A pig-slaughter feast -for some an inconceivable cruelty that has no place in the 21st century, for others a way of life and an old tradition. Only last week it seemed that home pig slaughters could be on their way out, but after much debate and pressure from individual EU members officials in Brussels have given them the green light.
Ham, liver, blood sausage, cracklings and headcheese – those are some of the mouthwatering dishes that you can get at a traditional pig slaughter – ie. if you are not squeamish about the fact that the housewife mixed the product in a huge vat out in the yard, her sleeves rolled up and her hands elbow deep in the still-warm mixture of pork intestines and blood.
The home breeding and slaughtering of pigs several times a year was an economic necessity on the European continent for hundreds of years – people would stock up on meat for the harsh winter months or slaughter a pig to provide for a big celebration such a wedding or a christening. A pig slaughtering feast was a big event to which the whole village was invited and no-one came away empty handed. Although it is no longer an economic necessity it remains a popular tradition in many parts of Europe – you will find it in the Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain.
The idea that it could be banned across the EU caused an outcry and the Czech Ministry of Agriculture lobbied hard for the tradition to be maintained. The head of the ministry’s press department Hugo Roldan says that it was vital to explain to some EU representatives that in the present day there is no cruelty involved in putting down animals bred on small farms.
“I can say that it was a very delicate issue. Animal welfare is an important area where European standards are applied diligently. The Czech Republic was striving for a solution which would ensure the highest level of protection of animals possible while respecting the reality of everyday life. The key thing was to explain to the member states how it works when people breed and slaughter animals at home, secondly to explain what needs to be done on broad-scale to improve the level of animal welfare so that the union has modern-day legislation suitable for the 21st century. A great many changes had to be made to the original text before everyone agreed – it was not an easy task and many people did not believe we would be able to secure agreement in such a short space of time.”
The thumbs-up comes just in time for the main pig slaughter season – traditionally pig slaughter feasts take place in the fall at about the time when the plums ripen and farmers set about making plum brandy. This year they may well drink a toast to officials in Brussels.