Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Lovely George

So here’s my dilemma. I love keeping pigs. They are fantastic creatures with great personalities and are a real asset to both the farm and our lives. If ever either one of us feels down, cross, frustrated, it’s the pigs that we go to see and tell our woes. A bit like the dogs, they are always there for us with a friendly grunt and a ten tonne body weight to lean into you ensuring that you stick to your end of the bargain with a hearty belly scratch. I don’t have a problem, most of the time, with sending them to slaughter. I know that my pigs are the happiest, healthiest pigs on the planet and that they want for nothing. I know, in the majority of cases, that I would not be able to keep them past their slaughter stage anyway.. what would I do with them when they become lumbering beasts who hover up pound after pound of vegetables and pig nuts (and that’s not necessarily the weight version of pounds either)? I realise that it is totally impractical to keep pigs for any longer than 7 – 8 months old unless it’s for breeding. I enjoy the meat that they produce and feel very privileged to be able to sample the highest quality pork available in the knowledge that I have done everything I can to ensure that the animal I am eating has had the upmost respect and best care that it could ever have had all the way from birth to death. How many meat eaters can say that? I am truly lucky. But here is the dilemma … I’ve fallen in love with George.

George came to us in April in a trail of errors and knee jerk reactions. It’s a long story which I will not bore you with, suffice to say he arrived without the usual consideration that goes into the thought process when buying weaners. He wasn’t planned and that is my mistake. He and Nelly are brother and sister, which I guess is the whole crux of the situation. He lived with Nelly for the first few months and a few weeks ago we separated them for obvious reasons. Although the pigs are still all together, Nelly is in a separate pen, then our new lovely Large Black weaners and then George. He is the most adorable pig. Very cuddly, very intelligent, always happy to see me and always up for a good belly scratch. In an ideal world George would not be Nelly’s brother and therefore able to be her husband, but he is not. And so time is fast approaching for me to weight George and schedule him in with the abattoir – but I can’t. I just can’t. Everyday I feel this big black cloud hanging over me and I don’t know how to make it better. I desperately try to think of a way out, another way of doing things, but there just doesn’t seem to be any other solution.

Writing the above brought me to tears, so I went and sat with George for a bit. Couldn’t decide whether I wanted to do it as an act of masochism or if I honestly thought it would help.

He has to go. There is no other plan. I could sell him but what happens if he goes somewhere where he is really unhappy. I would have saved him from his death only to condemn him to a life of misery – I know which I’d prefer. I can’t hire him out as a boar because he can’t be registered as pedigree as his ears were too short or he doesn’t have the right number of teats or something, I don’t know – either way it will be difficult to hire him out without that. Irony of it is though that any descent pig farmer would be silly to refuse him based on credentials created by a breeding club over the calm beautiful natured, beautiful looking pig that he is, but that’s the way it works. I could get another girlie for him who isn’t his sister but I haven’t even tried to start breeding with one gilt so to invest in another would be fool hardy. We can’t keep him as a pet as it would be tragedy if the lure of Nelly got so much that he busted through fencing to be with her – we just can’t take that risk.
By talking it though with you things seem a lot clearer. If you think I am wrong, give me a better solution. If you think I am cruel, think about the animal you’re eating next time you tuck into a bacon sandwich or chicken salad. How did that live? Would you even know? And if you’re a vegetarian, hats off to you! I couldn’t do it. It’s funny, isn’t it, to think of all the animals that wouldn’t live and all the animals we wouldn’t see every day if the whole world was vegetarian. Oh, the irony.