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The Indian state of Goa sits on India’s western shore.  It is the smallest of the nation’s 28 states by land area, at under 1,500 square miles.  It is the fourth smallest by population, with about 1.5 million inhabitants, and is mostly Hindu (65%) with a sizable amount of Christians (26%) and a small amount of Muslims (6%).  It is also the only place on the planet you are likely to come across a “pig toilet,” perhaps one of the most foul and awful inventions in human history.

When it comes to food, pigs are, well, pigs — they will eat just about anything. Soybeans and corn make up the diet of the typical farm-fed American pig.  Wild pigs typically forage on a diet of bugs (dead or alive), trees, flowers, leaves, etc., but also will consume the occasional dead animal upon which the pig encounters. Pigs have been known to eat garbage of all sorts as well.  In fact, pigs, when in enclosed areas, will just eat and eat and eat until there is literally nothing left but dirt — and then, they’ll start digging, looking for more food.  Anything in the area is likely to be eaten, destroying whatever is in the area.  (Which is why pig stys, like the one pictured below, are made.)

And some Goan take this all-accepting diet to solve a problem: plumbing — or, a lack thereof. Meet the pig toilet.

The pig toilet is, basically, a big hole acting as both outhouse and trough.  A person comes to the outhouse section and, colloquially, does his business. The outhouse is situated over the pig sty, with a pathway connecting the two.  The “stuff” travels down the carved out path from the outhouse into the pig sty or adjacent trough. For the person, it’s nature calling.  For the pig, it’s the dinner bell.

This, of course, makes later slaughtering and eating the pig a huge health risk. For decades, this was not a very big problem, as the vast majority of Goa’s population (being Hindu or Muslim) would not eat pork products regardless, due to religious reasons.  However, as the population of Goa has become more sophisticated, the employment of pig toilets has begun to wane.

That said, if someone offers you sorpatel, you may want to pass.

Bonus fact: In the mid-1990s, California — facing droughts — investigated using chemically-treated wastewater as drinking water.  Even though properly treated wastewater is perfectly safe (and used throughout Londonand other parts of the UK), the idea of drinking water going, indirectly, from toilet-to-table proved to be overwhelmingly unpopular and therefore politically and culturally unworkable.

From the Archives: Sweating Like a Pig: You’ve probably heard the term, but here’s the thing — pigs don’t sweat.

Related reading: “Bacon: A Love Story” by Heather Lauer.  Eight reviews, averaging of 5 stars. Available on Kindle.

Originally published

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