Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The end of the line

Today, the Berkshire boars have reached the end of the line. After eight months chewing up the grass, roots and goodness of Devonian soil, they have been taken to the abattoir. At the weekend the ubiquitous Ifor Williams trailer was manoeuvred into place, the ramp opened (and held firmly in situ by a goodly chunk of metal bar), and for three days they have been fed inside the trailer so that their loading would be entirely stress free, for humans and pigs alike.
No matter how many times you do this, intimations of mortality haunt your dreams the night before and sleep is inevitably broken and unsatisfying. No matter how scrupulous the planning and preparation, you worry about an unhappy loading, with one or more pigs careening off into pastures unknown at the last moment in Tamworth Two fashion. I am far more relaxed when taking lambs to slaughter; they may wriggle but they are eminently handleable. By the time they are mature, pigs are not easily persuadable or coerced and you simply cannot catch an errant pig.
But it all went off without a hitch and the paddock is now empty, bereft of grass and moon-cratered. I will wander through it to pick up any ancient rubbish that they might have unearthed; bits of old baler twine, small tractor parts, gate catches and heaven knows what else. The pig ark ramp needs replacing; they used it in their games and have chewed great holes through the ply to more easily poke their snouts into previously untouched territory.
Come spring the grass will once more cover the ground, and a new lot of weaners will take their turn to rummage and explore.


mountainear said...

I'm with you on the intimations of mortality thing. BUT - they have had good lives and they have had the best death you could arrange. You have, no doubt, respected their pigness and will respect it once again in the cooking.

I wish I were nearer - I would be round for a couple of pork chops. With kidney.

tim relf said...

It's weird, isn't it. Spending time on farms makes me mostly more comfortable - but just occasionally less comfortable - about eating meat.
Reminds me of that line Nana in The Royal Family said to a vegetarian: Do you eat wafer-thin ham though?
You're going to have quite a gathering at this rate... I'll be round for some pork and apple pie!

Winchester whisperer said...

In my (non-agricultural) view, pigs are far more sensitive than lambs or cows

Mopsa said...

M'ear - yes, the kidney is the best part of the chop.

Tim - nice of you to visit. It'll probably last several families a year. And yes, I think it's good to reconsider one's relationship to meat regularly, to be sure apart from anything else, that you do the best you can for your livestock.

Winchester Whisperer - nice to have you over too - and I agree that pigs are highly intelligent and sensitive animals and that adds to why it is a more complex matter when taking them off to slaughter.

Rob Clack said...

What a very thoughtful post. Not exactly detached, yet sufficiently distant to keep a proper perspective. Empathetic to your animals, yet realistic about why you keep them. Yes, it makes you think again about carnivory, which is only right.

I can live without the piggy pong, mind you.

Do they taste significantly different from Gloucester Old Spots? That's all I knowingly have experience of .

mutterings and meanderings said...


Farewell pigs...

lady thinker said...

I'm trying to ignore this post. i love pigs. I also love pork chops. it's the process in between i try to ignore.

Mopsa said...

Thank you Rob. I rather like the piggy pong out in the field but I would never use the piggeries that are part of the farmyard for their intended purpose- they are just yards from the house.

Didn't mean to shock anyone; it's all part of the farming cycle and the produce is vastly superior to anything purchased wrapped in cling film and sat on a polystyrene tray.

Lorie said...

Thanks for writing this.