You would be hard pressed to find someone in today’s day and age who has not heard of the term ‘miniature pig’. But how many people really know what this term really means, or indeed, the enormous animal welfare issue this ‘craze’ is creating? And this is one ‘craze’ our latest arrival, Mister Truffles is intent on snuffling out.
The miniature pig phenomenon in our country is, in comparison to the US, a relatively new one, however the problems created by this industry are the same the world over. The reality is that there are no true ‘miniature’ pig breeds in Australia, just littler than average individuals who have been created by breeding ‘small with small’, with no true way to predict future weight or size. Whilst some ‘mini pig’ breeders do advise this fact, unfortunately many do not, with some unscrupulous breeders even offering commercial piglets for sale as ‘miniatures’ in the name of making a profit. In Mister Truffles’ case, he was purchased from a miniature pig breeder who advertises pigs in teacups and, whether intentionally or not, leads people to wrongly believe that these piglets are freakishly small ‘teacup’ pigs. This, however is not the case and sadly, Mister Truffles paid the price. However, when it comes to miniature pigs, the buck doesn’t stop at size, for this craze is an issue that is anything but ‘mini’.
Pigs are highly social, incredibly intelligent and sensitive creatures with needs that are unique and unlike any other farmed animal or pet. Pigs enjoy the company of their own kind, they love to dig and forage around for food and nutrients and they require mud to cool off and protect them from the sun and insects. Pigs form incredibly strong bonds with their human carer and can become depressed when this bond is broken, ie when they are no longer cute and cuddly, when they have begun to destroy the backyard and when they are rehomed or surrendered to an animal shelter or pound. For Mister Truffles, it was through no fault of his own that he found himself in need of sanctuary, after his carer’s relationship soured and he was passed on, nose ring and all, to another family member who, despite the kindest of hearts, was unable to provide all that this perky porcine required. In addition to his painfully placed nose ring no doubt frustrating Mister Truffles’ natural instinct to root in the soil, a poor and inappropriate diet saw him behaving very badly, and soon made every one miserable (including neighbours).
You see, this is the big problem with ‘mini’ pigs, for the educational information pertaining to their species specific wants and needs is just not often available and more and more we are receiving calls from well-meaning individuals who, had they known the truth about their porcine pal, never would have made the foray into mini-pig ownership. It saddens us to receive these calls day after day but the reality is that we simply cannot take in each and every ‘former miniature pig’ who has outgrown their home. For if we did, our sanctuary would be full in less than a day! But what we can do is try and get the message out there that ‘miniature’ pigs are not as ‘mini’ as many would like to believe and that a dog or a cat they most certainly are not.
And so, with his nose ring now removed, the ability to forage and root around in the soil as he pleases, a healthful diet in place, piggy friends to meet and a wallow to splash about it, Mister Truffles is now as happy as, well, as a pig in mud!
And on behalf of his kind, he would like to ask you to remember some of these important facts, to print them out and display them in a prominent place in your home or workplace or to whisper them into the ear of a friend or loved one. And for your kindness, Mister Truffles’ gratitude will be anything but ‘mini’.
5. Now there is small and there is huge! While they may look cute now, even tiny pigs like Thumbelina can grow to be around 60- 100kgs. Did you know that most animals (including humans) end up 20 to 40 times heavier than their birth weight? Although pigs are an exception! An average piglet is approximately 250gms when born but can burgeon out to a robust adult weighing in at 250 – 350kgs or more. That’s over 1,000 times his or her birth weight! And while there is much conjecture as to whether there is such thing as a real miniature pig, we most certainly know that pigs come in all shapes and sizes. Oh and personalities, too! Many people are breeding for a market of ‘small’ and personable pet piggies. However, what they have done to do this is breed small to small, selling the resulting offspring. Sadly there are unscrupulous people selling piglets from various breeds, stating that they are mini pigs, for the unwitting humans to then find the only thing small about their new friend has been their lack of research! What we are also witnessing is a number of genetic abnormalities in our ‘small’ piggy friends and the trotter is firmly pointed at a limited gene pool for this. Those who breed companion pigs too have a duty of care for the animals they bring into this world. While many truly do love these adorable fun loving and inquisitive little critters and go to great lengths to ensure a happy outcome for both piggy and person, others sadly do not. Please, please do your research. And despite what anyone will tell you, Australia does not have any Pot Belly pigs or Tea Cup pigs as our quarantine laws prevent their entering this country.
6. A pig is for life not a fashion accessory. Need we say more?!
Oh and one more this, pigs are for lovin’ not the oven! (Regardless of their size.)
Written by Pam Ahren 2015
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