Goodness! It looks like the end is nigh for dear old Porker. Nicola shares her thoughts…
The Hog Blog – February 2008, part 1
Bitterly cold with a strong easterly wind, but the sun is shining and there’s a frost on the mud, so not claggy, but sparkling. I meet Tom in the field, he’s already reversed his Landrover and trailor up to the gate and is asking me which pig? I point to Porker, feeling like Judas except I didn’t get the 30 pieces of silver. No, I had to pay much more than that for this particular act of treachery. Porker, as usual, is at the front of the queue so it’s easy to open the gate and let her out and start shutting it on Mabel. The new little ones escape too, though, and rush up the straw-ridden trailer ramp as if they are just sooo excited about a trip to the slaughter house. Tom puts them back in the pen and Porker is alone. He loads up the ear tag thing and advances up the ramp to insert it. I walk away and look over the fence, dreading the moment I will hear her scream. How unfair to have to have this shock and pain and then go to the abattoir with nothing nice happening in between. I resolve to tag the next one at least two weeks before slaughter and then give him treats in between so he’s forgotten all about the ear when the trailer time comes. A pineapple I am thinking, or some kiwi fruit, their favourites. No scream comes at all. Tom comes down the ramp and says he dropped the tag at the last moment because she moved her head. He loads up another. I think maybe 50 wasn’t enough? Second attempt resoundingly successful judging by the terrific noise. Pigs are the most dramatic creatures on earth. They should all be on the stage. If you don’t believe me pick up a piglet, gently and kindly, and they’ll make the sort of noise that is only heard during the last few minutes of a Jacobean tragedy when all on stage are tortured and killed and there’s a lot of fake blood.
Nevertheless the sound produces fear in me. The same sort of fear one feels when holding out your precious baby to the surgery nurse for a jab. I immediately give her an apple to cheer her up. She eats it happily. Good.
Off we go then in the Landrover to Frome. Cross country – through Chew Stoke and over hills and down dales. Sun bright and low, flickering through hedges, blinding round bends. And Tom talks. We chatter about family, animals, bloody paperwork, how things have changed. I’m getting old: I enjoy it.