03-12-2008 | |
ter Beek
Vincent ter Beek Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world

There’s perhaps nothing new to me saying that city folk cannot always exactly understand the mind of a farmer.

When there was an outbreak of Classical Swine Fever, years ago in the Netherlands, I heard many people around me ask the same question: how can it be that producers cry when they see their herd being destroyed, while they would have sent the pigs for slaughter anyway?

“It’s their money, they cry about,” some said.

“If you love them, surely you don’t send them for slaughter?,” others wondered at birthday parties or when having coffee at work.

Those really engaged spoke of hypocrisy, us treating pets and zoo animals with utmost care – and on the same hand, us producing pigs as in a factory, chucked away in huge numbers in large houses.

Solving the dilemma
I must admit, I was born in a larger town and have not grown up to live on a pig farm. Visiting a slaughterplant is not my greatest joy either, but I had thought I had found my own way of solving the dilemma.

These pigs, sent for slaughter, would simply not have lived when there was no plan to consume them. Extrapolating this view, one could say that they are living to be consumed – and that is a real difference with my pet cat.

But there is more.

Last week, I visited a pig farm in the North of Germany, and my colleague photographer wanted to take a picture of a young sow. Her free access stall was opened so many pictures could be taken.

Liberty was something she had apparently been waiting for. She stretched her legs and started hobbling through the pig house, up and down and back again. Neither the farm owner, nor any of my colleagues could make her calm down, despite standing in her way or making calming noises.

She seemed to be enjoying herself and quite a number of kilogrammes continued hobbling for a good while.

The photographer, tired of waiting, demanded to bring a handfull of feed to be deposited on the pen floor. Initially, the hobbling continued – then finally the sow realised there was something interesting left of her. She calmed down, bent over and started munching away.

We all watched her while she was being photographed.

For sure, there is love during pig production, I realised. Producers simply love working with animals. Now let’s get that message to town.