paranoia, the thought of certain animals is enough to fill some people with the deep down tremblies. So it comes as no surprise that several of the most common phobias are related to specific or non-specific fears of various animals.
Swinophobia, a fear that is currently on the rise, refers rather unsurprisingly to the fear of pigs. Its name is derived from the word “swine”, which in turn originates from the Old English word “swīn”. It is not only a general fear of pigs, but can sometimes extend to a disliking of or even a paralysing fear of pork. Let us all take a moment of silence for those swinophobics out there, who are trapped in a horrifying world without bacon. Unlike many phobias, which usually originate from a traumatic event involving the object of fear, swinophobia usually stems from an extreme dislike of the animal, with particular reference to their reputation as dirty and unhygienic.
Though many people, such as George Clooney, find our snub-nosed snufflers practically irresistible, the developing swinophobic usually regards them as a repulsive beast to be avoided at all costs. The incidence of swinophobia appears to be more common in those who follow the Jewish or Muslim faith, as these religions both prohibit the consumption of pork. Followers are encouraged to believe that pigs are the unholiest of animals, so it is unsurprising that many of them fear and/or hate them. To add insult to injury, films like Hannibal and Snatch habitually imply that all pigs want to do is munch on our delicate little faces.
The mere sight of a pig is enough to plunge the swinophobic into a series of panic attacks, with characteristic symptoms such as trembling, profuse sweating, shortness of breath, and a rapid heart rate. More extreme responses like nausea and vomiting are not uncommon, particularly if pork is accidentally ingested. So don’t even try to get facon (fake bacon) past these wary individuals because at best they won’t eat it and, in the worst case scenario, you’ll end up with baconnaise coloured vomit all over your carpet.
As with all phobias, the best way to conquer swinophobia is by treating both the symptoms and the source. Techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises will ease the passing of an anxiety attack, while desensitisation to the object of fear over time will cure the phobia itself. This can range from looking at photographs of piglets (preferably in wellingtons) to a jaunty scream-filled trip to the local petting zoo. For those with a deeply embedded phobia, use of talk therapy, psychiatric counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy or even hypnotherapy may be needed to deduce the source of the phobia and in turn combat it.
Sometimes the road to recover may seem long, and it’s a real pig getting to the end, but we should all remember that fear is our daily constant; it is what connects us and what threatens to consume us. Whether it be a fear of pigs, flowers, or chainsaw-juggling clowns, in some way we all have fear and we will always have fear, for time immemorial. So next time you open a packet of bacon and your new housemate starts violently retching, have a little compassion.
Unfortunately our much maligned yet delicious squealing chums have been the target of a lot of negative press lately, worst of which being Orlando Bloom’s outburst on the set of Kingdom of Heaven. As a closet swinophobic, Bloom thought his secret remained firmly hidden until a rogue pig got loose during filming and he “ran like crazy” to get away from it. To Bloom, a horde of charging orcs is a walk in the park, but one lumbering pig is enough to send him into a fear-induced coma.
In the popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV, there is a side-quest called “Swinophobia”, in which the player must cull five wild boars as their population has gotten out of control.
In 6th episode of American Horror Story: Murder House, Ben is enlisted by client Derrick to help him overcome a fear of urban legends, or specifically one urban legend known as “Piggy Man”. In the story, a butcher from Chicago wears the skinned face of a pig in order to creep up on the unsuspecting swine before butchering them. One awful day, in 1893, Piggy Man slipped over in the pen while approaching the pigs and was subsequently eaten alive. Evidently the “pigs love human flesh” stereotype is a popular one. Looking into a mirror and whispering “here piggy pig, pig” will supposedly conjure the Pigman, who will then dismember you. So you can go ahead and add that to the list of “things I won’t be doing tonight…or ever”.