Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Time to Say Goodbye

“A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork.

What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand,
is that the two statements are connected

by an and not by a but.”
 John Berger

Yesterday, we got ‘the call’ from our farmer friend that he was in the area, and could pick up our porkers on the way back to his farm, to take to slaughter today, with some of his own animals.

They are probably dead by now – all morning I have been looking at the clock and wondering whether they have breathed their last. My work colleagues keep asking me whether I am sad about it. This is a bit annoying. I feel like asking them if they mourned the death of the pig which is in their supermarket sandwich. The fact is, animals die so that we can eat meat – I think they just feel that it is a bit heartless if you happened to know the animal when it was alive.

The pigs in the autumn - amazing how much they grew in the last few months. They even had a bench to sit on.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. I know that my pigs were well looked after. They had a snuggly house, plenty of space to run about in, lots of soil and roots to snuffle about and plenty of treats. So I can’t be sad about their lives, the way I am about the way intensively reared pigs live. That only leaves their deaths to be sad about. I did have a quiet moment at the sight of the empty pig pen, but I am not sad.

I know that they were sent to a local family run small abattoir, about a twenty five minute drive away from us, so any stress was kept to a minimum. Oli went with our last lot and saw it through right until the last minute. He said it was all done so fast that none of the pigs had a chance to see what was going on – and there was no squealing.  This is a million miles away from the hours travelled by some animals to large slaughterhouses, who queue up for ages in full sight of what is going on.  If I am going to eat any pigs, I would rather they are the ones that met their end with as much dignity as possible in the circumstances.

In the trailer.

For me, there are two options – either don’t eat it, or go to the trouble to make sure it has lived and died well. Just buying it and trying not to think about the bad bits isn’t really a choice for me – I am sorry if that sounds a bit sanctimonious.

They were on their way within half an hour. We tempted them into the trailer with some food (this does feel a bit duplicitous), completed the paperwork (which is for the local council's animal movement records) while they ate, and our friend took them off to overnight in a barn before the journey in the morning.

Note to self - must buy flat cap or will never make proper farmer status.

It will be a couple of weeks before our pork delivery arrives.


  1. We will probably be getting pigs in the next month or so and it is one of the things that worries me slightly - when it comes to the crunch how will I feel about having them killed? But it is more of a concern than a serious doubt about keeping them, and I don't think it should necessarily be taken lightly anyway... It's just another example of things being polarised... the idea that in order to raise an animal and have it slaughtered you must be heartless. People don't seem to have the imagination to realise that done properly this way is surely the most honest, responsible and above all compassionate way to eat meat. Maybe I will find it so difficult I will end up giving up meat because anything else would be heartless... But I doubt it.

    1. Hi, thanks for reading. Do it! I recon you would be a fabulous pigkeeper. Just remember the three golden rules of pig keeping:
      1. Decent Fencing
      2. Decent Fencing
      3. Decent Fencing!

      And I agree with you - I think that slaughtering them should be solemn occasion which is treated with respect.

      Good luck, not that I am an expert, but if you want to talk to someone about choosing pigs and arcs, just drop me a line.

  2. I love the quote at the top by the way.

  3. Hi - How much is your pork a kilo? and do you sell them whole? have they been bought by the slaughter house? cheers froogs xx

  4. Hi Froogs - I wouldn't like to even speculate on the cost per kilo if we were to sell them - they are probably worth their weight in gold! This is because we had to buy the pig house, fencing and food - althoguh the next time they would be much cheaper beacuase we wouldn't have these overheads to set off against the pork. We send them off to slaughter and get the carcasses back. We keep one in the freezer, one goes to the landlady to pay 'rent' for the land, and we have sold the other two to family at £150 per pig (guess you could call this 'mates rates'. The idea is that the money we make pays for the food - meaning our pig is effectively 'free'. I would say we break even - just. It is more about the quality and welfare benefits, and somewhere we can recycle our scraps!

    Thanks for dropping by, still loving your blog.

    Bonnie x