It’s a question several people have asked me since our young pigs were delivered. With the wisdom of those who know everything, others have casually mentioned:
“they know what’s in store for them you know”
Well how can they know, unless pigs can read our minds?? How can they possibly know that they won’t be living long, happy lives routing around in our little copse, but instead will be taken on a hair-raising journey in the back of a bumpy trailer, before being dispatched to pig heaven in the next day or so (or to be more precise, our freezer).
After our cute little saddleback piglets arrived here ready to roam outside back in April I thought I’d be writing several posts sharing tales of their escapades and antics. I hadn’t expected that being a Pig Herder (my official Department of Agriculture name) would be so uneventful!
Over the years we’ve cared for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, chickens, dogs, cats, ducks, pet rats, kittens and horses but I can honestly say of all of those, our pigs have been the easiest to mind. They’ve been such good-natured, amusing animals, they’ve been a pleasure to look after.
Pigs are clean (they use one area to ‘do their business’ in), they’re tidy (they often rearrange the straw bedding in their house until it’s ‘just right’) and they’re friendly (they grunt and wag their curly tails when we head in to feed them).
Pigs have the most incredibly strong snouts judging by the size of the rocks they’ve unearthed, so large I can’t budge them no matter how hard I try to and they’re the best way of clearing land organically in a surprisingly short space of time. They’ve also dug up a beautiful selection of glass bottles and pipes that had been discarded many years ago that we didn’t know existed – no wonder they’re known to be such good truffle hunters!
They’re at their ideal weight, the arrangements have been made with a small, registered, local butcher that won’t involve a long, stressful journey and we’ve fed them lots of apples in the hope they’ll take on the flavour (yes really…)
As the time gets closer I’ve surprised myself that I’m planning to watch our pigs go through the process. This is me, the woman who still can’t eat a chicken drumstick or pick the meat of a carcass without feeling queezy, steeling herself to watch an animal she’s grown to admire being murdered, as my children like to call it. And then cooking it.
Isn’t it right that if we’re to eat these fine creatures, that out of respect to them we should be able to look them in the eye before we send them off to their maker? I’m not ashamed to say I’m a meat eater. I’ve always enjoyed eating it and can argue the toss about why humans do. However, rearing our own has made me question my beliefs, has at times made me gag when I’ve cut a ham in two as I’ve pictured slicing through one of our ‘boys’ whilst I’m doing it, and really made me think about whether we should be eating meat at all when we have so many other food choices before us.
I don’t know how I’ll feel about eating meat over the next couple of weeks while ours is curing in the butchers. I sure as hell know I’ll never take another chop, chicken or piece of beef for granted having gone through this process. Who knows, maybe I will eat less meat from now on in, or even give it up altogether.
The experience has made me think that if all us meat eaters were to see their food alive and well before being butchered, pre packed and stacked in a freezer in a supermarket, we might not be so quick to pick up the cheap, intensively farmed meat on offer everywhere.
Well we’re planning to take ours on their last journey this Friday and today they dismantled the footbridge that lets us humans access them easily. I’ve also had to fix the fence in two places today, neither of which has happened in the previous six months we’ve had them.
What do you think? Do they know?
Note: Since writing this post the pigs have had a slight reprieve. Due to problems with the trailer we had to cancel and now have to wait two or three weeks until the abattoir is ‘doing pigs’ again.