Editor’s note: This series of blogs was written last year by Anneli Carter-Sundqvist about her and her husband Dennis’ adventures homesteading and running a hostel on Deer Isle. The entire year of blog posts are contained in the book A Homesteader’s Year on Deer Isle (see www.deerislehostel.com).

One of the big events of the year took place the other day, when we brought our new piglets home. We bought them from a guy only a mile away, but the seemingly predictable event took a sudden turn when the six-week-old little jokers bolted through the electric fence and disappeared into the woods as soon as we let them out. For about a week our neighbors kept us up-to-date on their whereabouts, either after seeing them galloping across their lawn or following the excitement on Facebook (posted by other neighbors and reported to us via phone). We kept a feed trough at the edge of our yard and eventually lured them in close enough to catch them. The adventurous pigs were named Louise and Clark.

For the next five months we will do all we can to keep them happy and comfortable: scratch their ears and their flanks, play with them, give them a big pen to roam in and a dry place to sleep. But the end is as clear as it’s inevitable: no matter how much we love them, we still raise them for the meat.

There is nothing revolutionary about raising animals for meat; people have done that for thousands of years, nor is there anything new about killing the animals yourself either. What is new is the idea of meat production: raising animals in factory-like environments, transporting them hundreds of miles for slaughter, processing them on a conveyor belt and selling the meat from the freezer in a store. I don’t eat store-bought meat at all because I want to know where the animal came from, how it lived and how its life ended. I want to know that once it was killed, as little waste as possible was created and the only way for us to be in control of it all is to do it ourselves. 

Sometimes we get rather strong reactions when people understand why we have these animals around. Not only do we eat something so cute and loved, but we have the heart to kill it ourselves. Well, trust me on this: I’ve had pets since I was old enough to babble out their names, I’ve trained horses and dogs and I’ve been a vegan, a vegetarian and everything in between and this kind of animal husbandry makes perfect sense to me.

The fact is that these pigs would not be alive at all if they were not going to be eaten. The farmer who bred his sow and raised the litter would not have done that if not for people like us, who like to eat meat but don’t want to buy it in the store.

On a philosophical level, the reasoning that what we’re doing is unethical raises the question, “Would no life for our pigs would have been better than this life?” Louise and Clark’s lives will end on a cold November morning no different for them than any other cold November morning. Their death will be so sudden I can’t imagine there’s time for any thoughts or feelings, but just an end and nothing more. As a pig farmer, meat eater and animal lover, I believe that a happy and carefree life with an instant and painless end is indeed better than no life at all.

It might sound odd to care for and even love an animal when you know you soon will eat it, but we know it from Day 1 and that makes a huge difference. By giving them names, attention and affection, we make life better for them and even if it’s hard to think about the end, at least I know our pigs are the happiest pigs around for as long as they are around.