Naming Farm Animals

Should farm animals be named?

I have had a firm policy for the last few years of not naming animals that I am raising for meat as this has made it easier for me to deal with the loss of the animals.

Some people wonder how I can spend time raising and keeping animals when I know that they will end up as meat but I enjoy looking after animals and I enjoy eating meat from an animal that I know how it has been raised, what it has been fed and how it has been treated.

This year I have raised pigs for meat and I vowed that I would not name them as it would make it easier for me to deal with, however one of our neighbours wanted one of the pigs and decided to name her. From that moment, as I began to identify the pigs and see their personalities develop, I came up with names for them linked to their distinguishing features.

Juliet, Pinky, Rocky – White Stripe, Stumpelina, Perky, Lightening & Spot were all recognisable and although naming these pigs went against my policy of naming animals I am raising for meat I have to say that I do believe that these animals became much friendlier and easier to handle as I spoke to them.

Giving the pigs a name has helped me to bond with these curious and intelligent creatures. I have found that they have responded to their names and it was always the ones with a name that came to the pig stye door first or responded to my voice and this has made the experience of keeping and raising the pigs a much more memorable and enjoyable experience.

My sows are in pig again and I will certainly be naming my piglets again.

Let me know your thoughts about naming animals.

  1. Exactly the same thing happened when we first got pigs too. We had decided not to name them but A. their individual personalities inspired names and B. it became ridiculous trying to explain things about certain pigs without naming them. For example I’d go into the kitchen after feeding them and say ‘the biggest pig with the black ears’ or ‘the pig with the large black spot of his right shoulder’ … much easier just to refer to them with names. We also would give them back scratches and tummy rubs, and spend a good deal of time just chatting to them. I think it all goes a long way towards producing happy meat thats totally free of stress hormones.

    Comment by Rebecca (living sustainably and felting in rural Ireland) – April 1, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  2. If I raised animals for meat I think I would name them.
    My newest billy goat who I decided not to name as I am not keeping him, has already become Billy Boy.

    Comment by Diane – April 2, 2008 @ 2:48 am

  3. I have wondered how those who raise animals for meat deal with the naming issue. Though I’ve never raised animals for that purpose, I’d think it difficult not to become somewhat attached to the animals. Very interesting the notable response you’re getting from the named pigs.

    Comment by nikkipolani – April 2, 2008 @ 5:10 pm

  4. If I was being raised for meat I think that I’d prefer a name rather than a number or nothing.

    As you say, you became fonder of the pigs after they had a name. This must make a difference to the quality of life of the pig (even though that life is short).

    I admire you Sara. I couldn’t eat my nameless guinea fowl that needed a new home. It’s a subtle shift in consciousness that is needed to provide a happy life and a quick and easy death. I’d like all the meat that we eat to be treated in this way but it requires great strength on the part of the people who raise the pigs.

    Comment by Cottage Smallholder – April 2, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

  5. I grew up on a farm and we named some of the animals – for sure the orphaned lambs and I once had a bull named Rebecca (I don’t really know why, but Rebecca was the perfect name for that bull!). I don’t recall ever naming the pigs…
    If I had animals now, I’m sure they’d all have names. And I totally agree that it’s nice to know where your food is coming from – how it was grown, what it was fed, etc. I guess I might think that the animal was being raised for a purpose – and deserved my respect and care during its lifetime – and for me that would include giving it a name.

    Comment by kris – April 3, 2008 @ 1:49 am

  6. We only allow ‘food’ names for lambs that are definately bound for the pot/freezer – so far we have had “Roastie”, “Chop Chop” and “Hotpot”. The kids are going to name them whatever we do – so we make sure they know what the endgame is right at the start.
    However, with 13 lambs this year I struggle to recognise / remember any names – the only one I know for sure is the orphan ram lamb with a black leg (Chop Chop).

    Comment by notaproperfarmer – April 3, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  7. Yeesh, this is a toughie. I think I would name them, too, but then I wouldn’t be able to eat them. I think it is great that they get so much care and attention from you and I am sure that makes them happier and healthier…and I can only hope that the farmer that is raising my next dinner is doing the same thing.

    Comment by Jean Ann – April 3, 2008 @ 11:59 am

  8. Hi Sara. To make the choice of naming your animals is going to be purely personal. If you feel happy doing so then I am all for it. Saying this, I couldn’t even eat an animal I had raised, let alone name it! x

    Comment by Louise – April 3, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

  9. I’ve hardly been in that position. We cared for our landlord’s free-range herd of cows for years, and couldn’t cope with remembering their tag-numbers. We named them all – even the bull-calves. When I had my own cow, we knew her first calf (male) would be slaughtered, but we named him anyway. They all have their different personalities.

    Comment by Dragonstar – April 3, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  10. Hello Sara
    I expect you are busy this time of the year.
    Regarding naming of animals. we always named horses (sentimental) and Dogs (sentimental) but the cows were only named for practical reasons, such as passing information about a certain animal from one person to another, and as for hens, we would have been laughed at if we had named fowls. Pigs were slightly different because we dealt with pedigree large whites, and they were referred to by their Herd book name, which could be rather complicated
    Kind regards

    Comment by John – April 5, 2008 @ 9:05 am

  11. Really difficult one that. I think I would have steered clear of naming them (if they were for meat) but I also understand your view of them being more enjoyable to keep and rear when they DO have a name. I guess if you can name them but not become attached to them (and give them human emotions!) then you will be ok. Good luck… not something I’d find easy. Jane

    Comment by Jane – April 11, 2008 @ 5:33 am

  12. I couldnt eat an animal that I have met 🙂

    Comment by junior – September 29, 2008 @ 4:08 pm