Sunday, January 6, 2013

Razorback Hogs

My first flying pig. See my creative abilities?

I was having a discussion with a friend of mine the other day about wild game and the danger of contracting various parasites. In the past eating undercooked pork was a major culprit in contracting Trichinella spp., so it is understandable why there were religious mandates excluding pork from the diet. There are less than a dozen reported trichinosis cases in the US per year, so the danger is virtually non-existent because people generally cook wild game well and those who do raise their own pigs probably do not feed them raw meat.

I recently read a book called “Mountain Fever” by Tom Alexander, and he mentions how mountain people would capture hogs during the winter to eat. Feral pigs are a huge problem for the environment and there are people employed by the national park whose job it is to track and shoot them year-round. I worked with a young woman, who grew up very impoverished, and her family still practices the fattening a wild hog for two weeks before butchering it. I can’t imagine how much work it would be to find, capture and slaughter a hog.

According to the book:

In those days, many of the hardy mountain folk “raised” half-wild razorback hogs for their meat, their livelihood, their sport, and as an excuse to get away from home. The razorbacks ranged the mountains, including by permit, the national forests under my care, and one of my duties was to issue permits, collect fees, and check on ranges to avoid overgrazing. There were hundreds of these permittees.

I found it interesting that a hog’s “owner” would cut a certain pattern in a young pig’s ear to be able to recognize it later when it would be found and butchered.

The razorback never saw the home of its owner until the fall he was led out of the mountains with a rope tied to one leg, fattened for a couple of weeks on corn, and slaughtered. The rest of his life, he sought his own living from the forest.

By late December, the nuts were gone, and the man went out yet again and drove, let, or tolled in one or more candidates for killing. The killing was accomplished by the blow of an axe to the head. Then, the carcass was immersed in a barrel of water brought to the boil by means of large rocks heated in a fire.

It is a brutal way to die, but at least the animal didn’t suffer for long. Imagine how many more vegetarians there would be if people had to see where their ham sandwiches actually come from.   

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