Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Don and Hamelot Have Left the Building

Don and Hamelot, our two little Wessex Saddleback pigs were slaughtered yesterday. I will not pretty up this post for human acceptance. If you are vegan, you do not have to read on. If you are vegetarian, likewise.

Please, everyone who may read this post, be assured that these two little pigs lived a very happy life, they ate well, free ranged, wallowed copiously, burrowed with and without intent, got out of their paddock once and fell asleep on their boundary fence. They jumped straight back in when dinner arrived and strangely enough never attempted escape again. The grass may have been over-tilled by them both, but they obviously knew where it was greener. They had shady trees, a pig ark stuffed to capacity with sweet smelling hay that they would burrow into every night...and afternoon for siestas. They were well kept pigs.

HH and I deliberately kept Don and Hamelot far away from the house in their own purpose modified paddock. Even though we are animal lovers we do still eat meat, not alot of meat, but still some. Having our own property has enabled us to keep our own livestock for our own consumption. This was our first year for raising pigs. Having them away from the house meant that we did not cultivate a ¨pet pig¨ mentality. Don and Hamelot were pigs with a purpose. Their destiny lays in our freezer and eliminates the need for purchasing commercial (yes, even free range) pig meat.

Pigs can be very harsh on the land. Their newly vacated paddock will need a year of resting with a couple of round bales of grass hay to mulch it, preserve it and rejuvenate it before we can put any more livestock on it. That paddock has been stripped, tilled, turned, and upended by our little pigs. The deep underlying clay pan is almost our new top soil. The only thing keeping our topsoil in our paddock is the fact that they soil is still damp. Once it is dry, all it will take is a stiff breeze and our neighbours will have newly deposited top soil on their land. OURS! I have no idea how free range pigs can be kept to supply a commercial market.....Do they really, or are they only born free range and once weaned then kept off of the land? Our two pigs lived in a 3/4 acre paddock for four months and utterly destroyed it.

Anyhoo, I digress. Yesterday, Russell, our slaughter/butcher guy came with his refrigerated truck, gun and dog. He inspected our two little pigs and commented that they were at the perfect size. Being boars, you cannot keep them too long just in case their circulating testosterone ¨taints¨ the meat. It does not always happen, especially when the pigs are kept truly free range, but why take the risk? Don and Hamelot weighed in at about 34kgs and 38kgs respectively. A good weight to still handle between two people. Russell produced his gun and shot each pig in the head, between the eyes and they fell to the ground. Don and Hamelot both saw us as food and would wait at the fence for us with their little upturned snouts snuffling in anticipation of the food bucket. Today there was no food bucket, only a gun. There was very little noise, and they died immediately. I do not know what goes on in a professional abbatoir, so I cannot compare the two processes.

HH had set up a 44 gallon drum filled with water and boiled it using fallen timber from our property to fire it up and get that water boiling. Each pig was then dipped into the water for about five minutes which is enough to make it easy to scrape their coarse hair off but not to cook them. They were then removed and Russell hung them up using a block and tackle and the abdominal cavity opened and all of the innards removed.

Russell then set about removing the head and the trotters (which I did want) Some of the offal we saved, some went to the dogs and the rest into our septic worm treatment plant. He is quick. He knows his job and he does this for a living. Don and Hamelot then had a meat hook placed through them and they were put into the cool room where they will hang for a week before being butchered into traditional portions and put into the freezer to be eaten by us over the next year.

I hope this post is not too sanitized, but if you were expecting lots of blood and gore and squealing none of this happened. As I said, Russell is a professional. The whole morning was stress free. Don and Hamelot died in anticipation of a yummy food bucket. I don´t think that you can die much happier than that. They didn´t run away in terror and there was no squealing. It was a quick clean death. How many commercially farmed animals meet an end like that?

If you ever come to our place for dinner and there is pig on the table, rest assured you can eat without a guilty conscience knowing that Don and Hamelot lived a happy life, had a quick death and we wasted as little of them both as we could.


  1. Oh I think this is just really good... if we are going to eat meat, then it's the way it should be. It's very interesting that your two piggies used up 3/4 of an acre, it really gives you an appreciation into what goes into free ranging rather than a cement floor.

    Good on you for doing this; and good on Don and Hamelot :)

  2. I'm with Ali! I totally agree, If we want to eat meat we should do it responsibly and ethically and most importantly respect the creature itself. I think you have done a great thing Daffodil and thanks for sharing this post with us.

  3. Me too...I am on the bandwagon. i am not eating much meat at all these days because I don't like the exploitation of animals in the name of profit. This is far more ethical and honest way of sourcing the meat you wish to eat.

  4. As I vegan, I read your post with so much admiration for what you are doing, and for the fact that your two pigs died as quickly and as humanely as possible. If only ALL meat was produced in this way. The reason me and Man Wonderful don't eat meat or dairy is the cruelty involved in the production, but as I say, if it were the good old days when people respected the life that was feeding them, we would both feel differently. Good on you!! FMx

  5. I actually had real issues posting this. I know that there are many people out there who would be horrified that we would raise our own animals to eat. Yet some of these people think nothing of letting someone else do their dirty work for them. A couple of our friends were in that category and after we explained how our pigs were raised and why we were doing this and how most animals raised for meat live and die. They admitted that they had not thought about how meat gets to their table. The whole industry is sanitized to make people feel good about eating meat and not thinking about the conditions under which meat animals are raised and what it is they are ultimately eating. In my eyes they are perpetrating animal cruelty.

