The Last Time

The Last Time

The last time we kept pigs was seven years ago, and in the aftermath I swore I wouldn’t do so again.  The pigs were Tamworths raised by a guy named Frank from Ellsworth, Maine, who’d bring his pigs to the Blue Hill Fair at the end of every summer, the same fair immortalized in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.  These pigs were not brought to the fair in search of a blue ribbon but to be admired and, possibly, sold to someone like me.  The following spring Frank showed up with his livestock trailer and dropped off three piglets.  The summer before we’d gotten two pigs from the Ellsworth feed store.  They were generic and pink and hailed from Iowa or some such place where pigs are churned out in industrial numbers to be dispersed throughout the country.  Though the pork was adequate, the pigs themselves were nothing special.  Frank’s Tamworths were clearly different.

Our pigs were free to roam within a half acre of oak trees.  It was more than enough space to keep them from getting bored, and I kept their attention by providing them with commercial pig food and vast quantities of agricultural and food waste.  I found them to be funny, social and smart, and that was the problem.  When it came time to send them to the slaughterhouse, I started asking all the wrong questions.

At the time, my experience with farm animal killing had been limited to chickens.  (Over the last seven years we have continued to raise chickens for meat, and together with two other families I have killed hundreds of chickens.)  Killing any animal is not something to be taken lightly, but I’ve found that I have no real conflict with chicken killing.  After twelve weeks of voracious consumption, meat birds are ready to go, their purpose served. At least that’s the story I prefer to tell myself.  With pigs that story starts to fall apart.

Though we were not equipped to slaughter our own pigs and sending them away had always been the plan, I couldn’t help but ask myself whether or not I was capable of pulling the trigger.  The answer was clearly no.  We were sending them off, in part, because I couldn’t do it myself.  Was it necessary for my family to eat pigs?  No.  Should we, as omnivores living in a world of abundance and choice, apply some rules as to what we should and shouldn’t eat?  Yes.  Was I too much of a sentimental baby to raise pigs for food? Yes.  The rest of my family and our non-vegetarian friends found these questions to be unnecessary, limiting, and unreasonable.  Don’t eat what you aren’t capable of killing.  It was my own newly formulated rule that, if applied to all my food choices, would leave me with eggs, chicken and fish.  I ended up eating the Tamworths, but in the following years my consumption of pork has been reluctant and limited.

These pigs aren’t going to last.  Don’t make it like last time.  Chloe’s right.  What have I done?

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2 Replies to “The Last Time”

  1. Definitely don’t eat what you are not capable of killing. I am struggling to live by that. But then someone cooks bacon. Not sure I can look Mona in the eye.

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