My first pig...
Emma Heseltine - 25 November 2012
This week I’ve got a job that I’m not looking forward to. I’m taking the first of my pigs to the abattoir. I’ve been umm-ing and ah-ing about it for ages and have decided that the biggest of them is about ready. I don’t have a very accurate way of measuring them but I think she is an okay weight for a Berkshire. Getting her loaded is a bit of a nightmare, its not easy getting her out of the shelterbelt and into the trailer, there is some squealing (pig), swearing (humans) and almost escaping (pig). A treat of cucumber finally swings it and we get her in the Lambulance.
Next horrible task; ear tags. She didn’t have to have one to move to us, just a temporary mark, but to go to slaughter she must have a metal tag. I’ve ordered some that fit an old pair of pliers we have (at least in theory they do, now’s the time to test it) and they are stamped with my herd mark. I anticipate more squealing but she actually makes very little fuss about getting her ear pierced, who’d have guessed?
They journey up to Lockerbie is not a long one and its busy when we get there, lots of people are dropping off pigs. They only do pigs of Thursday so everyone in the area comes. It’s a very efficient operation and I’m soon reversing the trailer to unload my little cargo. She comes out without a bother and trots off to meet her fate. I know she won’t be in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by strange people, pigs and smells for long. Its one of the advantages of being organic, they have to go first thing in the morning and so are not hanging about for long. I say bye and drive out, I’m not hanging about to watch, that would just be too much I think.
I’m quite conflicted as I leave, I’m not too proud to say I have a tear in my eye. I’m sad to see her go, she was a good pig (she actually never escaped unlike the other two) and I’ve been looking after her for what feels like ages now, seeing them for feeding time twice a day. On the other hand this is a business enterprise not a petting zoo and so she must go for the chop eventually. I’ve given her a good life; she had a wonderful time making a big muddy mess in the shelterbelt. She bossed the other pigs and slept in a little piggy pile with them every night. She had the best food, including Eva’s box scheme rejects which on occasion has included such exotic delights as watermelon. She always had fun yelling at me if I was a bit slow forking over the eats or a bit stingy with the ear scratches; all in all not a bad piggy life.
It's part of the deal we make with our animals, at some point you will be food, but in the mean time we will do all we can to give you a good life. And she will make damn good food.
Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.