There are lots of ways to help pigs, even if you still eat meat. Pigs are one of the world’s most intelligent animals (the same IQ as a 4-year old child). They are clean animals (who will walk a mile to defecate) and roll in mud simply to cool themselves down (they have no sweat glands). They are also some of the best mothers in the animal kingdom, who need straw to keep warm and to forage and root (if not, they may bite each other’s tails out of boredom, leading to their tails being removed, often without anaesthetic). Pigs are also very social.
Yet Compassion in World Farming (a charity started by a concerned dairy farmer) reports that although sow stalls (no room to move) are no longer legal in the UK, farrowing crates and indoor-rearing still are, in conditions often you would describe as hell. The charity recommends that if you eat bacon, pork, ham or gammon – to only buy from certified organic free-range sources.
It’s important to know that ‘assurance schemes’ don’t have the same welfare. RSPCA Assured sometimes does a little good (but it has many critics and a recent report did nothing to reassure). And adverts that say ‘buy British!’ have no meaning on welfare at all (CIWF are not fans of the Red Tractor. The companies that pay for these ads, would be better placed using the money for better welfare.
Escaping the Abattoir
Do you remember the Tamworth Two? This brother and sister escaped from a Wiltshire abattoir, and spent a week on the run. After being spotted foraging in a garden, they escaped again but were sniffed out by two spaniels, and captured. The Daily Mail bought them off the owner (who still planned to slaughter them) and sold the story, funding the rest of their lives in a sanctuary. Butch died age 13, and his sister was put to sleep 7 months later, due to arthritis.
Of the 10 million pigs (and 1 billion animals) slaughtered each year in the UK, many often try to escape. One turkey even escaped from a farm, and walked himself 3 miles to a bird sanctuary. However, the tales involving pigs are often heartbreaking: in recent years there have been two lorry accidents: one near York involved 180 pigs who all tried to escape (they were later captured and taken to the abattoir). And in 2017, several pigs were injured in a lorry accident: rather than allow the pigs to go a sanctuary, Waitrose (the ‘ethical supermarket’) had them shot at the roadside, in order to keep their profits.
Lots of Ways to Help Pigs
- If you eat pork, ham, bacon or gammon – look for free-range certified organic (the same for sandwiches, sausages etc). It is more expensive, so just eat less.
- If you are concerned for the welfare of a pig or any farm animal, you can call RSPCA to make a formal complaint. Farm animals do have legal rights, so you can complain, anonymously if wished.
- Support your local farm sanctuary, which takes in barnyard friends who have had a hard time. Two pig sanctuaries in England are The Pig Woodland & Piggs in Heaven.
- Buy your tees, hoodies and beanie hats from clothing brands that help animals. These companies use profits to help farm sanctuaries and other animal charities.
- See how to help our small farmers for charities that can help, and books to help you develop AgriTourism (like renting out holiday lets.
Plant-Based Alternatives to Pig Meats
If you don’t want factory farming, then people have to eat less meat (there is not enough land for everyone in England to eat free-range pig products at present consumption rates – and buying meat from abroad often means worse welfare standards). Even Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver say we should base most of our diet around plants. So if you don’t want to go vegan, then eat less but spend more on free-range organic meats, and try these quality alternatives the rest of the time (streets ahead of most supermarket offerings: found in some supermarkets & health stores or buy in bulk online and freeze). All these brands are free from palm oil. Although best to avoid (hence recipes are best), you can recycle any plastic packaging at most supermarkets.
Don’t give leftovers from these recipes to pets, as some contain toxic foods to keep away from pets. (soy, garlic, onion, salt, avocado, mushroom). Never feed cooked bones to pets, can cause choking.
- Bacon is just salt-cured pork, the taste coming more from the ingredients to season it. So it’s pretty easy to replicate by steeping plant-based ingredients in liquid smoke, maple syrup, smoked paprika, molasses etc. You can make coconut bacon yourself (ensure coconut oil is not harvested by monkeys) or buy Tansy’s Kitchen Coconut Bacon (made with organic dehydrated flakes). Top your pasta, spuds or salad, or use in sandwiches.
