Should I kill a pig?

At the last English conversation group, Arturo, who spends his summers in the Dolomites with a herd of cattle, announced that he had something interesting for me to do. He knows I like to experience Italian life, warts and all. The following day, he had to kill a pig, and he thought I might like to do it.

Every instinct told me not to agree to it, but I had to wrestle with my conscience and possible hypocrisy. I’m happy to eat bacon, so why should I be squeamish about its origin? In the end, I decided to do it, but not this time. I felt I needed more time to prepare myself. I can reassure myself that Arturo is a gentle man who would never cause undue suffering, but could I actually pull the trigger? Watch this space.

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2 Responses to Should I kill a pig?

  1. Geoff says:

    In the Lincolnshire fenland we in the late forties-early fifties our family raised a pig every year to be killed for food – usually it was the ‘wreckling’ [runt] of the one sow’s production, and needed looking after initially to keep it alive, and then was fed mainly on boiled potatoes and other veg – no shortage of those on a farm. We also had a big kitchen garden – huge range of veg, also an orchard – apples, pears, plums and bought very little – just a Sunday joint. The flanks and hams of the pig were salted (mainly by my mother) and then hung from the ceiling of our living room for a number of weeks, and it kept us in meat for the year. Also eggs from hens, and the cockerel for Christmas. My mother was great at doing the sausages, haslet, pork pies, and the ‘fry’ – I generally took round to neighbours a gift or a fry-up of fresh tender diced pork including pieces of kidney and liver. I have never had such good pork and spare ribs since then. Let us not forget the stuffed chine – parts of the backbone with meat each side, deeply incised and stuffed with parsley, then boiled and left to cool overnight and served cold with mustard – a Fenland speciality, a strong, acquired taste! Looks very Italian – red white green. Google ‘stuffed chine image’.

    I seem to remember the pig was killed in winter, when the ‘pig-killer’ came round – I think it might have been a butcher – or at least had butchering skills. I was kept away from the actual killing – which in the early days, I understand, was done by hammering a metal bolt into its brain to stun it, then slitting its throat – which might cause a lot of squealing – is my memory of hearing that a false one? Later a gun was used – much neater and quicker. The pig was then hauled up on a ‘cratch’ and hung from three two-three metre poles and cut up – first the belly slit to allow the innards to fall out, then the skin shaved using boiling water, and the whole pig properly butchered. It took all day.

    In the seventies or eighties the European Union rules ensured killing of animals for food had to be done in properly equipped abattoirs and uncle-in-law – a butcher – had to stop doing his own killing. Perhaps this isn’t adhered to in Italian villages, or does not apply universally. Do you know whether you will just have to pull the trigger, or any of the other work? I hope you get to see it a least and see how it happens after the killing. As you say, if we eat bacon why should we not be prepared to play our part in the killing of the animal?
    Geoff

  2. Myra Robinson says:

    Thank you very much for this account and the details of your childhood! I’m going back to Italy next week, and will no doubt see Arturo unless he has already departed to take his herd up into the Dolomites for the summer months. I shall definitely do the deed if it is offered again.