Irish Examiner view: Pet pigs get the short straw

Abandoned animals
Irish Examiner view: Pet pigs get the short straw

My Lovely Pig Rescue co-founder Cathy Davey with Troy.

It’s long been established from research and observation that pigs are complex, sensitive, and intelligent animals, up there with dolphins and elephants as among the most sentient creatures on the planet.

They can experience emotions, have the faculties to remember and retain information and possess social abilities communicating with each other through various senses such as touch, sound, and sight.

How sad, therefore, that pigs, bred to be pets during the lockdown when the sales and prices of puppies soared, are now being abandoned, and sometimes in the most cruel of manners, leading the co-founder of the only porcine shelter in Ireland to say that the country is in the midst of a “pig crisis”. 

Cathy Davey said her joint enterprise started out with only two pigs but has grown to housing 131, the majority of which were once pets and used to human affection. 

Last month it took in 31 animals in just over a week, four of them pregnant and due to birth this month. Each litter can produce 10 to 15 piglets which can grow to between 80kg to 120kg.

Ms Davey said: “It’s because of the number of pigs bred during Covid to facilitate people who wanted to get pet pigs. These people very soon realised that they didn’t have the setup or the means, or probably the interest, to properly care for these animals.” 

Pigs are being abandoned by the roadside, in forests, bogs and even gardens, with some of them thrown over walls. Many simply end up being butchered for meat.

The days have long passed since smallholders commonly kept a pig which would provide a regular source of food or income and it seems bizarre in an era where responsible food sourcing is apparently important to consumers that uncontrolled breeding and abandonment should be rampant.

There is a harrowing scene in the classic Thomas Hardy novel Jude the Obscure where the protagonist has to slaughter his own animal. Jude Fawley describes how “the animal’s note changed its quality. It was not now rage, but the cry of despair; long-drawn, slow, and hopeless.” 

He becomes distraught and laments over the snow “stained with the blood of his fellow-mortal”. It shouldn’t be necessary to legislate to prevent people from doing bad and stupid things, or even taking on a pig as a pet. But all the evidence indicates otherwise.

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