This Little Piggy Is No Pet, Says U.K. Industry Group

The United Kingdom's National Pig Association has issued a warning against owning "tea-cup pigs"—tiny piggies that have been genetically modified to be the size of a small pet—saying they come with disease and animal-welfare problems.

The association news beat often leads in surprising directions. But this story is downright bizarre, even for us.

If you’re plugged into the cool-pet scene, you may know that celebrities and other trendsetters have taken to adopting tiny, genetically modified pigs as pets and fashion accessories—a fad the United Kingdom’s National Pig Association (NPA) is anything but keen on.

In 2013, for example, Olympic diver Tom Daley pulled off an April Fool’s joke, claiming that he had acquired a micro-pig. Pop star Miley Cyrus, meanwhile, actually owns one—and she caused a bit of an uproar last year when she gave the piggy a pedicure.

These mini porkers, often called “tea-cup pigs,” are expected to become more widely available for purchase soon: A Chinese genomics institute plans to produce and sell the smaller-than-a-breadbox pigs for around than $1,600 each.

But micro-pigs aren’t puppies, and treating them as pets raises animal welfare concerns, according to NPA senior advisor Dr. Georgina Crayford.

“The current trend for keeping micro-pigs as fashion accessories could be perpetuating serious animal welfare problems,” Crayford said in a news release [PDF]. “Some miniature pig lines were originally developed for medical research and can carry genetic mutations responsible for deformities linked to animal dwarfism, such as deformed skulls and weak limbs.”

NPA notes that the diminutive pigs can’t eat just anything—and in the U.K., feeding table scraps to pigs is illegal and could lead to prison time. Worse, some sellers might fool potential pig owners into thinking they’ve bought micro-pigs, when, in fact, they bought a full-sized pig that will grow far too large to hang out around the house. And the pigs pose health risks because they can spread disease.

While keeping micro-pigs as pets is controversial, scientists say they can help simplify important research.

“Their utility for research will depend on whether they are otherwise normal like a regular pig and unaffected by the edited gene other than their diminutive size,” Virginia Tech biotechnology professor Willard Eyestone told the Los Angeles Times.

Noted celebrity micro-pig owner Miley Cyrus. (via the singer's Instagram page)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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