The Pig Farmer and His Empathic Pigs.
While I was away over Christmas I took the opportunity to visit some organic farms up the coast. As I drove into one in particular, through the lush winding road in the Byron Hinterland the farmer from Sunforrest Organic Pig farm, called to say he was going to be an hour late to our meeting. One of his WWOOFer's was a vegan. He had liked working on the farm with the animals but that morning, before I got there, they were rounding the pigs up to take them to the slaughterhouse to be killed. It was too much for my fellow vegan. He quit there and then in sorrow and had left the farmer to round the pigs up for their deaths alone. While a part of me wanted to cry for the pigs, I had to laugh with empathy for the WWOOFer. A little confirmation from the universe to me that I was not alone? Perhaps. I wanted to remain open though, as while I choose not to eat animals or cause intentional harm to any being, my mission is to help empower others make better choices, specifically to raise awareness about factory farms and alternative options.
Mathew the farmer was a blast, with a very convincing theory on issues with food security, believing highly in the need for each and everyone of us to start growing our own food or having access to local farmers. He grew up on a pig factory farm and said their was a specific moment he realised it was wrong to be keeping them in such horrific conditions. He was 14 years old and left to look after the animals while his parents were away. He said he watched the pigs stare out a door for 3 days in a row, not moving. (These days there are no doors to look out of) It moved him to open it and allow one pig out and he watched as the pig gleefully and desperately ran as fast as he could from the factory. He kept running and running.... as far from that factory farm as he could get.
Watch the below clips to get an overview on pig factory farms. You really need to know why you don't want to support them!
Mathew chose to raise pigs organically, for the welfare of the animals and to avoid the extreme detrimental effect on the environment factory pig farms have. We went to explore the various locations on his large gorgous property, where he kept the pigs in separate small groups. These pigs were wonderfully huge. City girl here hadn't expected it. These beautiful beasts were a little more intimidating than cute Babe.
They were also inquisitive and came up to say hello and I became fascinated, as I always do, when I get to connect to animal and was soon scratching them and giving them pats as I would my companion dog. He said that certain pigs had personalities that were very outgoing and that others certainly were the "boss" of the groups. Interestingly a study was published only earlier this year by a University in the Netherlands, proving that pigs feel empathy. They also have good learning and memory in many contexts, both short- and long-term, including memory for past events in their life, the ability to differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar pigs, and an inclination to explore new objects. (1)
In addition to these behavioural accomplishments, the pig brain is well-developed and comparable to primates including humans. With the volume of the prefrontal cortex is around 24% of the total neocortex and 10% of the total brain volume. They are smart, emotional animals that deserve a life fulfilling natural instincts as I saw here at Sunforrest.
Their homes were far from a factory. Rainforest trees for them to relax under and mud galore. Apparently that's what they did, turn the land into mud, which is why he had to rotate where he kept them, as they destroyed the natural flora when rooting around, creating mud baths.
I was happy to come across another farmer committed to giving animals the best life possible, even if it meant he was going to take their lives at some point. For those who eat their flesh, this was defiantly where you would want to be buying it from. Not a factory where they are kept in squalor and a barron environment, suffering, fed antibiotics and filth.
The problem is, he is phasing out the pigs and beginning to turn the organic farm into one that instead grows vegetables. For him vegetables will hopefully be a more secure income, after last year he lost almost his whole stock to a virus- another issue when raising animals for food.
So soon their will be one less ethical farmer raising the pigs in a fair manner, with respect and dignity. I encourage you, if you do eat pig, to always buy it from farms like Sunforrest. Don't support the factory farms. It will cost a little more, but you are paying for a better life for everyone involved. The pig, your health and as we saw via the drone over pig farm, the environment. Check out here for more suppliers.
You have the power to cause less suffering to a being. Why wouldn't you?
Its great to watch the previous clips and know what not to support but we also want to stay light and see the wonders of the world that make us smile! For this, check out these delightful clips discovering the clever Nelly the pig.
If you are interested to look deeper into the Australian Pig Industry Lucent is a full documentary exploring it.
1. Kornum, B. R., & Knudsen, G. M. (2011). Cognitive testing of pigs (Sus scrofa) in translational biobehavioral research. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 35(3), 437-451.