“What is it with you and pigs!?”
This was the very reasonable question that my wife posed to me the other week as I proudly displayed yet another newspaper article that I had had published regarding the British pig industry.
On this occasion I had been investigating the growth in support for domestically produced pork products within British supermarket (have a read for yourself if you wish: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Supermarkets-British-pork/story-20498802-detail/story.html) but in the past I have produced articles examining problems caused in the pig industry by high feed prices, researched the fascinating history of the Kune Kune pig, discussed the legalisation of pig swill and examined the threat of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus.
The majority of my writing regarding agriculture seems to naturally revolve around the pig.
What’s more, when I’m not writing about pigs, I’m reading about them; sifting through Practical Pig magazine, flipping between the pages of A Practical Guide to Traditional Pig Keeping (a good resource for pig farm daydreaming) and spending hours gawping at various pig breed websites online. Whenever I get Farmers Weekly or the Farmers Guardian, I immediately turn to the livestock section looking for any significant updates in the world of pig farming.
If I were being totally honest I would also have to admit to having wasted a vast proportion of my life watching hours worth of pig based YouTube videos; chuckling away at the antics of hyped-up piglets and slowly shaking my head when watching a report on poor pig welfare in mainland Europe.
When someone in my village started to keep a few pigs not too far from my house, I would come up with any excuse to wander through the fields and say hello to the rampant gang of cross-breeds, relishing their happy squeals and watching them wallow in the mud.
Without doubt, pigs are my favourite animals.
And whilst there is no denying that I am a bit obsessed with the creatures, my wife is quite right to question my fascination. After all I don’t own any pigs and I wasn’t brought up on a pig farm, so why is it that this animal has gripped my interest to such a degree?
Looking back I think the founding influence has come from previous experience of working on a farm, where I got the chance to rub shoulders with a handful of cheerful Saddleback and Gloucester Old Spot pigs. In my opinion these animals were without doubt the most intriguing and interesting animals on the farm.
My experience of working with sheep and cattle had been enjoyable, but I did find these beasties frustrating; sheep just seemed to spend much of their time looking for interesting ways in which to kill themselves and the unpredictability of young bullocks could prove slightly unnerving. It was a privilege to work with these animals but there was no real connection between myself and beasts and I didn’t find myself wanting to rear any of these animals myself.
However, whenever I had to do some work with the pigs, or even work near where the pigs were, I really enjoyed the experience.
These inquisitive animals would always be questioning what I was up to; snuffling around my feet, nudging my arm with their heads, looking for a scratch behind the ear and periodically trying to eat the shoe laces off my boots.
One time, when I was half way up a ladder busy painting the outside of a barn, a particularly cunning sow managed to hoik its trotters up a couple of rungs so that it was standing on its rear trotters, supported by my ladder. Whilst this was slightly unnerving as I was precariously balanced meters up in the air, any passerby would have been fairly shocked to see a pig, holding the ladder for me whilst I painted; a picture of perfect teamwork.
Whenever I was on my lunch break I would often find myself drawn to the pig pen, where I could be sure of a warm welcome; my arrival being greeted by half a dozen happy, grunting pigs trotting over to say hello. The next half an hour would be spent scratching the backs and ears of these splendid, rotund creatures that would produce various grunts of approval.
Other times, I would just sit back and watch the animals go about their usual business. Outdoor pigs just always look like they are having so much fun; be it wallowing around in mud, rooting through the earth for an elusive snack or chasing each other round in circles. They always made me chuckle.
One of my favourite quotes is from Winston Churchill who is claimed to have once said ” A cat looks down upon a man, and a dog looks up to a man, but a pig will look a man in the eye and see his equal” and I think that rather sums up why I like pigs so much. They have a rare character which you don’t find in other animals; look into a pigs eyes and you get the feeling that there’s a lot going on inside their mind.
So whilst I enjoy looking after my chickens and have loved my family dogs, I do look forward to the day when I can own some of my own porkers; enjoying the process of rearing these brilliant animals and enjoying the tasty results at the end of their upbringing.
Perhaps I’m being a bit too romantic, perhaps I don’t fully appreciate the trouble and hard work that these creatures can be, but it doesn’t matter at the moment.
For the time being I shall continue to be a pig fanatic.