Last weekend, Markus and I visited the Hessenpark, a magical open-air museum that provides a glimpse into traditional village life in Hesse. It was like a Harry Potter world, if only it was set in rural Germany.
Almost 100 Fachwerkhäuser on display, plus furniture, tools, shops, crafts, and all the toys imaginable to impress and educate a new Asian in town. I had a lot of fun, even if it rained most of the time.
But out of all the impressions, the one that struck me most was the pigs – a small band of cute black and pink striped or spotted pigs called Sattelschwein. Please don’t ask me to pronounce it.
The pigs are an old German breed, advertised as very tasty, but it is on the point of demise. Around 200 left. Why?
Not hunting. Not disease. Not loss of habitat. Just that farmers chose not to raise them over the years because the meat no longer sell. Consumers wanted to buy lean pork meat increasingly, the low-fat diet became more popular, and the Sattelschwein, with its thick layer of fat, failed to meet the standards. The breed started to die out.
Interesting turn of events.
I would certainly think that a breed would increase in number as people stopped killing it, but the opposite happened in the case of the Sattelschwein. People did not want to eat its meat and so growing them stopped, too.
Is eating a certain animal, then, a requirement for its thriving existence? Or at least for those that are farmed? What will happen to the animals if more people stopped eating meat and farmers switched to trendy plant-based offerings? What would the numbers look like a decade or two from now?
I suppose it is about value. If a breed does not offer farmers or businesses return of investment, then what is the point? There is a reason why cows are the literal overlords of this planet, after all, or why aliens are likely to assume Earth is a planet of chickens.
The same could be said about certain kinds of vegetables that have died out, too. We have the crops we have because they make sense to growers and consumers. Economic importance rules. But what happens to diversity, the health of the soil, and the natural balance of things?
I really do not have answers to these questions and would love to hear your thoughts. For what it is worth, I am glad the population of the Sattelschwein is being restored, and if I ate meat, I think they would make fantastic bacon.
But I don’t. I just wish their numbers would increase and they have a good German life. I have no idea how they would thrive though, if not for farmers raising them again for meat.
Speaking of animal conservation, I wanted to report that the first pawikan turtle nest has been found 30 August 2021. I was too blasted to write about it that time.
Thank heavens, they are back again!