abattoir


I realise that I’m posting very late in the day today but having been at the London Book Fair the past 3 days I’ve been frantically catching up on a backlog of emails. Sorry to make you wait! Some good news that I found waiting for me is that our July release What About China? will be getting featured in an influential book trade publication. More about What About China? later but in brief it is a book about how to answer awkward questions about climate change such as “What is the point of doing anything when China opens a new power station every week?”

But for now here’s another instalment of Nicola’s Hog Blog. Have your tissues ready.

Cheers, Thomas

The Hog Blog – February 2008, part 2

The Hog Blog - February 2008, part 2

We arrive early at the abattoir and I go in to sort out the paperwork. Three forms for one pig. A pig movement form, a transportation form and a what she has been eating form. One of the forms is three pages long and I understand none of the questions. They are in code. The guy who manages the abattoir is about 65, with the ginger grooved wrinkles and the deep, watery chested voice of the dedicated smoker. His ‘office’ is a sort of freezing cold garage with a tiny electric fire at one end and a small wooden table and chair at the other. He is an old hand. He is not overly friendly. He’s seen it all before. I feel like an idiot. I am behaving like a ridiculous townie at a cocktail party, enquiring about his job and whether he ought to have a bigger fire, and oh gosh, these forms, how on earth does one make head or tail of them? He groans and lights another fag.

Help is at hand from a lovely young man in a white coat and white wellies: the man from DEFRA. He helps me fill in the forms, then helps us get Porker down the ramp and along a long, stone corridor. He is so gentle and sweet with her ‘Come on lovey, come on sweetie’, patting her gently and encouraging her down. Pigs don’t like going downhill much. I instantly like him and trust him and there is a lovely, straw-filled pen waiting for her with a drinking bowl and everything. I give her a pocketful of pignuts and stroke her nose for the last time. She is next in line. I walk away. Turning once I see her just rooting about in the straw like normal. I am not worried.

I make arrangements to collect the carcass in three days and return to work. Feel strange all day. Quite grown up.

Nicola

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Goodness! It looks like the end is nigh for dear old Porker. Nicola shares her thoughts…

The Hog Blog – February 2008, part 1

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.

Nicola

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buy Go Slow England Buy Go Slow England

It’s time for another Hog Blog and I think you will agree that it’s starting to get a bit dramatic!

Cheers, Thomas

buy Go Slow England Buy Go Slow England 

The Hog Blog – January 2008, part 2

The Hog Blog - January 2008, part 2 

Rang abattoir in Nailsea today. Porker has only four weeks or so left to go. I need to hire a trailer and also get her an ear tag or slap-mark of some description. Not sure how to go about it, but I phone the North Somerset council man and he tells me which company to order them from. He is also, he says, coming to inspect me in February. Blimey. Order ear-piercer and tags with my herd number stamped on them over the internet and they arrive in the post. Fifty ear tags minimum order. Oh well, I shan’t have to order again in a hurry.

I have a mad two weeks trying to get out of going to the Nailsea abattoir (I hear gossip from Steve the butcher at the farm shop that a mate of his sent some rare-breed pigs to Bakers and didn’t think he got his own pigs back; and there were bits missing that he had specifically asked for). But I’m worried about not having any alternative. People keep telling me about nod-and-a-wink travelling folk who come with a small gun and do it in the field. On research, they don’t appear to exist, or only do it secretly.

Steve says there’s another abattoir in Frome which is smaller and less commercial and gives me the number of a mate who knows them. The mate recommends them and I worry about the fact that it is 27 miles away rather than eight. My address book, which used to be filled with city numbers, is now criss-crossed with numbers for trailer hire folk, ark builders, mates of mates who shoot pigs in fields on the sly, farmers and hedge trimmers, oh and abattoirs. Weird. It is make my mind up time. Every time I look at Porker I feel like a traitor.

Later that month…
Time up. I opt for the Frome abattoir. But how to get her there? Ring Pete the hedge trimmer as he is a Long Ashton local. He tells me to ring Tom James who keeps cows in the field below me. Tom is brilliant and agrees to help (for £60!) We talk pig on the phone and I like him. He meets me in the field the next day and we check to see he can get his trailer in and every question I ask (there are many) he answers patiently and kindly.

Nicola

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