I was reading a blog the other day that really made me stop and think, and it has stuck in my mind ever since. Ultimately, the article discussed euthanasia, specifically when it is appropriate to employ it or forgo it. But the most interesting thing about the blog was that it brought up the relevance of humanizing our herd and food animals. Do we realistically view our animals based on evidence of their natures? Or do we give them attributes that are entirely impractical?
The writer’s point-of-view was that if pigs are compared to us, or humans I should say, then they are equivalent to the worst of us. The blog suggested that media humanizes pigs in an all too positive manner. So I thought about it and tried to put everything in perspective—especially in conjunction with the healthcare of our animals and the subject of euthanasia.
While we have a pig infirmary here at Circle B Ranch, for the most part, John and I let nature take its course. When animals are pasture-raised and grown the old-fashioned way, they are healthier and more resilient. More often than not, our interference is unnecessary. But we do use the infirmary when a pig has been injured; for example, if a small hog has been hurt because it was crowded or laid on by a larger one. Or if a pig is sick, which is a rare occurrence with our healthy pasture-fed stock, we can place it in confinement and treat it with the necessary medicines. We most often use it for runts, or hogs that are unable to grow because they can’t get enough nutrients. We place them in the infirmary to supplement their diet until they are able to fend for themselves. Euthanasia is a last resort; we use it if it is the ONLY option.
Are hogs comparative to the best or to the worst of humanity? Let’s take a look at how closely a pig resembles a human being. Pigs are like humans in that they require socialization. A pig is not healthy or happy when it is left alone, and we all know that pigs cavort and play; they are like children. They enjoy life when raised in the right environment (much like ours, who do not do well in unhealthy environments—we could discuss the psychological aspects of this all day but we won’t). In fact, socialization is so important, that our injured pigs are not even left alone in the infirmary. They are placed with others of the same age and size. This way they can heal without further damage, yet they can still get the socialization they need.
On the negative side, our infirmary is often used for piglets because hogs are notoriously bad mothers. They may smother their piglets, lay on them, not take care of them correctly, and so on. Yes, we have these mothers in our society, but there is a marked difference. While humans have the chance to learn and grow in these areas (whether they do or not), pigs do not. They run solely on instinct and genetics.
Pigs do not feel or reason in the same way we do; they function by instinct. They can be mean to each other. The weak are beat up by the strong. Why? The group has to survive. In other words, or OUR words I could say, the good of the many outweighs the needs of the one. This thought process appears constantly throughout our history. But this is what separates us from the pigs—we can reason. Logic prevails. We have the ability to ensure the health of the herd, but we also have the means to focus on the one if it becomes necessary.
Euthanasia focuses on the needs of the individual, in more ways than one. What’s best for the farmer? Don’t want to deal, euthanize (which was the focus of the article, give the pigs a chance and do not euthanize because we are over-humanizing them). What’s best for the pig? If there is absolutely no chance of survival, it is compassionate to put an animal out of its misery. But only after all other options have been explored.
On one hand, we the farmers are the caretakers, but we also have the knowledge to realize that nature will take its own course. Hogs are more resilient than one would think. Much like human beings. We bounce back from many things that would put us down, and so would pigs if given half a chance. If we truly based the use of euthanasia on a pig’s comparison to humanity, euthanasia would not ever be an option. It’s not a matter of comparison; it’s a matter of compassion.
So are pigs like the best of us? Or are they like the worst of us? I think there is only one way to answer this question. They are a perfect balance of what they are. As are we.