Adventures in Pink #1

I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

-Winston Churchill

I woke up Tuesday morning and the pigs were here. By the time I’d dressed and rushed down the back stairs they were already installed in their pen, shaking and grunting warily. The electric fence we’d built the week before wasn’t plugged in, but I was still careful when I stepped over. The two piglets cowered in one corner of their lean-to like frightened children. I reached my hand over the plywood Cory’s father, Danny had used to pen up the young pigs. Squealing, they quickly trotted to the opposite side of the lean-to. I stepped back to give them some space. They looked up at me with disconcertingly intelligent, piggy eyes. Then, they began to root. Cautiously at first, testing their snouts, and then with increased vigor. They had decided to ignore us for the present. I went inside the garage (we live in an apartment above) to do dishes, and Danny went into the house.

Three minutes later I glanced out the window and down into the pig woods. They had climbed over the plywood and were rooting merrily dozens of yards from where we had left them. Danny got the net and after much squealing and panic we managed to get them both back into the pen.

When Cory got home from work we named them. We probably shouldn’t have but we did. The small, skittish female he named Flo. The name suits her; she’s very much the neurotic secretary.  For the sturdy, spotted male I chose Walter. Cory agreed right away.

We’ve slowly begun to win them over. After the third or fourth day they stopped cringing and running away at the sight of us. It’s all very strange. Here I am, trying to gain the trust of two feeder pigs. This fall they will be killed and eaten. There is no other agricultural reason to keep a pig.

But how do people do it? How do they separate the pig from the bacon? Cory would say, with a very sharp knife, but the real answer is, most pork eaters who’ve never raised a pig don’t have to try very hard. Pigs live on farms and bacon lives in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. The question I have is, now that I find myself in the position of pig owner (or perhaps merely pig fattener), should I still attempt to separate? Is it necessary to act like I don’t care about the individuality of Walter and Flo? Or should I give in? Care with all my heart and still eat them? How will it taste to eat something I cared about? Will it make me more reverent and conscious about the meat that I eat, or will I go vegetarian at the end of it all?

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3 responses to this post.

  1. I am enjoying your blog and subscribed to it. The “eat or not to eat” question is one we have a new cattle farmers. I too name them. Somehow, I’ve managed to convince myself that we are selling them in the fall as breeders. What their new owners do with them…well…I don’t want to know. If you have any questions on pig farming, feel free to ask. My fiance grew up on a pig farm with thousands of porkers.

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  2. It is quite a dangerous situation when they are small. They are just so darn ADORABLE. I won my pig Coco over with apple slices. After a few days of hand feeding her delicious apples, she was my best friend. We made the decision early on to keep her for breeding on the condition that she not get aggressive. If she gets out of hand, all bets are off. For now, she’s like a loveable and hungry dog. She follows me around and “barks” at me and wants he itchy bits scratched. My 1.5 year old niece even gets to be in the pen- heavily supervised- and give her treats and pats.

    But don’t worry. Pigs are much less adorable and much more bacon and ham shaped once they hit about 150 lbs. Coco is probably around 120 lbs and bigger than our huge Labradoodle.

    As for whether or not you’ll be able to eat them, it’s a sticky situation. As you might have read on my blog, I’ve gone years and years without eating pork or red meat because of my qualms about how food animals are raised, which is what drove me to raise my own. I had never killed anything in my life (other than some unfortunate critters in the road) until I got my chickens. NO ONE thought I could do it. But I did. Myself. Well, Dad helped. I petted each one and thanked them for their life and did the dead. It wasn’t fun but I felt a strong sense of accomplishment and reverence. And I’d never tasted a better chicken in my whole life.

    Pigs, I know, will be harder because they do seem so much like pets. But you will give them a great life and then they will nourish you and your loved ones. It’s a cycle I, personally, can feel good about.

    PS: Try boiled eggs, peeled, as treats also. It’s a huge hit around here. It’s a hoot to hide them around the pig yard and watch the egg hunt!

    Reply

  3. I’d say something wise(guy) like “you’ll have to go with the flo-w when the time comes”, but that ignores Walter completely and that’s not fair. I’ll have to think about this some more. Do I have at least the summer and fall to ponder? Or is there some magic earlier date – when bacon must mysteriously meet its maker…er…wrapper – that I need to focus on? I agree – this actually IS uncomfortable.

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