Sometimes you just need to put your butt in the dirt.
“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
– Winston Churchill
You guys! Teacup pigs are the cuuuuuuuuutest!!!!! Case in point:
So, I was devastated to find out that teacup pigs, also known as mini pigs, are a total myth. They don’t exist! There is no breed of pig that naturally stays teeny tiny.
In Search of the Mini Pig
“But Nichole,” you say, “I’ve seen such pigs before!” I know you guys, I KNOW!, I’ve seen them too and I’ve scoured the internet in search of them because I wanted one sooooo bad. I thought my mini pig would be my little snorty friend for life and children would love him so much that they’d NEVER eat pork products again and I then would get a dog and the dog and the teacup pig would be BEST FRIENDS FOREVS and we would be such a happy family.
Sigh. Then some friends and I toured Ferdinand’s Familia animal sanctuary where I met Babe, a so-called “mini pig.”
Babe was the shit. Totally adorable and snorty and everything I had ever dreamed of.
Then our tour-guide let us know that Babe, like all teacup pigs, wasn’t small by nature. He was small because he had been starved his entire life.
In order to keep pigs small, the pigs have to be starved or drastically underfed while they’re growing. This is as painful for a pig as it would be for anyone. Babe is now food obsessed because he wasn’t fed enough when he was younger, he roams the ranch desperate to eat anything he can get his little hooves on.
I was horrified. Curious for more information, I did some internet research and found that people who sell “teacup pigs” warn buyers to only feed their pigs a quarter cup of food a day, but never tell them why. The owners assume this is how much a little pig eats, not realizing they are starving their pet. The problem with this, besides that it’s fucking cruel and horrible, is that the pig’s organs still grow to normal size, even as their skeletal structure stays small. This causes all kinds of health issues and discomfort for the pig that grows up to have organs that don’t fit their body size.
If the pig is able to get enough food to grow (pigs will eat as much as you put in front of them), or somehow grows in spite of being starved, it then becomes a large, normal-sized pig. This leads to scores and scores of these teacup pigs being abandoned by their owners to animal rescues or farm sanctuaries or back to the breeders, who then do who-knows-what with them. There have been pigs abandoned because they were screaming from starvation, and owners living in apartment buildings in cities were unable to keep the pig due to the noise it was causing, never realizing why the pig was in distress.
Owners lose out on hundreds or, more likely, thousands of dollars buying pigs that they were guaranteed would be mild mannered and tiny forever, and the pigs lose out on a lot more.
Pigs as Pets?
This of course brings us back to the question of pigs as pets, and more largely to animals as pets in general. Pigs have not been domesticated for thousands and thousands of years like dogs and cats, and while they can make for great companions, their needs are different than the typical household pet. Pigs are prey, whereas dogs and cats are predators, which makes their needs and ways of interacting with the world much different (for instance, new people and new experiences can be extremely stressful for a pig, who is cautious by nature).
We need to move past feeling that animals are our right. The fact that we breed dogs to be visually appealing to us in way that causes them to be in pain and have near-guaranteed health issues (see: breathing and back problems in pugs and bully breeds, for just one example) is a testament to how arrogant we’ve become in regards to companion animals.
All animals that already exist need a good home, that is true. But we should stop creating animals for our own novel pleasure. We need to stop looking at animals that are cute and saying, “I want that!!!” We need to let go of the belief that we are entitled to be amused, delighted and entertained by other living creatures.