How to save piglets

It’s the feast of St Francis and you may know that about 150,000 UK pigs are under threat of being slaughtered, without the excuse of eating them, due to shortage of staff at abattoirs, due to Brexit. Of these, some are just piglets who face being shot in the head and thrown into a skip like rubbish. Agricultural doublespeak refers to this destruction of the barely-lived lives of the 5th most intelligent animal on our planet (humans, supposedly, being the first) as “animal welfare”.

Here’s how to save them.

1) Network by phone and social media until you have a local group of vegan and vegetarian households willing to either be Piglet Rescuers, Piglet Foster Families or Piglet Food & Finance Friends.

2) Piglet Rescuers need a vehicle (preferably a van) with plastic sheeting and straw or grass cuttings and/ or willing arms to hold scared or excited piglets with their backside/ back legs in plastic/ bin bags/ incontinence sheet nappies.

Bag of Boots 60cm x 60cm disposable bed pads.

They’ll need wellies (farms can be muddy) raincoats (so can piglets) and the pragmatic mindset that they can only take piglets, only as many as can be homed, and saving some is better than saving none. They also need to be polite to the farmer (who may think they’re fools) as well as the firm assurance that the number of piglets they pick up is the number that will be homed, as arranged.

2) Piglet Foster Families need a County Parish Holding (CPH) number, a fenced back garden with 6 square metres per pig, a cleared shed, heated in winter, with straw (a few rescued hens will help deal with troublesome insects but keep their nests out of reach of the growing pigs). Pigs like to root around (it’s comforting for them to do this and distressing when they can’t) and may root up the whole back garden but they can also be walked, especially to woodland, which they love, like dogs. This needs an Animal Plant & Health Agency herd mark but APHA need to be notified of pigkeeping, even as pets, within 30 days of arrival, in any case. Keeping two pigs of the same sex means they won’t be lonely or multiplying! Dogs and pigs don’t usually get along well but there’s mutual appreciation with cats.

3) Piglet Food & Finance Friends are essential to keep the pigs’ food in supply and help with vet bills. Although government websites tend to have dire warnings about domestic food waste, especially containing vegetable oils, they of course are hand in glove with agricultural food suppliers and, although there are somethings that must be avoided, pig sanctuaries do feed their animal friends with veggies and show this clearly on social media. They also know about bills and how to keep them down (because they have to) and need to work very hard to do that—so social media might be a good start to contact them for advice as you’re also advertising them and attracting donations. Whereas everyone can advertise, local piglet rescue networks could perhaps have one person who contacts the nearest sanctuary and passes on advice, to avoid inundating them with your anxieties about your piggy friends when they’ve got animals of their own.

DISCLAIMER—I love pigs but I have no experience or qualifications in caring for them. I’m passing on what I’ve been able to find out about government regulations and advice but I may have misunderstood or be missing a lot. Therefore this post is simply a call to action and the first step is to get informed. There are many great social media sites (such as the American Odd Man Inn on Facebook and Instagram and Pigs in the Wood in England on Facebook) but do be aware that regulations are different from state to state and country to country—including around the UK.

This is a naive attempt to rescue little lives that are currently under threat. I’m prioritising them because they’ve barely lived at all and because by the time they grow their Foster Families should be more experienced in looking after them and better prepared to care for big pigs. When I first turned vegetarian at the age of eight, I stuck a big poster of a pig on my bedroom wall. It said “To Know Me Is To Love Me!”

I still believe that. Let’s rescue piglets!

Cute pink piglet in a pen with straw bedding looking anxiously up at the camera.

Thanks to Petr Kratochvil for releasing his photo Piglet on Farm into the Public Domain.