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Dear Daktari

I am a regular reader of Smart Harvest especially your column. I am a pig farmer, but it has not been easy walk. When I started off there were a lot of myths that could have easily discouraged me but having worked in Kiambu during my youth I saw how farmers benefited from pig farming and when I came back home I made up my mind to undertake it. I think a little education on the pig as a profitable animal will help dispel some of the myths on the ground for instance pigs are dirty, they eat dirt and they are kept by witches and are not to be eaten by pregnant women among other lies.[John Mbau, Murang’a]

Thank you Mbau for reading the Smart Harvest and more importantly for taking time to write to us.  Myths are not good in animal husbandry or in other realm of life because they are not grounded on any principles, theories or research. While myths are propelled by lack of information and apathy it can sometimes result in the abuse of animals. Animals have suffered due to falsehoods propagated against especially the pig and the donkey, yet they have supported fragile farming households to improve their incomes and nutritional status.

1. Pigs are dirty animals

As Mbau puts it, if you say pigs are dirty, you are likely not to take care of their houses (pigsty) and this will expose them to many diseases and directly abuse its welfare.

On the contrary, pigs are not dirty animals. In fact pigs are among very few clean animals. Why do I say so? Pigs will not mix their poop with their food. Observe any pigsty and you will notice it will use the furthest corner from where the feeding trough as its toilet. Pigs, when given the opportunity to choose where to lie, prefer a warm and dry area.

So why do they swim in mud?

Pigs like wallowing in muddy water purely as a means of regulating their temperatures. You realise pigs have few hairs on their thick skin making it poor at thermoregulation unlike human beings. They also do so to control external parasites the occasional application of a muddy layer on their skins both kills parasites already there and prevents others from attacking. Because they are clean animals, they will clean the mud off their bodies by rubbing against a tree or a post once it is dry or has served its purpose.

2. Sweating like a pig

Even the saying “sweating like a pig” is a falsehood because they hardly have any sweat glands. There is also a falsehood that the pig body is full toxins because they are dirty. This is not true because toxins are eliminated from the body through the liver and kidneys and not the skin. Pigs have one liver and two kidneys and sweating is mainly for temperature regulation.

3. Pigs eat dirt and filth

No pigs do not eat dirt and should not be feed on dirt either. Pigs should be fed on a well-balanced diet as required by a certain age. To attain a quick market weight proper feeding of pigs should be done. Pigs like human beings are omnivorous which means they feed on plants and animal products. 

4. Pigs are stupid

Pigs are not stupid as many assume. Pigs are highly intelligent and very social animals. Piglets will within the first week be able to pick out their mother from a group easily using their sense of smell so is the sow. The genetic make-up of pigs is also very close to that humans a reason scientists are keen on using pig stem cells in human medical research.

 5. Pork is bad for health

Pork is good for all of us and those who abstain do so for religious reasons. Pork has a good balance of fatty acid ratio offers a rich anti-cancer diet. It is also good for expectant women and nursing mothers.

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