This story is by Victor Paul Scerri and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Royal Farm of Nem Thuong
“An area of considerable current interest in the swine industry is that of pre-slaughter handling of pigs,” said the farmer aloud to the spectators, a group of teachers and schoolchildren. The growing crowd didn’t seem to care and continued to call the pigs that loved the attention as two piglets brushed their noses up against the wire fence. “It affects the pig meat quality,” said the farmer. “Both Pinky, the thin one, and Porky, the fat one, are male pigs. Porky, however, has he a wild streak in him and can be a little aggressive, so we call him Grumps.”
“Yea, yea,” said Grumps to Pinky, listening to the crowd laughing at what the farmer had just said.
“What’s wrong with being 140 pounds? I might be up for the slaughter next.”
“One important issue is the optimum time of feed withdrawal before slaughter. Time off-feed before slaughter can potentially affect some aspects that are of interest to producers and/or packers, including live and carcass weights, dressing percentage, the incidence of punctured stomachs during evisceration, and meat quality,” said the farmer.
“I will give that farmer a fight,” said Grumps and grunted, charging into the fence, showing his teeth.
“Don’t be silly,” said Pinky. “You are drawing attention.”
“Our pigs ready for slaughter is preformed at different ages and divided into piglets which are six weeks to three months old. However, the Royal Park only follows The Nem Thuong tradition we are not a public pig industry. Pig slaughter is an activity performed to obtain pig meat. It happens as part of traditional and intensive pig farming,” said the farmer.
“Now you see Pinky, I am not fattened, intended for pork and bacon, which are four months to one year old.”
“The first step, and possibly the hardest to stomach for animal lovers, is to actually slaughter the animal,” said the farmer. “To summarize the process, it goes a little something like this: sticking a knife in the pig, bleeding it dry, hanging ….”
Pinky and Grumps turned to see the farmer’s dog. The dog’s name, Handbag, came from one of his tricks, opening a handbag, empty it, and put everything back into it.
“In addition to tricks, Handbag will eventually round us pigs up effortlessly for slaughter,” said Grumps. “Look how he seeks attention, acting on the command of his loyal friend, the farmer; sit, lie down, roll over, after doing his handbag trick of the day.” The crowd’s applause was loud and clear.
“Intelligent animals are pigs. We are sociable, individual, and playful too. We got ideas of our own. Dogs should look up to us,” said Grumps.
“Grunt, grunt, don’t make me laugh,” said Pinky.
“As in every Lunar New Year, the ritual slaughter of Nem Thuong, in Bac Ninh province, will soon commence,” said the farmer.
“Two pigs, if not all of us, will soon be tied up, painted, and paraded around the town and killed so that local villagers can dip money in the blood to receive luck for the new year,” said Grumps.
“Oh dear, so this is to be the destiny of pigs?” said Pinky. “Supporters claim the event has long been a tradition in the village with the ritual celebrating the victory of a 13th-century general who slaughtered pigs to feed his army after a battle.”
“Go Handbag,” shouted the farmer. “Go round up the pigs.”
By now, there was a significant crowd from the village that came to see the slaughter. Handbag came crawling and running to the group of pigs. But Grumps charged Handbag head on, causing quite a stir from the crowd. Meanwhile, Grumps and the two of their piglets snorted at Pinky standing alone. Pinky rolled over and had the crowd in stitches laughing as he began to imitate tricks from Handbag and lifting his feet up high one at a time.
“Sit,” shouted a small kid at Pinky. Everyone laughed, but to everyone’s surprise, Pinky sat down. “Jump,” shouted another kid, and Pinky ran jumping around in a circle.
The farmer was hesitant to take the pigs to slaughter but, it being his job, did anyway. The children cried out at the farmer.
“Murderer!” The knife was already in his hand when spectators managed to take his butcher knife—already one centimeter from Grumps’ belly—away from him.
Spectators sealed off the area forming a chain while using their phone apps to draw attention of the media and friends to come and support them. Cars, trucker, and busses were soon on the scene.
The event became National headlines: “The Pigs That Got Away.” In Vietnam, with every major news outlet debating the issue and following the story of Pinky doing tricks and Grumps charging the dog to protect their young, it caused a huge response ultimately paving the way for people petitioning against the slaughter of pigs.
The farmer did not know that the world was watching and what happened was consigned as an event to be the past, turning a new leaf. The people’s message in need of change in Vietnam’s 21st century was loud and clear. Senior politicians including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Culture, Sport, and Tourism debated the issue.
Saddened by what he had done for so many years, the farmer built a playpen, teaching pigs to have fun doing tricks, allowing the pigs to wander freely, doing their own thing.
“The royal pig farm will no longer participate in slaughter of the pigs,” vowed the farmer, “an example that change is inevitable and social trends to better human practices are to be respected with quality of ethics and morals to live by.
“Well,” said Pinky to his mate Grumps, “I will have to call you Porky now that we are free.”
“Oh dear, are you saying I’m fat? Snort, snort,” said the pigs as they cuddled into Handbag and their young, sniffing and snorting.