Among his countless stirring speeches, witty anecdotes and rousing rhetoric is a lesser known quote from Winston Churchill that rings particularly true to us as we enter into our second year keeping pigs. These words seemingly perfectly capture the relationship we enjoy with our porcine pals:
“I am particularly fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
OK so they weren’t the words to go to battle on, but they certainly surely resonate with anyone who has been involved in rearing pigs.
It is this relationship of equals which makes the destiny defining day-trip to the abattoir particularly problematic. We are often asked by people who see our pigs whether we grow attached to them and indeed whether by the time the chop comes do we see them more as pets and then feel bad about eating them?
In truth our answer to this is quite straight forward although one which at first seems a little absurd. It is precisely because we have grown attached to the pigs that we feel less guilty about eating them. Put another way it is because we can be sure they’ve had a happy life on our little plot, had a good diet and have been happy pigs, that we feel much better about eating them. We certainly feel more comfortable eating our pigs than eating meat from somewhere where we can’t be sure about the way the animals were raised or indeed killed. So while it is never nice saying goodbyes we always travel to abattoir knowing the pig’s life has been good, its death will be quick......and hence its meat will taste good.
In short the better the life we can provide for these animals the more comfortable we feel in eating them.
If all this sounds trite and over sentimental to you then blame my upbringing by parents with strong vegetarian tendencies!
And so this week we said goodbye to the pigs one of our breeding sows - Victoria I believe - farrowed last Christmas.
The farrowing of piglets and pig departure day are the polar opposite ends of the pig rearing experience for us. When one of our Sow's farrows a new litter of tiny piglets it is an exciting day. The process begins to identify which of the piglets are the real characters, which are the grumpy bullies and which are the insatiable gluttons.
Abattoir day however is a day of mixed emotions. On the one hand it is a day of goodbyes; on the other it is day of anticipation and looking forward to the high quality meat the previous months of high welfare rearing is about to produce.