- The Vurger Co is like a vegan version of McDonald’s in London, that is now bringing out its own food products. It’s Smoky Bacon Vegan Mayo (ideal for BBQs) is made with rapeseed oil.
- Pimp My Salad Coconut Bacon is perfect in sandwiches.
- Vivera Bacon-Style Pieces (sold in supermarkets) is like a chopped pancetta, made from soy & wheat protein, herbs and spices. Just fry up to top pasta or pizza, or add to omelettes.
- Sgaia Streaky Mheat Rashers is a gourmet brand by two Italians who live in Scotland. Smoky, salty and with a hint of maple sweetness, each pack includes 4 rashers. This company also makes Scottish Mheat Lorne Sausage and Pastrami.
- Ask in stores for Vegusto, a Swiss brand that makes rashers, luncheon meat & a ‘No-Moo Bacon Cheeseburger!
- Just Wholefoods Organic Sausage Mix (also sold at Natural Collection comes in a pack, to make yourself. High in fibre & protein, serve with creamy mashed spuds & gravy, or in a bun with fried onions & mustard.
- Baconish is a book by the wonderfully-named Leinana Two Moons, who shows how to make your own bacon from tofu, tempeh, aubergine, mushrooms or coconut – then find recipes for BLT, Quiche Lorraine and Bacon Cheeseburgers.
Cut sausages lengthways and again, to reduce risk of choking for children and people with swallowing difficulties.
- Moving Mountains makes the best vegan sausages on earth. In fact, these are so life-like you may not like them, if you don’t want a greasy sausage with the skin on. They also come as ‘hot dogs’, the main sausage just falls out of a cardboard box.
- Bonsan Organic Kofu Grill Sausages are made with fermented kombucha-cultured tofu. Ideal for hot dogs, drizzled with mustard and served with punchy pickled kraut.
- Black pudding is a mix of pork blood (pork fat & beef suet) with oats. Sounds vile, but many people like it. So over to beautiful Estonia we go, where talented chef Sandra Vungi has created a vegan recipe, in a country that likes its sausages.
Make your own sausages:
- Simple Vegan Bacon
- Easy Vegan Sausage
- Homemade Vegan Sausages (from Austria)
- Easy Vegan Sausages
- 5-Ingredient Vegan Sausage Rolls (use palm-oil-free pastry)
Plant-Based Ham, Pork & Gammon
- Vegan Roast Pork (or braised pork) at Full of Plants.
- Maple-Glazed Holiday Vegan Ham (gammon)
- Vegan Seitan Ham with Pineapple Mustard Glaze
I never met a pig I didn’t like. All pigs are intelligent, emotional and sensitive souls. They all love company. They all crave contact and comfort. Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never expect, from your relationship with a pork chop. Sy Montgomery
Rescued Pot-bellied Pigs
There was recently a craze to adopt pot-bellied pigs, because just like dogs, they are very affectionate and loyal, know their names and get attached. But ‘little pigs’ grow big, causing issues for adoption shelters.
Happily Ever After is both a cautionary tale and story of hope, about Esther the Wonder Pig, who was adopted by a gay couple in the US a few years ago. Deciding to adopt a ‘micro-pig as a pet, Steve and Derek were amazed when the little ‘daughter’ grew into a full-size commercial pig of a whopping 650 pounds (46 stone). Not able to cope in the city, they had to move to a farm to give her enough space. But the story does not end there. They both had to go vegan after getting to know their pig friend, and now run one of the USA’s best-loved farm sanctuaries that rescues animals of all kinds including more pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, cows, roosters and even a peacock!
Dr Paul Farmer said it best: The idea that some lives matter less, is the root of all that’s wrong with the world. Esther helped us see the truth in that statement. Steve Jenkins (co-author)
A Day in the Life of a Rescued Pig
Here’s a happy rescued pig. You’ll see she likes to root out acorns, which for most pigs can be safe. However many other animals (sheep, cattle, horses) find acorns toxic. In fact, many pig welfare experts suggest not to let pigs eat too many, or they will get tummy ache. But when rooting for hours for the perfect occasional acorn like Lula below, it should hopefully do no harm.