By Bernie Bell
Our neighbour-up-the-hill, keeps pigs. He has seven boars and six sows. He endeavours to keep them separate. But, whilst being transported from place to place, they got together, and he now has ten piglets as well! Through no fault of his own – he has ten more little mouths to feed, and ten piglets to find homes for.
When the very bad weather set in, he moved all the pigs into the stable, which, fortunately, is divided neatly into two sections – girls right, boys left – like it used to be in school.
Weekend before last, he took the opportunity of the fine weather, to clean out the stable, and he let the pigs out into the field while he did so.
It was a sight to see! The piglets are now about the size of a solid little terrier. They got into a gang, and looked like a pack o’ terriers, tearing up the slope, and down the slope. They also took to chasing the sheep! – imagine it – piglets chasing sheep – oh for a cine-camera!
The ’grown-ups’ were enjoying being out too, trotting up and down in a matronly sort of way, though indulging in a bit of sheep chasing, too. There was one stout matron, just on the brow of the hill, cavorting, capering, and generally kicking up her heels.
And, imagine the sounds which went with all this – they were sooooo glad to be OUT!
When he finished the clear-out, the piggies were put back into the stable again, until the next clear-out, or the weather picks up a bit.
We were talking with him yesterday, and he told us what was going on with the cavorting sow – she’d eaten the best part of a tub of mineral lick which was meant to be for the sheep, and she was high as a kite! Something like what children are like, when they’ve been to a party and had far too much sugary stuff.
He had no trouble getting the other pigs back into the stable – put some food down, and in they go – but this particular good-time-girl was having none of it. She was running round and round the stable, making all kinds of strange snorting noises, and jumping – sometimes sideways! Very non-pig-like behaviour. The combined efforts of husband and wife finally got her into the stable, but I should imagine that, next time he lets them out, he’ll make sure he removes the mineral-lick first! I wonder if she had a hang-over?
The problem is, that the piglets are getting bigger, and so, the available space in the stable is getting smaller. So , if anyone would like a piglet, or two, or three, or ten, he needs to be able to find new owners for them, as soon as possible, and has them advertised on Orkney Farmers Facebook.
The question is, what is he to do with his excess of pigs – un-planned, and not his fault? While they are with him, they have a good life and are very well cared for, but now that the Orkney abattoir has closed, what happens when the pigs are to be …dispatched? His original plan, was to take them to the abattoir, have them slaughtered, and then sell them as meat. He is now only legally allowed to sell them as piglets, not as pork. He can sell them either to registered smallholders, farmers, or crofters. He does have a contact address for someone who is licensed to carry out home slaughtering, who could then dispatch the piglets, if the new owners wanted them as pork rather than as pigs.
It would all have been much simpler, clearer and less complicated, all round, for all concerned, including the pigs, if the Orkney abattoir was still operational. I’m not entirely sure which organization or organizations are mainly responsible for the closure, but, whoever it is, I question their decision to do so.
I’m very much aware of how much it matters, for animal slaughter to take place as near to ‘home’ as possible – preferably at a local, well run, frequently inspected abattoir.
It may seem strange, if not even WRONG, to myself as well as those who know me, that a non-meat eater should be touting pig-flesh and lauding the idea of having a local abattoir. Part of why I don’t eat meat, is due to concerns about animal welfare – how they are reared, what substances are introduced into their bodies, and how they are slaughtered. If an animal has a good life and a clean death, and other folk want to eat them, that’s their choice. Because of how I feel about them, I still don’t choose to eat them, however good a life they’ve had – that’s my choice.
As long as people want to eat meat, my concern is that the animals to be eaten have a good life, and a humane death. As long as folk want to eat them, that is necessary, and is best for the animal, which is what matters to me. It’s long been established that, the nearer the animal is to the place of slaughter, the better it is for the animal. It means less stress, fear, and possibility of injury while travelling. And, for the meat-eaters, it does mean a better taste and quality to the meat, as the animal produces less fear-induced chemicals, which go into its flesh.
I’m particularly aware of the need for good, well run abattoirs, near to ’source’, because, many years ago, I applied for a job with the Welsh Agricultural Organizations Society – an ’umbrella’ organization, for small agricultural businesses. The job was for general office duties. I had an interview, was successful, but when I arrived for my first day, I was told that they thought I was too well qualified for that job, so I was to be secretary to the Director of Welsh Lamb Enterprise. I said “But I’m vegetarian!” They thought this was hilarious, but I said no, I’m not joking – I am vegetarian! Too late, I needed a job, this was now my job, so I got on with it. I stayed for about a year, then moved on. Meanwhile, while actually working for Welsh Lamb Enterprise, I came to realize that this organization was a good thing, as the whole purpose of WLE was to ensure quality meat, which meant that, to be accredited by WLE, the animals had to have a good life, from the fields where they grazed, up to, and including the place of slaughter. I must admit, that if I hadn’t been vegetarian before typing abattoir reports, I would have been afterwards! Some people are just so DIRTY. Those were the ones which didn’t pass the WLE inspection!
And the WLE accredited butchers shops were regularly inspected too. WLE accreditation, meant that the buyer knew what they were getting, and meat eating friends assured me that Welsh lamb, with WLE accreditation, was better – tasted better, had a better consistency to it.
I risk going off the point – the point I very strongly want to make is – the nearer the abattoir, the better for the animal welfare, and, for that matter, the quality of the meat. This isn’t an opinion, it’s been proven to be so.
So – please – someone – re-open or build a new abattoir for Orkney, for our neighbour, and for all the other livestock keepers and butchers, who need one. And that plea is from a non-meat eater!
We thank Anna for the use of her illustration: Anna McEwen Drawings Facebook page