The Problem with Pigs

Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to a real pig roast. The third in my life. And, the best.

Tom, Allen and Lynn stuffed that 115-pounder with apples and onions, and loaded it up with beer. Probably as much as the guests drank. And cooked it from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. over charcoal and real wood.

The hosts had to travel out of Westfield to get the pig, by the way. Admittedly, I do not have a lot of pigs in my district.

The four-footed kind prefer much larger farms than we have around here. And, maybe that's lucky. Because the pigs are getting bad press across the country. And legislators have major pig problems to deal with.

It seems that the hog industry is being targeted by environmental groups concerned about where and how the hog's waste, the manure, is being disposed of and what affect it has on waters, rivers and streams. They've even formed a Poop Counter in North Carolina to keep a running tally of the tons of manure produced there.

A University in Ontario has genetically engineered pigs that produce environmentally friendly manure--less phosphorus, basically, which is the pollutant that promotes algae growth. Unfortunately, the smell is still the same.

Of course, it's not just pig poop that is causing states to take legislative action against livestock. Maryland has limited the use of poultry poop as fertilizer. South Dakota prohibits corporations from owning farmland.

Iowa, however, which is this country's number one pork producer presumes that livestock is not a nuisance and the Hawkeye State's legislature passed a bill preempting county officials from regulating animal feeding operations.

They must still love their pork chops out there. I guess we all do because the average person eats the equivalent of 28 hogs in a lifetime.

And a good percentage of them are slaughtered in the city where I grew up, Sioux City, Iowa.

In fact, last time I visited, probably a decade ago, there was a huge billboard welcoming visitors to town. "Welcome to Sioux City, the hog capital of America. We slaughter more hogs than any other place in the world."

A college friend is a hog farmer. She and her husband have learned that hogs love to have the radio on. They're social creatures and want people around. So, they prefer talk radio. It seems to keep them calm and happy, she reports.

Now, I'm not an expert on hogs, and liking hogs has nothing to do with my job as a State Representative. Frankly, there's little on my desk to report this week, so I'll go back to my roots. Because, I still love hogs.

I keep them around the house. Not live, of course, although I'd like to have a pig someday. Not a piglet, not one of those modern pigs that passes as a pet. But a great big 800 pound hog. Meanwhile, I'm content with door stops, statues, figurines, posters, prints. They can't have clothes on or wear hats. They have to look like, well, hogs.

Hogs are clean. They do not like being muddy. They do not like filth.

Hogs are intelligent. Friends at the stockyards, the hogs' last stop before turning into ham and pork chops, tell me that they actually cry on the way to slaughter.

They may even be computer literate. Two pigs who played computer games at Penn State were retired to West Virginia to live out their lives in a sanctuary. They had been taught to use computer icons to relay their thoughts to humans. They followed voice commands. They were able to move controls to keep the temperature in their rooms comfortable.

They may be enjoying retirement...but their friends are great guests at pig roasts.

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014