Those of you who know me probably already know my views on pigs. Intelligent creatures for the most part (both my friends and the pigs. No, my friends are not pigs), pigs are also pretty cute. Well, piglets anyway.
I am by no stretch of the imagination vegetarian, but I don’t eat much pig. Or pork. Mainly I don’t like the taste of ham and bacon. But I like sausages. But I’m very fussy about what type of sausages I eat. I will only eat British reared pig. Not because of the taste (although it tends to be delicious), but because in Britain we have far higher pig rearing standards than in the rest of Europe.
In Europe, pigs are kept in terrible conditions. Intensively ‘factory’ farmed, with the sows locked in sowing stalls and farrowing pens, the pigs are often kept in darkness and on concrete floors. I would recommend reading Jon Henley’s article in the Guardian for further details.
In Britain it’s a slightly different story. We do have higher welfare standards for our pigs. Most pigs in Britain have access to the outdoors, straw in their pens and greater freedom of movement. But it still isn’t great. Often piglets born outside are fattened for slaughter indoors. Some British (Organic) farms are, of course, pretty good. Piglets gambolling about the open fields, out in the fresh air. All of that. But it comes at a price:
Tim Finney, managing director of Eastbrook's organic meats business, reckons that amounts to an extra 30 or 40p a kilo just to keep the system running, plus another 70p a kilo for the organic feed. "Overall," he says, "it probably costs us about double what it costs to produce a conventional pig. Although if we weren't organic, we could run the farm the same way and produce meat that was maybe 25% more expensive. That would still be a huge step forwards in welfare terms."
Jamie Oliver is starting a campaign. Not to improve standards necessarily, but to educate the public. He believes (as I do) that to be a meat eater (and we were bred to be), you have to fully understand where your meat comes from. With no apologies. If you eat meat, then yes, you are causing cute little piggies, curly-lashed calves and woolly, bleating lambs to be slaughtered. If you eat fish, then you are causing fish to be ‘drowned’. Get over it.
Oh, and if you’re a vegetarian, then please stop wearing or carrying leather. It just makes you a hypocrite. And justifying it by saying ‘well they’re dead anyway’ is ridiculous.
Anyway. If you can accept those things, good for you. I can accept them and so I eat meat. But that doesn’t mean that we’re so much better than animals. That we have the right to do what we want to them. We have the obligation to farm them as humanely as possible.
Ideally, of course we’d all raise our own animals like Alex Renton and send them to local slaughterhouses/butchers at the end of their happy, outdoor, organic lives.