At the risk of spoiling your Christmas ham, I thought I’d tell you a tale of two pigs.
Charlotte lives on a small farm producing ‘ethically raised pork’. She is free to roam, dig, wallow and forage for food. At seven months old she lives in a two acre paddock with 20 other pigs. She is moved onto fresh ground every month or so. She is happy, comfortable and healthy.
Charlottes first few weeks were spent in a nursery paddock with her mum Prudence, her mums’ constant companion Pink and 20 other piglets. Prudence and Pink each had their own farrowing stall full of deep litter where they made a nest for their piglets.
At around seven weeks Charlotte moved into a weaner paddock where she continued to play in the mud with the other piglets. Prudence and Pink then moved in with Elvis the boar, where they remained for around two months before returning to the nursery paddock.
Fran lives on an intensive pork farm. She lives indoors. She will never dig in the dirt or wallow in mud and has spent her entire life on concrete. At six months old she lives in a crowded pen with only 1 m2 to herself. She is bullied, anxious and bored. She lives in conditions typical of the majority of the 4.75 million pigs raised in Australia each year.
Fran’s mum Fay gave birth in a farrowing crate that is only 0.6 m x 2.2 m. Fay could stand up, lie down and move one step forwards and backwards – but that’s it. She was confined like this for four weeks before being moved into a gestation stall (also known as a sow stall) where she remained for almost four months before returning to the farrowing crate for her next litter. The gestation stall is only centimetres larger than the farrowing crate.
Both Fran and Charlotte are destined for the Christmas table.
For Charlotte the trip to the abattoirs will be, to quote innovative farmer Joel Salatin, her ‘one bad day’. As for Fran it will be the end of many bad days.
What can you do?
The power to change the way pigs are raised in Australia is in your hands – or more specifically, in your wallet.
Consumer demand has already driven the move away from gestation stalls. Over 50 per cent of sows in Australia now spend no time in a gestation stall.
If you would prefer your ham to have enjoyed a life like Charlotte (for the curious –she lives at Jonai Farm), visit your local butcher or organic store and ask for free-range. You can also find a list of Australian free-range pork producers at tammijonas.com and flavourcrusader.com.
Hopefully you still have time to find a happy ham for your Christmas table.
For an informative and inspiring short film on the alternatives to factory farming visit www.makeitpossible.com.
Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 7th December 2013.
The hypothetical Fran was based on material provided by Australian Pork (including their Aussie Pig Farming website) and the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Pigs.
There's numerous Charlottes living at Jonai Farm. The Jonas family affectionately name all female pigs destined for slaughter 'Charlotte' (the boys are called Wilbur). The life of Charlotte was based on material provided by Tammi Jonas and the Jonai Farm website. Prudence, Pink and Elivis are three real and very happy pigs.