The Hero Pig
"You can't stay in your corner of the Forest, waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."
This past week one of the top viral hits on You Tube has been the clip of the pig saving the baby goat from drowning. It even featured on the 6 O’clock news.
While the video is sure to elicit many ‘awws’ and ‘oh, that’s so cute’, it is also a clear reminder that the humble pig does little to deserve its often derogatory or dismissive reputation. These are intelligent animals who play a crucial role in our farming systems, a role that has often been over-looked or abused as farmers have been driven to produce pork on a mass scale in a competitive, but tragically, short-sighted market.
Fact: Pigs do not “pig-out”. They eat slowly, savoring their food.
The intelligence and strong sense of direction of the pig means that they can forage for their own food. In the most ethical scenario they are left to move about at their own free will. They should not be fed food containing animal fats or antibiotics. They are omnivorous, preferring to eat roots and other vegetable matter. This in turn means that their meat is nutritious and superior to many of the pork products for sale in supermarkets.
Fact: Pigs are fast moving, and can run up to 11miles/17.7kms per hour.
We all know of the insult, often applied to a teenager’s bedroom, of labeling an untidy space as a “pig-sty”. The reality is that pigs are very tidy animals. One of their roles when raised in a free-range forest farm environment is to keep the ground clear of undergrowth that can restrict the growth of tree saplings. At the same time, they bury acorns and other nuts into the leaf matter, which will in time grow into new trees. Pigs aerate and fertilize the soil giving the land a healthier base in which to grow more trees and other plants.
Fact: Pigs are clean animals who keep their toilet away from where they live and eat. They do not “sweat like pigs”, and prefer to bathe in water to keep cool, as opposed to mud.
Ideally, pigs should be housed in small, mobile pens containing 5-6 sows, a boar, and their young. This is an ethical, family-enriched environment.
Fact: Pigs love to sleep together to keep warm and prefer to lie nose to nose. They are known to dream, enjoy music, sun-bathing, playing ball, and sing to their young. They recognize their mother’s voice.
The pig is the hero of the farm animals.
Emily Duncan writes for www.forestfarms.net on ethical farming practices, our attitudes towards forests, and the benefits of forest farming.