A VEGETARIAN pig farmer has revealed her heartache over sending her porkers off to the big butcher shop in the sky.
Michelle Anderson-Carroll is told the sausages and bacon from her rare breed piggies are delicious, but she’ll never know.
And, she admits, if some of her beloved Oxford Sandy and Blacks look reluctant when being sent off to slaughter, they win a reprieve.
She said: “We never put them under pressure or stress. If they won’t load, they don’t go.”
And she admits feeling heartbroken and a little tearful when they do head off.
“At the slaughter-house they go down a corridor on a moving floor and around a corner to be stunned so they are none the wiser – but it is still very hard.”
While it may seem an odd career choice for a vegetarian, she says it is precisely because she is so keen on animal welfare that she has become a pig farmer.
She gave up meat when she was 11 in response to the outcry over the poor conditions and long journeys for animals being transported to slaughter.
A former NHS registered operating department practitioner, she and her husband bought 20 acres of land near Inverness three years ago and turned it into River Croft farm after she received a litigation pay-out.
She said: “We got a couple of pigs to help turn over the soil and improve it.
“I fell completely in love with them so we started to breed them. I’m just a pigaholic now.
“If I wanted to eat meat, I wouldn’t hesitate to eat ours.
“I have tried to eat meat now and then over the last few years but I just don’t like the texture.
“But I am a realist. There is no chance on earth people are going to stop eating meat and I would rather they ate meat like ours rather than mass-produced pork because the conditions those pigs live in is appalling.”
The 45-year-old picked Oxford Sandy and Blacks because they are hairy, hardy and tough enough to survive outdoors in the Highlands.
“They are perfect for beginners – they are really docile for pigs.
“Our boar rolls over like a dog to have his belly scratched.
“ They look great so that helps to engage the public in what I am trying to do – they look like they are wearing onsies.
“There are only around 300 in existence so there are more pandas on the planet than there are of these sort of pigs.
“Without a food outlet they wouldn’t have a purpose – they would become extinct.”
Only a handful of farmers in Scotland keep the breed these days but while they might have fallen out of fashion in favour of cheaper, more intensively produced pork, they may well be making a comeback.
“I sold 42 piglets this season, which was 15 short of what people were asking for – I can’t keep up with demand,” Michelle says.
And despite her vegetarian credentials, she uses her pigs to educate youngsters who visit the farm about where their meat comes from.
“We get them to point to the bit of the pig where the bacon comes from.
“People often say, ‘Urgh, I don’t want to know about that’, but you should know.”