Pigs are extremely social animals
From the very first day that my family lived with pigs, it was clear how much pigs enjoy being with other pigs. Charlotte and Pumpkin were constantly communicating with each other and snuggled up together. And they both fed off each others enthusiasm or fears. If Charlotte got excited in anticipation for something, her mom Pumpkin would do the same. If Pumpkin showed signs that something was making her apprehensive, Charlotte immediately sensed this and mimicked her mom's behavior.
One of the things that most impressed us was how Charlotte would vicariously enjoy her mother being brushed. If she saw her mom getting a pig mohawk (the middle strip of their hair standing up on end) from being brushed, Charlotte would get a mohawk too just from seeing her mom enjoying something.
And one of the most common pieces of advice given to people considering adopting a pig is that they should adopt two. This helps with preventing issues with your pig. Having another pig to sleep with, play with and communicate in their own pig language goes a long way towards keeping companion pigs happy. We assume this is one of the factors that explains why our three pigs are so well-behaved.
But, pigs aren't just social with other pigs. It became equally clear how much they enjoy the company of other species. Pigs seem to enjoy the company of just about anyone they meet. Our girls love meeting new dogs, cats, and people. (assuming there is no competition for their treats ). One need only spend a very short time around pigs to see just how social they truly are. It only takes one time having three pigs pile on you to cuddle before you'll be sure you'll never want to live another day without a pig in your life.
An Animation About the Truth Behind the Teacup Myth
This is our first Life with Pigs animation. My daughter Rousseau and I created this to help people realize that teacup pigs are not real. The name is a sales gimmick to get people to pay more money for the same mini pigs that will likely grow up to be 75 to 150 lbs.
Let us know what you think of our animation. Would you like to see more?
Is there really a difference between a farm pig and a pet pig?
Pig World Divided:
With the recent viral news about the man in Canada that adopted a mini pig only to later kill and eat the pig, it seems worth addressing if there is really a difference between the pigs we keep as pets and the pigs we eat. It is not a secret that the pig world is a divided place where many people reach down to scratch their beloved pet pig Wilbur while frying up the belly of Babe in a frying pan (in the form of bacon). And this is a constant source of tension within the pig world. Somehow, there are many pig parents that still think that there is a difference between a mini pig and a Smithfield or farm pig. Let's take a look at all the possible arguments used.
Mini pigs and farm pigs both share the intelligence that pigs are famous for possessing. If you were to be one of the people that ends up adopting a full-size farm pig (after being deceived by a greedy breeder), you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in regards to their IQ. A farm pig can learn to do tricks and figure out how to do all the things that have convinced people that mini pigs are highly intelligent. So, using this factor will not help to justify the rationale behind cuddling your mini pig but eating a farm pig. (https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8sx4s79c)
That all pigs are clean animals is pretty well established in the minds of anyone caring to look into the matter, but still some people believe that farm pigs are dirty. The problem with convincing people otherwise is that Smithfield and companies like them keep their pigs in conditions that force pigs to submit to being dirty. They don't have enough space to use the bathroom away from where they eat and sleep. So, being dirty is forced upon them and then used against them by the likes of Smithfield because the want to convince people that these pigs are dirty, stupid animals that deserve to be eaten. (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150924-the-truth-about-pigs)
I've had more than one employee of Smithfield Foods try to tell me that the pigs on their farms are violent and mean. One went so far as to suggest that these pigs would do to us what we do to them if given the chance. But, the evidence doesn't seem to bear out in reality. Case in point: Esther the Wonder Pig. Esther is a full-size farm pig who lives in a house with her family and is not at all how Smithfield would have us believe farm pigs truly are. And why is that? Is it that Esther is an exception? No, and the proof of this exists on sanctuaries across the world. Farm pigs are friendly and loveable animals just like the mini pigs many of us live with in our homes. (http://www.estherthewonderpig.com/)
So, there is always someone that will try to argue that mini pigs aren't meant to be food whereas farm pigs are. This completely ignores that the original mini pigs, the pot-bellied pigs, were used by Vietnamese farmers as a source of food. Arguing that mini pigs can't be eaten requires us to deny the truth to justify our ends.
