Thursday, 5 July 2007


My Mum spends quite a lot of time worrying about pigs.

I know we eat bacon sandwiches but it is not a contradition in terms to be worried. My Mum reasons that pigs are not the sort of animals which could survive very long in the wild, they need a raison d'etre, and that, unfortunately for the pig, is bacon sandwiches.

She worries about the conditions in which the pigs are kept. They are as intelligent as dogs, and she knows how intelligent her dogs are.

There is an agricultural college round here with a model pig unit which you could visit and my Mum kept checking the expressions on the pig's faces to see if they were happy. They didn't give much away in their expressions but her eyes met with intelligent eyes. The piglets played delightfully, like puppies.

My Mum thought this is a model pig unit that you are allowed to visit so obviously the conditions in which the pigs are kept must be pretty good, maybe other units aren't so good, but quickly brushed that thought aside as it would give her too much to worry about.

When we buy eggs we always buy free range eggs and British bacon and if my Mum sees anybody buying battery eggs or Danish bacon she always starts talking in a loud voice 'Eleanor, would you get the free range eggs. We don't buy battery as it is cruel'.

Same thing with rabbits. Our guinea pigs are allowed to run about and when we went to the Open Gardens there were a few rabbits in hutches looking really bored and my Mum started worrying that maybe the owners didn't let them out. She openly suggested to Lily that they buy a guinea pig as a companion to their rabbit, who subsequently complied.

Same with fish. We used to have some goldfish in a big bowl but my Mum bought an aquarium to put them in. She kept looking at the fish. They seemed to be quite intelligent as they always congregated round the spot where she put the fish food in. The fish started, as fish do, to grow to the size of the tank and this, coupled with issues of our boisterous behaviour and possibilities of us falling onto the tank made her advertise in Tesco for a new home. A lady came who owned a pond, and you could tell she liked fish by the way she declined the offer of a proffered net and gently picked them up in her hands when getting them out of the aquarium. My Mum sees her walking about and regularly checks on their well-being.

My Mum used to work in a hotel and there was a lovely Polish girl there called Monica (who who had come to this city to work and lived in the hotel. My Mum knew that Poland is a bit third world in its standards (Monica had never tasted beef, for instance, and seemed to have lived on cabbage soup) and perhaps the animal welfare isn't up to much but she was not prepared for the sight of Monica's goldfish who seemed to live in all intents and purposes in a large decorated plastic vase, which was oxgenated by blowing into a straw. My Mum started looking at the goldfish and started worrying.

Her chance to save the goldfish came when Monica went away for a while and the gold fish was being kept in the staff room., looked after by the supervisor. The whole oxgenation problem was compounded by the fact that every one was smoking in the staff room. My Mum tried gently to hint that perhaps the goldfish needed to live in something with a larger surface area so that more oxygen could be absorbed into the water. The goldfish did not look too happy.

Then my Mum took action and grabbed a large bucket. She went into one of the hotel rooms and, at some personal cost to herself as in her haste she got drenched, with the shower head from the shower, put some lovely bubbly oxygenated water into the (clean) bucket. She went back to the staff room and put the goldfish in the bucket on the side. So that nobody would pick up the bucket by accident thinking that it was just a bucket and spill everything she put a sign on it saying 'Warning, Gold Fish'.


Frances said...

Interesting about pigs. We once had a holiday cottage somewhere between Malton and Pickering which turned out to be on a pig farm. I lost some pity for them then. I like the free-range hogs in Cyprus, but they are probably no happier in death. However, just for a change, I digress. I have had many vegetarian friends over the years who told me the only thing they missed was a bacon sandwich. I have also known many a strict person of certain religions to say that they can have a full English breakfast if staying with me, for to insult the host is worse than to eat a bit of piggy from time to time... the moral qualms overcome by the deliciousness of bacon. a new topic for Philosophy

Frances said...

Was it Malton? I lose confidence, though I can picture the place. In fact I have a pen and ink drawing of it.

Debi said...

Here in Texas it is not uncommon to see ominous signs that read, "Beware of Dog," "No Trespassing," and nearby to me, "Beware of Shotgun."

I like your sign much better.

You are hoot, darlin'.

Sweet Irene said...

We agree on the pigs and on the housing of the other animals as well. I am glad that my gastric band is preventing me from eating meat, as that issue is settled for me now, but I do miss eating bacon. But then I think about the pigs and their housing and transportation and I am not so hungry for it anymore.

Eleanor said...

Frances, the behaviour of your strict friends is a bit much!

I used to work for an Orthodox Jewish family and remember feeling guilty once because I went round with my kids and they were respectively eating bacon flavoured crisps and scampi flavoured fries.

But is scampi a shell fish? Isn't it just the fish sweepings off the factory floor?

No need to feel guilty then.

Eleanor's Mum

Frances said...

I've noticed that hypocrisy is one of the sad sides of strong beliefs and high standards.
We all have our standards in imagination, in reality it isn't so easy. (except as a way of criticising other people, of course! then it's called the media!)
Frailty thy name is humankind - eh? Also once you're in a group and you all say you have those ideas, you are really a bit stuck. Some people learn that as teenagers - some still don't know it at my great age!

Eleanor said...

debi, thank you for your kind words.

This is amazing. I've never communicated with someone in Texas before.