This is going to be my first blog post about farm animals and how amazing they are when you meet them in real life. I figured I would start with the most intelligent and perhaps most misunderstood farm animal, pigs. I’m also posting this on the same day that Woodstock Farm Sanctuary rescued two more pigs, Molly and Charlie. Special thanks to Todd and Hervé for picking these wonderful piggies up!
I believe that vegans, particularly the ones that are involved in sanctuaries and rescues, find the stereotypes for pigs the most troublesome. Let me go over some of them right now:
Pigs are dirty:
You’ve all heard the term “pigsty” used to describe a room or area that is disheveled, messy, unclean, smelly, etc… This could not be farther from the truth for pigs. Pigs are one of, if not the most hygienic of all the farm animals. They only go to the bathroom (or go to the toilet for my European fans) in specified areas and never relieve themselves close to where they sleep. In fact, when given the chance, pigs build very comfortable nests of straw and hay for their beds; to the point that I’ve wanted to just lay right down next to them and fall asleep.
Pigs take mud baths during the warmer months, but this is not because they just like to be dirty. Pigs take mud baths to protect their skin from the sun, because most pigs bred for meat lack pigment due to selective breeding to make the processed meat look more appealing. Pigs also do this to cool off on hot days. The mud acts as insulation to keep their bodies from overheating. Not to mention that mud is a very popular skin therapy for humans who pay $80 or more at spas to take mud baths to soften their skin and (supposedly) get rid of toxins and their cellulite. Pigs get all of this for free. Come to think of it…I’ve never seen a rescued pig with cellulite.
Pigs are stupid:
If you truly believe this than you’re stoopid!
I’m only partially kidding here: but this is an annoying stereotype that many people hold of pigs. Normally, I won’t do this, but for something like this topic I am going to add a few references at the end of this post that validates my rant that’s going to begin in 3…2…1…
Pigs are more intelligent than your 3 year old child!
They have proven to be able to use tools and are one of the few animal species that can recognize themselves in a mirror. Piglets (less than 47 days old) have been studied for their cognitive ability and show complex emotions and reactions to stress (I had to endure reading some awful studies for this post, so I hope you are getting something out of this!) and adult pigs in factory farms are literally driven insane from their confinement. I know vegans aren’t supposed to pick one animal over another, but my heart breaks the most for pigs in factory farms because of their intelligence. I’ve met a number of farm animals in my life (mostly over the last year while volunteering at Woodstock) and pigs show me gratitude after I clean their space. I’m not being hyperbolic, they are very grateful when I clean up and put fresh straw in their barn. Even the sassy teenage pigs grunt in appreciation after I clean their area. I don’t feed them, I don’t groom them, I don’t give them any extra special attention that I wouldn’t give to a goat or a cow: and yet they thank me with nuzzles and happy oinks. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love goats (#TeamBenny woot! woot!) but after I clean their barn, they just walk past me to their hay, or if they come to me it’s so I can pet them (I’m not complaining). Pigs understand more about their environment and what their situation is than you give them credit for!
So if you want to bring out your inner pig, be smart! They are the 4th most intelligent non-human species. 1. Great Apes, 2. Dolphins, 3. Elephants, 4. Pigs. (Lists will vary, but this is the most common order). They are born smarter than us. The only stupid thing they do is trust humans. If they weren’t so sweet and trusting, we wouldn’t be eating them. Pigs are closely related to hippos and yet I’ve never met anyone who said they ate hippo meat. You know why? Because they are nasty S.O.B.s that do not trust humans! As much as I love the way pigs trust me and offer me love, I wish they were mean and hard to tame, because that would save the lives of billions of pigs per year.
In short, pigs are not stupid.
I know my introduction page said I wouldn’t be a condemning vegan that complains about society. All I can say to that is if you were insulted by that rant, than you need thicker skin. I could have been a lot meaner.
So how do we bring out our inner pigs? That’s easy.
That is the last item on the agenda for pigs.
Pigs are individuals:
This is not pig-specific, but I want to just relate my own personal experience with 3 piggies I have had the privilege to spend quality time with. All three of these pigs live at Woodstock right now, which is why I have had the pleasure of their company.
The sweetest girl. Olive lives with her pen-mate, Stanley, and she is very curious and loves being showered with attention. She listens well when I ask her to stop knocking my wheelbarrow over. She even offers up her help. I’ve seen this 600+ pound girl bounce around her field like she was a bunny. Olive is a free spirit who loves socializing as much as she loves napping. A girl after my own heart ❤
Big buddy Andy. Andy is a tremendous (in more ways than one) ambassador for pigs. Andy is pretty laid back, partially to do with being an older pig, and he LOVES belly rubs. Andy is a 700-800 lb boy who loves to root all day and sleep all night. He never turns down attention from a caregiver or a volunteer, and he is the first pig that ever greeted me with the happy grunting that sounds kinda like a low laugh.
I would imagine that anyone at Woodstock reading this is probably surprised that I’m about to feature this pig with a…how do I put this?…strong personality. Duke is one of the teenagers at the farm (as of Jan. 2018 when I wrote this) and he is definitely that kid who has a short fuse when his parents ask him too many questions. Duke will let the whole farm know when he is cranky. He will issue a high pitched squeal and snap at any pigs that get too close to him. You’re probably asking yourself right now…Paul why the hell do you like this pig? I don’t like Duke…I love Duke! You know why? Because he’s genuine. Duke isn’t always a jerk, see the above picture of both me and my wife petting him. Duke is a strong-willed young man who would be applauded for his confidence if he was a human. Duke let’s you know how he’s feeling, which is something we wish people would do more often. Duke has an edge to him and he doesn’t apologize about it, just like all of our favorite movie/television characters. Duke is alright in my book.
So follow the pig rules of living life listed above. Live the way you want, but be kind and respectful to those around you. And if you’re having a bad day, let people know that you just want some space, like my pal Duke.
As always, thanks for stopping by
The below source you will need access to scholarly journals, as a PhD student at St. John’s University I found it through their library: It’s not a fun read
Goumon, S., & Spinka, M. (2016). “Emotional contagion of distress in young pigs is potentiated by previous exposure to the same stressor.” Animal Cognition, 19(3), 501-511. doi:http://dx.doi.org.jerome.stjohns.edu:81/10.1007/s10071-015-0950-5