Thursday, February 21, 2013
Our Own Pigs
This year we decided to try raising our own winter pigs. My brother did this last year, and we were inspired by his example, so when he was buying piglets from a friend, we bought two as well.
We're not vegetarians, you know. Nothing against being vegetarian - my husband's parents are both vegetarian and he grew up on a vegetarian diet, and I was a vegetarian for one year in college. But now he has no interest in being a vegetarian, and I have discovered that with my elliptocytic anemia (a rare genetic blood disorder which involves making blood cells that are the wrong shape and are inefficient oxygen carriers) my physiology makes vegetarianism feel bad.
Lots of people are not vegetarians, and they apparently have no trouble going to the grocery store and buying cuts of meat that they bring home and cook. Even knowing what so many of us know about factory farming models, people continue to buy meat that comes from animals raised that way.
So it is confusing to me that people who can be comfortable doing that are uncomfortable with the notion of eating an animal that you raised yourself. Our pigs have lived a good life, with lots of room to run around, sunshine, belly scratches, good healthy food, etc.
Yes, we're all a bit sad that on Saturday the butcher is coming. We've opted for a home visit, so they don't have to travel, get stressed out, or really know what's coming. They'll go quick and painless. Then we will have well-stocked freezers, which we hope will keep us supplied for almost two years (we only eat meat once or twice a week). We do not plan to raise pigs again next year, but will instead do turkeys. It's possible that in the future it will be every other year alternating pigs and turkeys.
And we'll get more than just the meat - the area they've been enclosed in is now completely fertilized and rooted up. We'll plant it with a cover crop (which our chickens will then get to free-range over and will enjoy immensely) then next year when it's not so "hot" we plan to plant a blueberry patch there.
If you are going to eat meat, it came from animals. I think it's important that my children see that. I think it's important that we all see that. Maybe it's the fact that everyone wants this to be "out of sight out of mind" that lets us ignore conditions that we should never be willing to see any creature live in.
I hope I'm not upsetting anyone, but this is reality. For the last six months I've felt more than a bit judged, even a bit ashamed. In front of many people, we can't talk about having the pigs. Right now, as we are all thinking about the end, this doesn't feel right to me. No one I know feels like they can't talk about getting the occasional hamburger. OK - I do know a lot of vegetarians and for them they wouldn't talk about getting a hamburger. But I've felt like even the meat-eaters are saying that raising our own is a step too far. It's not a step too far - it's the step that needs to be inseparable from eating meat at all. (Not that everyone has to raise it - just that everyone has to realize where it came from and care about the life of the animals).