The pig man and pig bins of WW2
Dog carrying pig food to pig bin
Feeding food scraps to livestock in World War II
This practice is not common today and it is banned in most countries due to animal health concerns. But in England during the war, the activity was promoted and seniors, who grew up in England, remember the Pig Man.
Revised extracts from ‘A Sheltered Childhood ~ Wartime Family Memories of an East Acton Child’
Contributed by Brian Brooks
The Brooks family lived at 18 The Green, East Acton, West London.
“Not only paper and metal had to be salvaged but now food swill to feed animals, such as pigs, as well. This would help meat rationing. A round metal bin and lid, nick-named the ‘Pig Bin’, was put by the lamppost opposite The Bye, beside the path to the public air raid shelter on The Green. This was for everybody’s food scraps and meat bones. The bin was emptied every few days by unhappy-looking POW’s in a very smelly lorry.
The bin became very dented and the lid wouldn’t fit on properly. It also split and smelly yellowy gunge oozed out. People started to avoid walking too close to it because of the smell, unlike the flies which loved it. It was my job (more war work for me!) to take the food scraps to the pig bin.
This wasn’t bad on cold days but on hot days the bin stunk really bad. Clouds of bluebottles would be buzzing around it, which then dived onto your bucket and buzzed round your head. It was a mad scramble to empty the bucket into the bin, get the lid back on and escape while holding your breath. Pheww! All the other kids would be watching and laughing out loud. Yuk! But their turn would come!”
A Little Boys Memories by scholarKipper
It was very frightening some times when the pig man came because I don’t think his horse had been trained to other traffic, and at the slightest noise, or if a dog ran into the street near to him, he would rear up and gallop off down the street pulling his cart full of swaying pig bins behind him. The problem was, the street was a dead end and across the street was a fence of iron railings with spikes on the top into which he would crash. This would upset him even more, because he could not escape at all from his heavy cart. The bakers horse was by far the most docile, and the baker had always got a piece of bread for me to feed it with. But the best time was with the grid cleaning lorry, it would amaze me how much rubbish came out of each grid, but I suppose that all depends how much us kids dropped down! One of our favourite things was scrumping apples from the local farm (this is where the pig man kept his pigs), but you had to be so careful of getting caught, so we used to go at dusk when it would not be so easy to see us.
‘War on Waste’ and the Communal Pig Bin
In the ‘war on waste’ people saved kitchen scraps for the communal pig bin or to feed hens for eggs. A Ministry of Food advertisement summed up the situation in this poem about pigs:
‘Because of the pail, the scraps were saved,
Because of the scraps, the pigs were saved,
Because of the pigs, the rations were saved,
Because of the rations, the ships were saved,
Because of the ships, the island was saved,
Because of the island, the Empire was saved,
And all because of the housewife’s pail.