The Dilemma

Every year it gets harder. This year I’m already dreading October. The reason? The Tamworth Two. It’s difficult to convey the joy they fill me with – watching them run, play, cavort around the fields and then flop down as if dead when they tire; reminiscent of toddlers who are found face down in lego.

They are joy, they are fun, they are mischief, cheekiness and bravado. They don’t learn. They get snapped at, snarled at and chased by the big pigs and they don’t give a damn. They come back for more. When I kneel down to take a photo of them they nibble at my feet, my jeans. If my phone is in my back pocket they do their best to get it out.

Last year’s pigs never moved in to the hayshed to sleep with the big pigs. These did off their own bat. Now that I’m getting sheep and I need their shed, it suits me but I never intended moving them. I moved the fencing but they just took a deep breath and darted under it: into the goats.

Yesterday having spent the entire day on my feet getting organised to collect the sheep: raise and test fencing, clean out their shed, drive into Wellingtonbridge to get the trailer washed inside and out, then fortify the hayshed to stop the hens getting through it into the field to the waiting family of hungry foxes. I had just poured a glass of wine to sit and enjoy the evening sunshine when I glanced over at the gate I had earlier reinforced against goat incursion. I did a double take because I’m not used to seeing pigs there.

In the past I’d have dropped everything and run out to get them back in. But with experience comes wisdom and a certain amount of laziness. I knew that when it got cold or there was another heavy shower they’d dart back. I hadn’t factored in the goats. I saw the black one with the horns lower her head to get the angle of the puck just right and then I waited. Squeal. Then the white one added her two and fourpence. Suffice to say there was no further sighting, at the gate, of the pigs.

Later I went out to check and they were snuggled up with the others and the little Silkie cock hiding from Cedric the big cock who is a monumental bully.

I know that they will have a great summer. I know they will have had an infinitely better life than the vast majority of pigs on this planet but it really doesn’t make it any easier. The other day I thought as they twined themselves around my legs looking for a belly rub how like puppies they are. And we would never even contemplate eating dogs. Having more pigs probably would make it easier because you don’t get to know them so well. But at the back of my mind the whole time is what sort of personalities do factory-raised pigs have? The chances are they would be just as full of joie de vivre as these guys, full of playfulness, full of cheek – if they only got the chance. But we never give them that chance. Instead they lead miserable, unnatural lives confined indoors and not even able to express their normal behaviours.

To be a meat eater is a struggle. It’s an even bigger struggle when you raise the animal, when you feed it, when you almost fall in love with it. Believe me it’s much easier to go to a supermarket or a butcher and buy a piece of flesh. You can detach yourself to the extent that you don’t even think. But maybe we need to start thinking and stop detaching. Maybe if we did, we’d stop factory farming. And maybe a lot more of us would become vegetarian.

These are just my random thoughts. I don’t think it should be easy but I never thought it would keep getting harder!

10 thoughts on “The Dilemma

  1. When I was a kid, my grandfather’s cook raised pigs in the pine forests of Louisiana. His pigs had a pond, shade trees and a sawdust filled shed. They were clean, busy and happy till he decided to sell or slaughter them.
    As an adult I visited a pig breeding outfit in Iowa. They bred sows and sold piglets to be fattened for slaughter. Their pig shed was full of row after row of sows they stood between two metal bars so they could not turn around. The sows were miserable, the place stank and the piglets obviously suffered from failure to thrive.
    I only eat free range pork. And when I go to the farmers market I make sure to buy some just to encourage the pig farmers to keep up the good work. I figure that if we humans are going to eat meat, we need to acknowledge what an enormous gift it that the animals are willing to allow us to do so, and treat them as well as we can while they are alive>

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  2. Excellent post. I’ve always said that, if I had to meet the cow that would become my Filet Mignon, I’d never wind up eating it. I would rather pet the cow and have the salad. Recently, I have turned into a pescatarian. It’s a little easier to eat shrimp and fish and, be more detached. Other sea creatures eat shrimp and fish, so…

    I live in a state that thrived on tobacco and pig farms. Both are/were big business here. Tobacco is on a much smaller scale, now but, the pig farms, tho fewer, are still big biz. I, physically, can’t consume pork anymore as I can’t digest it. I love goat milk and cheese and, duck eggs. I know folks with pet pigs and they are screamingly cute. Cows have become like deer to me…something to photograph in a field (except for the butter!). My neighborhood has lots of chickens and they are hilarious. I live across the street from a good sized river and we have wild turkeys, Canada geese, big white geese, ducks, hawks and Great Blue Heron. I just can’t imagine eating things I want to pet.

    My maternal-maternal GGPs were hog & tobacco farmers and my materal GPs ran a chicken farm. I couldn’t do it.

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  3. Wonderful piece. The older I get the more I realize how interesting and intelligent animals are and that all are are individuals with personalities. There is a special place in hell for those who abuse them either through neglect, deliberate cruelty or abysmal factory farming. I feel I know Honky , Parker , the Tamworth Two , the little intimidated Silkie cockerel and even the goats . I couldn’t raise animals for food and kill them . Any time we had a hen who stops laying she isn’t culled but lives on , free to scratch, feed and be fed just like her productive sisters. Not criticizing those who do raise free range animals for their meat, just saying I understand your difficulty in the prospect of having creatures killed when you have come to respect and even love them.

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