CCAT plans to keep pigs on campus to reduce food waste
Humboldt State University’s Campus Center for Appropriate Technology plans to house two pigs on campus as soon as next week.
CCAT will loan the pigs from the Tule Fog Farm in Arcata for the duration of the fall semester. CCAT plans to feed the pigs food waste from HSU’s J dining hall.
Jacob Gellatly, environmental resources engineering major and former CCAT Co-Director, helped lead the project from concept to reality.
“We want to show how animals can be raised in a residential environment, and how you can use urban byproducts such as food waste to raise animals in an urban setting,” Gellatly said.
The plan to house the pigs began last fall when students in the CCAT Student Club vocalized interest in keeping animals on campus. CCAT contacted Shail Pec-Crouse from the Tule Fog Farm in Arcata. Pec-Crouse recommended pigs as the most viable animal.
“The easiest animal for us to raise would be pigs,” Gellatly said. “The reasoning for that is—a big thing is predators. So it’s a lot harder for something to come and get a hold of a pig as opposed to a chicken.”
As part of their plan, CCAT realized they could feed the pigs food waste from the J. While CCAT couldn’t feed the pigs food thrown away by customers of the J, CCAT could feed the pigs pre-consumer waste, such as food trimmings or spoiled foods not suitable for people.
“Another goal with the project was how can we divert food waste on campus,” Gellatly said. “And with that we can feed almost, and in some cases, their entire diet from food waste that’s at the school here.”
Once CCAT decided to loan the pigs from the Tule Fog Farm it needed approval from HSU’s Associated Students, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Facilities Management, Risk Management and an environmental health and safety specialist.
Humboldt State’s IACUC reviews the use of animals on campus to ensure the animals are treated humanely under the requirements of federal and state law. College of Natural Resources Associate Dean Rick Zechman, who chairs IACUC, said the IACUC proactively reviews and inspects over 100 animal-involved projects on campus each year.
“There’s varying kinds of emotional feelings about the use of animals, and that’s respected and honored in the system of review,” Zechman said. “And that’s why the Animal Welfare Act was developed, to prevent mistreatment of animals. And I think, you know, in our committee, that’s sort of our first principle.”
While Zechman could not comment on the details of CCAT’s proposal, which is still pending, CCAT has worked over the last year to assuage concerns raised by various HSU faculty.
CCAT started by building a pig pen out of reclaimed wood from a local logging operation in Fieldbrook. CCAT has since integrated plans for a roof to prevent flooding of the pen and security to prevent people from getting harmed by the pigs.
In the long run, Gellatly hopes the project might convince the University to keep animals around for good.
“Big picture, I would like the school to see this and see, with what we’re having to deal with—getting rid of all this food—we could be raising meat for the school and have locally-produced meat with a byproduct of our current dining system,” Gellatly said.
CCAT’s plan to house pigs has only recently become known to the wider HSU campus. Saraí Escalante, psychology graduate student and president of HSU’s Vegan Club, sees the value of reducing food waste but wonders about the sustainability of the project.
“I think the underlying problem is that we see them as a convenience, as objects, so we see them as a tool to help us fix a problem or make our problems or our lives easier,” Escalante said. “And from a sustainability point of view, you still waste a lot of water in all of the slaughter process and the cleaning up of the meat. In that way, it wouldn’t be sustainable.”
Escalante said she’s considering starting a fundraiser to purchase the pigs and send them to a sanctuary instead of a slaughterhouse. However, Escalante said she plans to talk with CCAT to exchange thoughts, as she does like the idea of reducing food waste on campus.
Gellatly, for his part, noted that the current plan as registered with Tule Fog Farm and IACUC is for CCAT to house the pigs only for the rest of the semester.
“I think it’s, in theory, possible for them to buy the animals from the farmer if that’s something they’re inclined to do,” Gellatly said. “But, as far as our scope goes with the IACUC, once the project’s done, we’re taking the animals back to the farm and that’s where it ends for us.”
The project’s beginnings are dependent on approval from IACUC, but the pigs could arrive at CCAT as early as the week of Sept. 8 through 14.