Along the same lines as the previous point, some still try to use the argument that mini pigs are bred to be pets and farm pigs are bred to be eaten. But this use of intention as a justification seeks to claim that having something as one's intention justifies the action. Thus, by intending to kill someone, you would justify the act of murder because it was your intention. Or taken to an extreme, would anyone argue that Hitler's intentions for the Holocaust justified his actions? Hopefully it is clear that using one's intentions to justify one's actions creates a circular argument the proves nothing.
And finally others still hope to bring the all loving God into the mix and heap the blame on his shoulders. This requires asserting that God would support unnecessary animal abuse and execution simply because humans like to eat pigs. To think anyone would use God to justify harming innocent beings is an insult to the notion of an all loving being. That argument need not even be addressed, for the sheer ridiculousness of this claim is easily seen through objective eyes.
So how does anyone justify eating pork products while at the same time loving a mini pig:
Cognitive dissonance. Only by creating a mental divide within our heads that allows us to say we love pigs while paying to have unimaginable abuse and suffering heaped upon this very same animal is it possible for us to justify eating one type of pig while loving another. Thus, when one tries to come up with a moral/philosophical justification, they are doomed to failure in this endeavor. It would be like trying to justify eating some humans because they were larger than others. It is doubtful that anyone would take a size based justification as legitimate in regards to any other moral position. And it falls equally flat in regards to pigs.
What are we left thinking then:
There is only one morally consistent position to take. It is either equally wrong to eat a farm pigs as it was that the man on Vancouver Island in British Columbia killed and ate a pet pig. To think that calling an animal a pet somehow creates some moral justification for protecting their life is just self-deception. Sadly, the mini pig the man in British Columbia killed probably suffered far less abuse than the average pig on a factory farm goes through in a single day. And yet, most of the people outraged by his action are willing participants in the system that abuses pigs beyond our imagination. That being said, we are right to be outraged that this highly intelligent and loving pet pig was killed. The problem for many of us is, we should be equally outraged that any pig is being killed in the process of making food. Any pig parent being honest with themselves will immediately realize that eating farm pigs is no different than eating a mini pig. And to be consistent, and to truly be a pig lover, we must agree that pigs do not belong on our plates. Otherwise, what we feel is not love for pigs, but rather a selfish love for ourselves that only treats pigs as well as is necessary for us to get the benefit we wish to have from them.
Charlotte Doesn't Want Mini Pigs Getting Abandoned
Around 90% of mini pigs get abandoned, and for many of them it is because people had unrealistic expectations for how small their mini pig would stay. If a breeder tells you that your pigs will stay below 50 lbs, there is a very good chance (very very good chance) that you are being scammed. Very few pigs will stay under 50 lbs and be healthy.
Breeders are out to make money. That is their primary goal. They will tell you what you want to hear even if it means that the very piglet they sell you will end up homeless or euthanized. Many breeders insist that you must limit the food of your piglet to 1/4 a cup a day to artificially keep your piglet small (and this result in irreparable health damage). So, please go to a rescue and adopt one of the thousands of pigs waiting for their forever home. Your 75-150 pound pig (the typical size of a mini pig) will be your best friend in the world. But you need to go into the experience with the right expectations!
Mini Pig Millie gets a new dress and transforms into a princess pig.
Thanks to the after Valentine's Day sale on dog dresses, Millie got here lovely new dress and was instantly transformed into a princess pig. She had a great day out in Colonial Williamsburg showing off her new look as people fell in love with her and many reconsidered the idea of ever eating any part of a pig again.
The Giant Forest Hog is the Largest Member of the Pig Family
The giant forest hog is the largest wild member of the pig family. These huge pigs live in wooded areas of western and central Africa. Although rumors of the forest hog had circulated for a long time, it wasn't until 1904 that the existence of the forest hog was confirmed to exist in the minds of Europeans when Col. Richard Meinertz-hagen bought the skin of a large black pig while visiting Mount Kenya. Later he found huge skull that measured over a yard with giant tusks. And shortly after, he encountered an 8 foot long boar. And in typical human fashion, he killed the boar to be displayed in a European museum. Why it is always the inclination of mankind to kill animals so that we might admire their corpses on display is something future generations of more evolved humans will struggle to understand.
