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Musings about pigs

July 27, 2011

I like pigs. I always have. They seem to me very intelligent creatures, often comic, and undeservedly maligned. Most of them are a sort of pinkish colour too, and that’s one of my favourite colours.

They are not any more smelly than any other animal which is confined to a small space on dirty litter.

Their noses are spectacular organs that can detect tasty things beneath the ground and pigs like nothing better than a good snout around in the leaf litter beneath trees. Such a pity they are so often kept in such bare and uninteresting environments.

I have never understood why an animal raised for the table has to be treated without much compassion while it lives its short life. The opposite would seem to be indicated. Why not have a happy pig? Wouldn’t it even, perhaps, taste nicer if its diet were more natural and varied? Rooting about in a woodland habitat for acorns and anything else it fancied would be pig heaven.

It is said that domestic sows can crush their own piglets by accident, so there’s this unpleasant practice of putting them in crates, so the little ones have to suckle through the bars. It seems so cold and clinical. Straw on concrete in a farrowing pen also seems very unnatural to me.

I would like to see pigs outdoors, in orchards, where they could have a feast of fallen fruit in season and shade from summer sun beneath the trees. Pigs can get sunburned, and they cannot sweat, so heat can be torture for them. I also hate the heat –  I sympathise.

I read a theory recently that the reason pork might have been forbidden to Jewish people under ancient Mosaic law, was that the flesh tastes very like our own… Brother pig?

Those little piggy eyes – what is behind the expression? What is in a pig’s mind?

I’m not surprised that Orwell chose pigs as the main characters in Animal Farm. He probably thought, as I do, that pigs are the most intelligent creatures to be found on any farm. Even dogs seem pretty stupid at times –  they behave like clowns, whereas pigs have a certain piggy dignity.

I don’t have a smallholding or a pet Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, but I do have a collection of cuddly pigs, and some not so cuddly – like Pumba of Lion King fame. He, naturally, is my favourite character in that film. Only Disney could come up with a friendship between a warthog and a meerkat!

Another fascinating fact I learned at a session on bible translations given by a local vicar, was that, in Papua New Guinea, there are no sheep, so missionaries trying to relay the gospel message in various local dialects had to choose a familiar animal that was used in a similar way to sheep in the Middle East. It was the pig!

Imagine saying “Jesus, Pig of God, have mercy on us” And what of the story of the Gadarene swine? And were references to shepherds changed to ‘swineherds?’

Imagine the nativity scene, with angels appearing to swineherds…

Then there is all the imagery of the lost sheep, the sheep that went astray, and all the references to following like sheep. It doesn’t work with pigs – they don’t follow meekly anybody’s lead, and they are not docile and they do not have a tendency to get lost – pigs are canny creatures!

Then there is the irony about pigs being ‘unclean’ for Jews – what do you do with that, if your pig has become the ‘lamb’?

Are pigs any more greedy than dogs? I don’t have a dog, but I know many dog owners who exercise their pets in my local park. I was told that dalmations just ‘hoover up’ anything, even plastic bags, and some have been killed through such a lack of discrimination. The tale of the poor dog who ate grass seed is pretty grim. Why would a canine think grass seed worth eating?

I’ve also been told that labradors are just ‘dustbins’. No matter how much food they are given, they seem primed to overeat. Some dogs even eat their own poo.

Can pigs really top that? I doubt it.

I have a little book of quotes about pigs, which is a delight. Here is a sample:-

“A pig always reminds you of someone you know”(Pam Brown)

” Odd things animals…only a pig looks at you as an equal”(Winston Churchill)

“There is nothing that cheers the heart so easily as a rollicking of pigs, cavorting across a field”(Peter Gray).

” How exceedingly happy ‘pigs in clover’ sounds. A positive invitation to join them, rolling in the dense, sweet-smelling green”(Jenny de Vries).

“Many times I’ve looked into pigs’ eyes and convinced myself that inside that skull there’s a sentient being who is looking back at me, observing me and thinking”(Dick King-Smith).

Pigs are great!










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