Post written by Abi L. Glen
I have lots in common with the Queen. We both like to colour-block; have soft spots for dogs whose bellies drag on the ground; I, too, generally can’t be bothered with earnest social engagements, and my face shows it.
Now we have another thing to bond us: a mutual appreciation of Gorgie City Farm’s Olive the Duck.
Queen is joined by ‘cheeky duck who thinks she’s a human’ during Edinburgh city farm visit, ITV News report, 4th July 2019.
Olive is Gorgie’s resident diva: the Primadonna of the Pond, if you will. She is to waterfowl what Mariah Carey is to VIP lounges. She is stubborn, vain, sassy and demanding. I could not love her more.
She paused to say hello to me on her lunchtime waddle about the farm. It was like meeting Madonna in Lidl.
But though Olive was an enormous highlight (due deference and all that) we were really there to see the pigs, of course. Gorgie has a delightful crew: Iron Age to Tamworths, all ages and sizes. Andrea, James and I mooched up to their pen and called inside the shed where they were snoozing in a line, out of the sun. One by one, they responded to our whistles and clicks, shuffling outside and into the warmth.
Our Iron Age happily accepted our scratches and pats, sighing like contented dogs in front of the fire. I’ll be interviewing Prof. Francoise Wemelsfelder in a couple of weeks about her pioneering work on animal emotion and boredom; seeing these chaps made me think of her theories about humans recognizing happiness and contentment on creatures’ faces. I mean, look at this guy.
Next up were the Tamworths: Ginger, Sporty, Baby, and Posh (hilarious trivia: their mum was called Lady Marmalade). They squeaked and grunted so excitedly that I felt a bit smug, before realising that it was actually for their keeper, approaching with a bucket of fruit. Cheers lads.
The rest of the visit saw us enjoying the rest of the farm’s happy, well-fed, well-cared-for residents: a few goats, this supremely fuzzy sheep, and what James called ‘them fancy chickens’ (I think they were Wyandotte and a few Silkies, but I’m rusty).
Capers aside, our trip to Gorgie was integral to our ongoing research. Not only is it important to support Gorgie (NB: they take donations by card now, brilliant) but also to remind ourselves of who benefits from the work Equity For Pigs is doing. Piglets and pigs wag, loaf, mooch, squeak, oink and grunt in reaction to different people (a Very Tall Man, a sunglassed and overly keen woman, their keeper, and an artist who’s met them before) and things (a bucket of food, the scratch of a sunglass-arm, sunshine). For me, it’s a joyous confirmation of what we knew: that they are intelligent, emotional, and emotionally intelligent. It’s also opening up questions about how we might pique their interests with the new prototypes: a delicious challenge, in all senses (and for all senses).
Photo credits: Abi L. Glen, Andrea Roe
(iron age close up)