The boars of the giant forest hog species average an amazing 460 pounds but can weigh an impressive 600 pounds. The females typically weighing quite a bit less, averaging around 368 pounds. These pigs typically live in groups of 20 or so pigs called a sounder. A sounder consists of mostly females and their offspring and possibly an older male.
Like all pigs, these pigs wallow in mud to keep cool and protect themselves from the sun. And they have designated bathroom areas to keep predators from discovering them and to keep their living spaces clean. Yes, they follow the old adage: "Don't leave pig poop berries where you eat." And to protect their babies from leopards, these pigs will create massive nests that can only be entered through a tiny passage that makes protecting their sounder easy. The intelligence of pigs is seen again and again in how they adap their environment and make it work for them and their survival.
The females sows spend about 150 days gestating when pregnant before having on average about 4 piglets. They say it takes a village to raise a child. And even with these pigs, this saying holds true. The young can be found nursing from any of the lactating females. After about 8 week, the piglets will be weaned.
The giant forest hog, like other pigs, have their own language that consists of different sounding grunts that can express anything from a greeting to a warning. And they also have certain rituals that are used to establish dominance. One such ritual involves the rival boars challenging each other by charging from 80 feet apart and crashing forehead to forehead with a thundering crash. This happens over and over until one pig gives up and has their tail bit by the victor.
Mostly active at dust and dawn, the giant forest hog may look like a warrior pig but mostly subsist on foraging on plants, roots and fruit.
For more information on the Giant Forest Hog, check out the book The Whole Hog by Lyall Watson.
Pigs are super clean animals!
But wait! Pigs love rooting into the mud. How can they do that but be a clean animal? Most people don't realize that pigs use mud as a sunscreen and a way to cool down. Pigs can only sweat through their nose, so to cool their body down they must get creative. And they are intelligent enough to figure out that the deeper they deep, the cooler the ground gets.
But, in nearly every other way, pigs love being clean. Pigs will not use the bathroom where they sleep or eat if at all possible. Many wild pigs will actually create a public restroom where they can go to keep their bathroom activities private. This helps keep their living space clean and protects them from predators finding their herd.
Unfortunately, most people are thinking of pigs on farms like those run by Smithfield Foods where pigs are forced to live in unnatural conditions cramped together in ways that make being clean impossible. This results in pigs being forced to live in their own waste and is one of many reasons that these poor animals are so miserable.
Pigs Advocating for Social Justice For All!
"Makes you think twice before eating pigs... maybe three or four times actually." said the woman. And the man followed up with, "Especially meeting them up close like this."
And another kid told his mom, "I don't ever want to eat bacon, ham or pork again! Can we not eat them anymore?"
And we had several more interactions like this today as my kids and I took our army of activist pigs out to Colonial Williamsburg to meet people while they grazed in the Governor's Green (which would have been against the law in colonial days).
It never ceases to inspire me seeing how much impact meeting pigs has on people. And having the whole family out there seemed to be extra powerful for people as they saw a mother and her daughter and their adopted little Millie.
This is exactly why I want to get non-profit status for Life with Pigs and be able to truly travel the country meeting people daily and helping people to realize that the animals on our plates are really animals that should be in our hearts. There is so much I want to do to help animals and I hope that I can pull off making it a reality.
"Is this one of the famous pigs?"
After the recent article about the pigs and my activism, it was fun and weird running into a bunch of people in Colonial Williamsburg that had read the article and knew who we were from it - which is different than just being remembered by people that see us out there all the time. And people were extremely supportive and nice to us about our efforts to promote animal rights.
Charlotte made friends with lots of new animals (human and non). This dog was very interested in her. And was joined by a huge Great Dane that wasn't sure what to make of Charlotte. Fortunately, Charlotte believes the exterior of her bum is community property and allows all the sniffing you need to play the game, "What Is She?"
Top pig health concerns answered by a veterinarian
Veterinarian Dr. Kristie took the time to answer 10 questions we had about Mini Pig Health. If you've ever wondered if your pig is a healthy weight, what the health benefits of spaying and neutering pigs are, or when you should seek immediate medical care for your pig, this video has answers to all that and more. And the best part is that Dr. Kristie specializes in mini pig/pot bellied pig health. So, she is speaking from years of experience working with mini pigs.