    This also goes for eggs, cheese, milk and anything with palm oil.

    As soon as there is money to be made out of something, corners will be cut and it is always the animals that suffer and the human consumer that is short-changed and ignorant.

    The other issue is that not everyone can raise their own meat. It takes some land. Of course, I think that everyone who doesn´t live in an apartment can raise their own chickens or rabbits....BUT if it was up to them to slaughter their own meat, how many people would still eat meat?

    If we had to slaughter our own pigs we would need more than just our two hands and a knife. Will we raise pigs again? Most likely. But if we had to do our own slaughtering we would stick to manageable animals such as the chickens, ducks and rabbits.

  6. It would be so nice if everyone could raise their own meat, to ensure that all meat animals got this exact existence. It's what they deserve. I had Ozzy with beef cattle for a while. They were grass fed, free range, and perfectly happy, and they all met a humane end. I whole-heartedly endorse this. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  7. I think what you did is completely admirable and I think that you wrote about it accurately without crossing into anything "overly icky".

    Wow, those two porkers sure were lucky. I'd love to own enough land to do that sort of thing but I'm sure that won't be possible for a few years though.

  8. Hi Dom! I would love to have a cow but we simply do not have enough land. The pigs were hard enough on our pasture and we only had them a little over four months. That paddock is to be rested for at least a year...if not more.

    Hi Bryce! Glad you could drop by. Thank you for your lovely comments. I am still expecting a bad case of the trolls over this post. Time will tell. Keep on blogging! (Don´t make Dom get the whip out!)

  9. lol Somethign tells me she'll get the whip out anyway just for fun!

  10. Great post I am sure you meat will taste wonderful when you can fianlly cook some let us know how it compares. We have a freezer cow for exactly the same reason and we would eventually like to move on to chickens (for meat as the one we have at the moment are just for eggs and have names so will never get eaten) and sheep and pigs. The reality is though we only have 3.5 acres and as you pointed out in your post to raise animals in an ethical way they need to be given sufficent space.
    I say trolls beware. Daffodil has our utmost respect and support for the way she raised her little piggies so keep your thoughts to your self if you have nothing nice to say.

  11. Thank you so much Fiona! Remind me never to make you angry. I can almost hear your teeth gnashing in anticipation of a taking on a troll! Rest assured, I will do the same for you if the need ever arises.

    FosterMummy, I can understand the pathway that you and your Mr. Wonderful have taken as I could have easily taken that pathway myself. The only reason we raise our own animals is that we simply have the land to do it. I really do appreciate your comments on this post, as not every person will have the same unbiased reasoning as yourself.

    To everyone, the breeder of our pigs actually offers to keep and feed the pigs on his land until they reach their slaughter age. He keeps his pigs on almost 100 acres with a creek and they are definitely free ranged. He buys his feed in bulk and it is human grade for consumption. You all might also have someone in your area of the world who offers the same service. In the long/short run it is actually very ethically, environmentally and fiscally economical all in one. You could also look at going halves with another party to reduce your storage issues.

    Fiona, how are you going to fit a cow in a freezer?

  12. Great post Daff - well done in your choice of lifestyle for both yourselves and the pigs. We have contemplated it, but I'm such a wuss..!

  13. Good on you Daffodil. If only all animals were treated as kindly, humanely and with as much respect.

  14. Wow that was a strong post!!! I live in the city. Never lived on a farm and don't think I could do this without being a blubbering wreck.
    I was vegetarian for a few years but unfortunately went back to meat because i guiltily enjoy it. It's unethical on my part so I try to be grateful and not wasteful.
    Last nights dinner was chicken and 4 yr old Dolly said she liked chicken but didn't want the chickens to die. So I said well you can eat it but don't waste it because it died for us, so we should be grateful and always think about the animals and how they lived. Big thoughts for a little girl and for me too.
    I really appreciated this post.
    Can you tell me when the 1st pig went down did the 2nd pig become distressed or was it too fast?
    I once saw piglets getting their tails chopped off and I cried all night and yet i eat bacon!

  15. No, the second pig, Hamelot did not seem distressed. There was very little noise from the gun when Don was shot and went to ground. Hamelot was still standing with his snout looking up for the food bucket when he was shot as well.

    My pigs did not die in fear, they died waiting for their food bucket.

    I think it is fantastic that Dolly is beginning to question the ethics of eating meat.

    My HH keeps telling me that we have saved two other pigs from being raised in deplorable conditions. It is only through taking a stand and refusing to purchase meat raised in those kind of conditions and hitting those farmers where it really hurts, that things might begin to change. If anyone reading this post and its comments are worried about how my pigs died, please organise a visit to a commercial piggery and see how their pigs exist. It can be hell on earth.

    Please do not support meat producers who do not have their animals interests at heart.........and as it is a commercial venture you can rest assured that outside of small organic free range farmers you are supporting and condoning animal cruelty.

  16. This is a great post! I've visted various "factory" farms over the years and the piggery was one that had the biggest impact on me, I try not to eat pork now but would feel much better if I did knowing they had wonderful lives like your two had.

  17. Hi Kat, and welcome. Yes, our pigs did have a wonderful, if short, life. I think this will be the only way we will continue to eat meat.