external image oryxcrake01.jpgJimmy first encounters pigoons at OrganInc Farms, where his father is one of the leading arcitects in the 'pigoon project'. Their official name is sus multiorganifer which relates to their purpose: the pigoon project aims to grow a selection of foolproof human-tissue organs in pig hosts. These special organs would transplant smoothly and avoid rejection and be able to fend off attacks by microbes and viruses (which it is suggested are spreading rapidly in the cities) These creatures are also spliced with a rapid maturity gene so that their kidneys, livers and hearts are ready to remove sooner. Snowman tells us that Jimmy was told all of this information when he was 'old enough'. He was also told that during his father's time at organInc Farms they were perfecting pigoons that were able to grow five or six kidneys at a time so that each pigoon would survive several transplants and carry on growing organs. It is also explained that pigoon organs could be customised using cells from human donors and organs were frozen until needed. It is revealed that the standard e-birthday card design at OrganInc is an image of five winged pigoons doing a conga line.

The pigoons are said to be much fatter than ordinary pigs to allow more room for extra organs and they are kept in heavily secured special buildings. When visiting them Jimmy has to wear a biosuit, face mask and wash his hands because it is vital that no viruses or bacteria infect their 'perfect' genetic material. Baby pigoons are referred to as pigoonlets and Jimmy claims they are cute, as opposed to the adults who are frightening 'with their runny noses and tiny, white-lashed pink eyes.' Snowman later sees a male pigoon that is growing a tusk, in other words reverting back to the way they should be before the genetic manipulation. The tusks suggest the pigoons were once closer to the boar than the common pig. Snowman tells us they are a 'brainy and omnivorous animal' and that if they had had fingers they would have ruled the world because they may still have human neocortex tissue inside them.
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Snowman says 'to set the queasy at ease' the workers at OrganInc were told that none of the deceased pigoons ended up as food, because 'no one would want to eat an animal whose cells might be identical with at least some of their own'. However there is a suggestion that as food supplies become low it was noticable how often 'back bacon and ham sandwiches and pork pies' were put on the staff menu. The young Jimmy seems to identify with the pigoons and feels uncomfortable at the thought of eating them because much like him, they were creatures who did not have a lot of say in what was going on. He also says 'they glanced up at him as if they saw him, really saw him, and might have plans for him later.' which foreshadows Snowman's fear of the creatures in his vulnerability. The narrator draws attention to the fact that the pigoons had no toilets, suggesting they were living like animals, but perhaps should not be due to their genetic resemblance to human beings. Later on in the novel Snowman has no trouble imagining killing and eating the pigoons and fantasises about the smell of bacon, perhaps because he no longer feels attachment to them now they are no longer contained. Margaret Atwood presents a world in which the humans are obsessed with improving and increasing the brevity of life. She makes the reader question the morality of genetic modification, partly through the plight of the pigoons, who are imprisoned and poorly treated by the humans.