Free-range pig farmers who can’t find demand for their pigs are “dumping” their animals in woodland, according to animal rescue charity My Lovely Pig Rescue.

Its founder Martina Kenny says the rescue currently has 115 pigs in its care, which have been either surrendered or recovered from woodland or farmland.

She said the dumping activity has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, where she said many people, including farmers, decided to go about breeding free-range pigs for meat, only for the animal’s breeding rate to now lead to excess numbers.

Kenny described one incident where a woman bought two piglets from a man at a garage during the pandemic. The woman had intended to rear and fatten the pigs for the freezer for Christmas, but discovered they were only one day old and was forced to surrender them to the rescue who then had to bottle feed them.

The animal rescue charity highlighted that all pig owners, including those with small numbers of pigs, are required to have a herd number with the Department of Agriculture.

She called on the Department to “clamp down” on pig breeders without herd numbers and suggested it should raise greater awareness of the issue.

Welfare concern

Martina Kenny warned that the dumping of pigs is a “huge animal welfare concern” and described how it also creates risk around disease spread, including diseases such as foot and mouth.

In some cases, she said the rescue is recovering pigs which have been left abandoned in the wild for several weeks. She described one incident where a farmer got in touch after a mature pig had been let out on his land.

Pig dumping is a an animal welfare and disease risk concern, says Martina Kenny of My Lovely Pig Rescue.

“We’re getting calls that [the pigs] are running loose. Some of them are in horrendous condition. It’s up to the Department to clamp down on sellers and Done Deal.

“It’s a symptom of COVID and we’re left picking up the pieces. People thought they could get into a little bit of farming for pigs and it’s got out of control," she said.

Kenny said My Lovely Pig Rescue is the only organisation responding to this spike in pig dumping and said the organisation is “crying out” for financial support and new homes. Readers seeking further information can click here.