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Babe, Wilbur and the Three Little Pigs

Wednesday 4 January 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Local, National

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Babe, Wilbur and the Three Little Pigs
The Heathers have all kinds of animals including pigs which they take care of. PHOTO: JUNGLEFARM/22021147

Cartoon character Homer Simpson has taught me many life lessons.

Cartoon character Homer Simpson has taught me many life lessons.

“This Doughnut has purple inside – purple is a fruit!” is my personal favourite, and has saved me from eating anything healthy. But there is one thing which I cannot forgive Homer for, the insinuation that an animal that could provide bacon, ham and pork chops had to be a magical creature. Pigs of course are real, and humans are very lucky that is the case.

Pigs and humans have a very long association, stretching back nearly 10,000 years. And in that time I would warrant that no species of animal has suffered more, or been more maligned by people. “Pigs are dirty”, “you smell like a pig”, “your room is a pigsty”, “you have the manners of a pig”. How did these intelligent, caring, compassionate and useful animals fall into such a position of contempt? And why?

I think pigs are so contemptable because of their usefulness. They can live in close association with us and thrive off what we leave behind. Our table scraps, our discarded shelters, and our discarded land, and pigs thrive. So, we cram them into a tiny area, and they have no choice but to live in mess. And we benefit greatly from them. A great source of protein, producing large numbers of fast-growing offspring each year.

We can do a lot of things to help pigs. And it isn’t hard.

“You’re sweating like a pig” literally means you are not sweating at all. Pigs can’t sweat, they have no sweat glands. To keep cool they wallow, “happy as a pig in mud” is one of the few true pig related sayings. Providing shade and a wallow helps pigs greatly, they can keep cool. They also need fresh water to drink, like us they are not keen to drink their own bath water.

Many pigs are tethered, which can be a great way to contain them. But mud and rope can be a fatal mix. The tether will get tighter and tighter and eventually cut into the skin, eventually cutting off the foot if not dealt to. The pain and suffering can be avoided by removing these tethers before they get too tight.

Piglets are often batched together in small pens after weaning. Often there are some big ones and some little ones. All in together. The big ones get more of the food and get bigger. The small ones don’t grow. The big ones then get even more of the food, the small ones start to fade, and starve. For this reason, it is always best to sort piglets by size, matching small with small and large with large. They all do better as a result, and if one grows too fast, or falls back, the groups should be rearranged.

I mentioned how clever pigs are. “Pig-headed” is another bad adjective. They are easy to train, responsive to affection and very quick learners.

All in all pigs are great. They are a wonderful, magical animal. Turns out I do agree with Homer after all.

  • Dr Michael Baer, Te Are Manu Vet Clinic medical director