About a week ago, I got to spend most of my day in southwest Ohio helping a pig farmer, Neil, learn how to post video to his YouTube channel. You see, Neil is so happy he gets to spend nearly every waking moment with his pigs (his words, I promise) that he wants to share with the world what goes on inside his barns.
Neil grows and cares for gilts, young female pigs that will eventually end up in the breeding herd, inside a modern barn that allows him to take special care of them.
While walking through each pen with the pigs, as Neil does every single day, the curious pigs began to chew and tug on his boots and pants. Ever had a pig chew on your feet and legs? Not exceptionally painful, but also not one of those experiences I’d pay for.
How do you get pigs to stop chewing, biting and tugging at you? You push them away, maybe smack them so they stay away, but you do not beat them. Just watching how this particular farmer handled being treated like a toy by 30 curious pigs made me think. If you knew nothing about what happens in barns or how pigs behave and you saw a video of a farmer in a pen smacking pigs, it’d look sketchy…right? Yes. But if you spend some time in the barn, talk to the farmer, watch him laugh and play with his pigs (yes, Neil really does PLAY with his pigs), then you have a much better understanding of why the farmer might hit his pigs, lightly and rarely, to get them to go eat some feed rather than pant legs and boots.
It would be easy to avoid this situation all together…stay out of the pen. That, however, isn’t really an option. To give the best care possible to their animals, farmers walk their pens once, sometimes twice, daily, to ensure each pig is healthy and in the correct pen. Farmers will check the animals, their feed, water, etc.
A friend of mine, Dairy Carrie, (wrong species, obviously, I know…but sometimes we have to broaden our horizons ;-)) just wrote a pretty interesting post about why she is “sometimes mean to her cows.” For reference, Carrie cares as much about her animals as any farmer I’ve ever met. Read her post to see why she says “I love my cows and that means sometimes I have to be mean to them.”
So, next time you see a video of a farmer doing something that looks questionable, and it will happen…give it some time, look at it with an open mind and take into consideration all that’s happening. Animals do get abused, that really sucks and is absolutely unacceptable, but sometimes things aren’t always as they seem. Farmers care enough about their animals to “be a little mean” sometimes.
Until next time!