SATURDAY CONVERSATION

Saturday Conversation: The Marchioness of Worcester

PORCINE PASSION: Actress-turned-marchioness Tracy Worcester has been on a multi-year, international crusade against Virginia ham giant Smithfield.
PORCINE PASSION: Actress-turned-marchioness Tracy Worcester has been on a multi-year, international crusade against Virginia ham giant Smithfield. (Astrid Riecken)

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By Monica Hesse
Saturday, March 12, 2011

This afternoon, the marchioness is dressed in a woolly sweater and an embroidered fleece coat. She is a Sherpa-chic sort of marchioness, a slender sliver of a marchioness with curly hair and a low sigh of a voice, which she is now using to discuss pig poop.

"In the pig industry," sighs the marchioness, "you've got tons of pigs in the shed, defecating, and it's running into the water - the stench that comes out of this biodegrading feces is just unbelievable - "

Enter a WAITER.

Waiter: "Have you decided what you'll be ordering?"

Marchioness: "Do you have anything with pork in it?"

One assumes there are many important moments in the life of a marchioness, which is the British aristocratic title that comes after duchess. This one, legally named Tracy Worcester - she insists on "Tracy" unless her lunch companion finds her title amusing - is currently having such a moment.

It involves saving your food.

Worcester is in Washington to present her anti-factory-farming documentary on Capitol Hill. The evening before this lunch, it made its American debut to a packed audience containing congressmen, activists and Robert Kennedy Jr. The documentary, which has already aired on British television, is called "Pig Business." It outlines Worcester's four-year, international crusade against the ham giant Smithfield, headquartered in Virginia.

Now we are sitting at Equinox restaurant near Dupont Circle, which I selected for its locavore, lavishly pampered cuisine, and for the fact that every menu is stamped with a label reading "Certified Humane."

"Animal cruelty [in farming] is usually to do with chickens, but in England, the cruelty to chickens is already being fought," Worcester explains. "And yet you've got pigs, who are far more intelligent than dogs, these gorgeous animals and your heart just goes out to them."

Not enough to stop eating them - she thinks that demanding vegetarianism is an alienating message - but enough to want to make sure that the ones she eats have led happy, fulfilled lives.

She orders the grilled rockfish, preceded by a chopped salad with house-smoked bacon.


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