Pinky and Browny the two sows left the block a couple of days ago. It was quite a turbulent time for Trev and I. We'd both got to enjoy having pigs, they have the average intelligence of a three year old, and while this is geared mostly around how to incorporate more of the world around them in them, they are an engaging animal. They love a scratch and are always curious to see what you are up to. I've got a kick out of opening the back door and doing the 'Soo-ee!' and watching them run from all over the paddock (especially when there were piglets) for whatever treat I was brandishing at the time.
But the pigs have been a failed experiment on a number of levels. They did get rid of the bracken fern, but continued to over hoe the paddocks, they cost a lot to feed and we're not satisfied that in the end we raised ethical meat. It could well be a tautology. While we both agree that raising our own animals is preferable over purchasing supermarket meat sourced from intensive feedlots or sow stalls etc, in the long run we can't, in all conscience, say it gets the green light.
Trev gets enormously peeved when I use this analogy. But I always say, 'What say tomorrow a mob of aliens came down to earth and went, 'Whoaaa! Look at all this livestock fellows! The planet has a plague of these two legged fleshy beasts, and all the fleshiest bits are conveniently naked, that'll make it cheap and easy to process. Their offspring look tender too. They'd be great snapfrozen at about six months of age. We could even work out a way to get them to smile just before we do, they'd be sure to sell better. We'd make sure to give them good lives, make their end nice and quick. It'd be an environment win/win too. They've overpopulated to the max and are destroying the planet. So let's stop off here on our way to planet bla bla and cull them back to manageable levels.'
All sounds fairly reasonable from the viewpoint of an alien. Yet we'd see it as a horrendous concept, but we use the same kind of justifications when applying it to other animals. Trev says I'm anthropomorphising but I don't see it as being any different. Animals form relationships with one another, they can feel fear, no one can see a mob of piglets or lambs gambolling around not to know that they can play and feel pleasure. And in the end we are, in the developed world, affluent enough to be able to choose to source our protein from plants. Eating another animal might only be justifiable if it came down to a 'well if I don't I'm dead' scenario.
Then of course we sold off all these cute piglets knowing that for most of them it will be a short stay on earth in their current form (longer as fat on human thighs). And Pinky and Browny were enticed (oh so grudgingly) but so trustingly onto the back of a truck several days ago and will be making an appearance again soon as sausages in our freezer.
I never had any intentions of eating them. But I did agree it was a better way of acquiring meat. Well. I've decided differently and Trevor, though nowhere near as adamant as I am, is also unsettled by the experience and agrees we won't keep pigs again. Apart from being 'tractable tractors' that have hoed up half of our block, eaten an enormous and unsustainable amount of food while doing so, and woken us every morning grunting impatiently at our bedroom window, they've been a great personal insight into our ethics.
And Caleb – he was quite happy to lip his licks when he saw them walking around in the paddock, he'd refer to them by their composite meaty parts and would grew so excited by the prospect of eating them he talked about needing a bacon inhaler.
What are your thoughts on the ethics of eating meat?