February 12, 2016 – Five-month-old Tiddles bursts through the cat flap, resplendent in a crystal-encrusted pastel pink collar, and heads straight for his matchy-matchy food bowl. He has a quick munch, then his doe-eyes flick up to face the camera. He’s a star, and he knows it.
The lead actor of the new Ford Motor Company ‘Unlearn’ campaign advert, Tiddles’ talent was spotted by animal casting agency Tooth n Claw. He’s now back home with his owner Mark Cox in rural Bedfordshire, England, and his micropig pals Ruben, Pudding and Elvis.
Mark has always loved pigs and breeds pet micropigs. A micropiglet will set its new owner back £500 – slightly less expensive than a pedigree dog – and they are becoming more popular as pets. Not least because of actor George Clooney’s pot-bellied pig Max. The former lothario was famously quoted as saying it was the longest relationship he’d ever had.
While Tiddles is currently the size of an average moggy, when fully grown he’ll about 16-20 inches in height – well below an average person’s knee – double that in length, and will weigh around 30lbs. He’ll live for between 12 to 14 years.
“A pig is a better pet than a dog. The love, compassion and companionship you get with a pig is absolutely phenomenal,” enthused Mark. “Pigs are the fourth most intelligent animals on the planet and they might be moving up to number three, as new research has found they may well be more intelligent than dolphins. A pig can recognise itself, whereas dog doesn’t.”
Mark said micropigs make great pets. People who have allergies to cat and dog fur don’t react to pigs, as they have no body odour. Apart from a propensity to become obese if overfed, they don’t need annual vaccinations and only need to be wormed once or twice a year. The only real health risk for a new micropig owner is if they live near a non-organic pig farm, they can catch airborne meningitis which the vast majority of intensively bred pigs have. Male pet pigs are always sold neutered as intact males – boars – are incredibly dangerous. The girls can’t go to their new homes spayed as they are too tiny to be safely operated on until they are a year old.
Pigs are highly trainable, very docile and social (they get on especially well with dogs and horses). But while they can be in a house supervised, and lie contently on a couch with their owner for hours watching TV, they will get up to mischief if left alone.
“Pigs can’t look up, their whole world is below them and they are clumsy; they’ll take a radiator off the wall. When a pig gets bored, it needs something to do. If you pop off to Waitrose for half an hour, if it is sitting there it will be like ‘What the hell, where has everyone gone? I know, I’ll see what’s under the carpet!’. They won’t hang about like a dog or cat and wait for someone to come home.”
As for Tiddles’ future, Mark revealed, “He might be a daddy some day”, but if not successful in that new career, “Then Tiddles won’t be able to perform as a boy anymore and will be rehomed”.
So the pig – or big – question: Does Mark eat sausages and bacon?
“Yes. But because of my awareness of animals I wouldn’t buy anything from Tesco. We are very, very particular. Anything we eat is organic, free range and has been incredibly well looked after – believe it or not there are some farmers who love their animals.
“More and more people are becoming aware [about the welfare issues of animals produced for food], they see the animals not just as bacon, and I see that as a trend that will continue to grow. Whether they still choose to eat pork that’s something they decide on.
“The unlearn campaign with Ford is bloody genius. It’s exactly what we have been saying about pigs for years and years and it has been very helpful for pigs; people seeing pigs in a household environment and not as a production animal, not as a meat source. I hope more people will question where their meat comes from and see pigs for what they truly are… I believe pigs will be set free.”