The Lovely wife is a great fan of gardens. Our putative dream home would have several. Well several parts, anyway, as we both like the idea of garden ‘rooms’ – so she can have her kitchen garden, I’ll have my Japanese garden (with as much borrowed scenery as I can muster) and orchard with attendant windfall eating pig Bacon – or Ham. Well, let’s be clear what the ultimate destiny will be. Actually, I am a huge fan of pigs and while you might think it is cruel that they do not get to live a long life, it is worth noting that the pigs we normally have for our full English breakfasts simply cannot. I have recently started helping out at our local RSPCA centre, specially helping with the miscellaneous animals department (i.e. anything that is not a cat, dog or a horse, the former two as frankly I’m indifferent and too likely to get attached respectively and the latter because you need qualifications that I don’t have). Miscellaneous mostly means rabbits, chickens and rodents (I have only recently as a result come across the joys of the Degu, although we do not have anywhere to put the cage that was big enough to keep them happy). Also they have a pig, half a tonne of porker who is living the remainder of his short life out without the threat of being sausages, but I cannot say it is much of a life. I say this considering he can hardly move and is in more or less constant care from the vet.
The problem is simple – he was bread to be pork, and over the years we have through breeding genetically modified his variety to basically grow as fast as it can and produce the best quality pork; and if you concentrate on one aspect you are going to have to give up others, and that includes longevity. A boar in the wild needs to be strong enough to live for several seasons to give it a chance to create progeny, while your standard farm pig does not… Considering a lot of pigs are artificially inseminated anyway the poor old man is largely a production factory for you know what. So our poor old pig, although only a relatively young animal in terms of years is well past the time he would have expected to survive and like a lot of pedigree animals is now suffering from a range of ailments that his wild ancestors would not see for several more years.
Is he in a lot of pain? Well, he sleeps all day and gets the best of care, but it did remind me that for domesticated animals at least what matters maybe their welfare through the time they are alive rather than human based concepts of lifespan. I like to know, where possible, the conditions in which the animals that form part of diet are kept and the good news is that this is easier and easier to do these days. The other thing I like about this is that the reason it is easier is due in part to one of the strongest things in business; consumer pressure. If enough people consistently push for something, then businesses will eventually deliver it. This is especially true in businesses that require loyalty to their products to survive, whether that is newspapers, food or shampoos. If you stop buying their product companies will go out of business, eventually. So I strongly encourage anyone dissatisfied with a product – especially one they liked or want like – to (and I know it is a horrible word) complain. If enough people complain, it will change. If not, the assumption is everything is fine. It might not work with governments or institutions, but it does often work with business.
Weirdly, when I started writing this I was intending to talk about robins and our relationship with wildlife via our lifestyles and gardens, which has given me almost as many reasons to smile this weekend as Big Hero 6. Instead, animal welfare and the importance of consumer pressure seem to have come out, so in the interests of the stream of my consciousness, I’ll stop there and scribble about my love of what goes on in our (currently) normal sized garden next week.
And yes, the title is the last thing I try to come up with…