The household survey was selected by analysing the district-wise pig population density from the livestock census data of 2012 (Fig. 1). According to the census data, Dehradun, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar have a large pig population and Nainital is also conducive to piggery development (19th Livestock Census 2012). These districts are also considered as major urban centers of the State. Rapid urbanisation and tremendous population growth are also seen in these districts and the existence of a large number of pigs compared to the other districts (Sati 2013).
The data about pig raisers and their location were not available when we planned to conduct this study. We contacted the local persons involved in pig rearing with the help of the field assistant. A rapid appraisal approach was adopted as a "survey and monitoring tool" to identify more geographical locations in Uttarakhand where pig rearers were localized (FAO 2011).
Before collecting data, a semi-structured questionnaire (ILRI 2011) was prepared following the study's objectives (Supplementary table: ST1). A draft of the questionnaire was pre-tested with 5 households in Dehradun and according to the requirement, responses and feedback from the respondent, the questionnaire was then refined. The final questionnaire took around 30 minutes to complete and targeted the head of the household who took care of the pig farming. Interviews were performed in the local language (Hindi) and were carried out with the assistance of the key informant and the author herself.
'Key informants' played an important resource in our survey. They help us in establishing rapport with the pig rearer household. The geographical position of each participating family was recorded using the android based software Google Map.
Pig-owning households were selected randomly and purposeful sampling was employed to ensure the interview of the family that raised pigs near the forest area was also included in the study. 28 households (HH) (25 Dehradun, 2 Haridwar, and 1 Nainital), including one family without herd size data, were surveyed for this study. The survey was conducted between March to December 2019. The survey was not performed during July 2019 and August 2019 due to the rainy season. Data related to the socio-economic status of pig rearers and the management system of pig farming were collected, compiled, and analysed using Microsoft excel 2007.
Population trend of pigs in Uttarakhand
Various livestock species are found in all the four physiographic zones of Uttarakhand (SAP 2017); the species-wise contribution of the livestock population in Uttarakhand and its population trend during various livestock censuses of India is shown in (Fig 2). The population trend showed that the piggery sector contributes much less than different livestock species of Uttarakhand and its population is continuously declining in each progressive census year (Fig. 3).
The current pig population of Uttarakhand consists of indigenous/non-descript types and exotic/crossbred pigs (Fig. 4). A rapid decline in the indigenous breed population since the 17th livestock census and an increase in the population of the exotic breed has been observed from the census data. The introduction of the exotic breeds of pig from western countries in India had started before independence. Since then, the government breed improvement program has used these exotic animals to upgrade the native stock for superior performance in the economic traits such as high growth rate, high feed conversion efficiency, good litter size and carcass quality (Deka 2015). The exotic pig and its crossbreed are gaining preference among the pig breeders due to changes in the taste preference of the consumers. The exotic breed such as Landrace, Yorkshire and their crosses are raised in Uttarakhand (Breed survey 2013).
The overall pig population recorded in 2003 (17th Indian livestock census) in Uttarakhand was 31000; this reduced to 17659 (20th Livestock Census), which was a two-fold decline in the pig population since the 17th livestock census (after the formation of the new State). On contrary, the estimated number of the animal slaughtered each year in Uttarakhand surpass the count of pigs present in Uttarakhand (Fig. 5).
It is clear that the demand for pork products has shown a continuous rise over the last decade, but the supply of live animals cannot be fulfilled by the number of pigs raised in the State. This contrary data revolves around multiple reasons. The probable reasons for the rise in the demand for pork meat and its products can be linked to the increased inflow of tourists of preferential pork taste from other states of India and abroad (Table 1). The pork dishes are now included in the meal plans of various hotels, restaurants and institutions in Uttarakhand. Hence to meet the consumers' demand, more animals are slaughtered (Banik et al. 2019). Other possible reasons for this huge decrease in population are the increased influence of rapid urbanization and scarcity of open and empty land areas due to rapid construction. In Uttarakhand, the pig farmers rear pigs in semi-intensive management and pig are seen roaming and foraging on the garbage pile. Due to the government provision of making these urban districts clean, the municipal corporation confiscates roaming pigs on the street. These scenarios compelled pig rearers to farm pigs in small herds. Another probable reason may also be the availability of an alternate source of employment due to job opportunities and the growing social stigma against pig farming.
During our survey, one respondent said that 'if they get employment of 15000 INR (197 USD) per month, they will leave pig rearing practices as they were tired of the administration and social stigma associated with pig rearing. Another said that 'their children do not prefer to take the practice further as they are going to school and according to them rearing pig is one of the filthy practice among their friends.'
Indigenous pigs are found in all the districts of Uttarakhand and have a close association with the wild pigs. Moreover, they have better adaptability to both the plain and the hill districts of Uttarakhand. The sharp decline in the population of the indigenous pig needs to be immediately scrutinized by the government as the scientific community has been trying to investigate the origin and relationship between indigenous and wild pigs in the Hindukush Himalayan region for the last two decades (Larson et al. 2005; Nidup 2006; Tanaka et al. 2008).
Breed characterization and cataloging of the distinct indigenous breed populations have gained momentum in India during the last few years. Till date, ten native pigs (Agonda Goan, Ghoongroo, Gurrah, Mali, Niang Megha, Tenyi Vo, Nicobari, Purnea, Doom and Zowak) have been characterized and accorded the status of indigenous registered breeds (ICAR- NBAGR 2018), which are mostly from the eastern states of the country. We can initiate the process of breed study in Uttarakhand and characterize with appropriate scientific tools to study morphometric traits and production parameters.
GPS (global positioning system) coordinates were plotted in the map using Google Map and further preparation of the map was done in arc GIS software (Fig. 6). According to our survey findings, 60.7% of households raised pigs near seasonal streams or rivers. These household locations coincide with slums (poverty pockets) areas of the surveyed urban districts (PCA slums 2011). 21.4% of households interviewed raise pigs near forest areas. 10.7% of households raise pigs in the residential areas with small or no open space and no water bodies for the pig to roam and make sheds within the house premises.
Pig rearer households were distributed in random patches throughout Dehradun, Haridwar and Nainital districts. Urban livestock plays a major role in fulfilling the growing demand for animal-related products in urban areas. However, livestock keeping and their maintenance in the urban landscape possesses an important risk of disease transmission (zoonotic and non-zoonotic), which has been widely studied (Alirol et al. 2011; Alarcon et al. 2017; Ahmed et al. 2019). Hence, two more aspects were considered to give a holistic picture of the impact of raising pigs in Uttarakhand. These are (1) the present pace of rapid urbanisation of Uttarakhand and (2) contact exposure of wild boars to humans and domestic animals.
There has been a rapid increase in infrastructural growth, a rise in migratory population, continuous flow of tourism and other commercial activities, particularly in the planar districts like Dehradun, Haridwar, Nainital and Udham Singh Nagar. To accommodate all the above activities, unplanned urbanization has taken place in these planar districts. The existing natural resources and ecology of these districts support all these activities and the increased number of livestock populations beyond their carrying capacity. The unplanned urbanisation has boosted the growth of slums in Dehradun along the bank of the perennial streams like Bindal and Rispana Rao. These streams run within the district and are degraded from freshwater streams to the city's drainage (Dehradun City Development Plan 2007). A similar pattern was observed in Haridwar and Nainital districts. The surveyed household was in Haridwar's most congested areas of Jwalapur close to the Ganga canal (Haridwar City Development Plan 2007) and slums settlements areas near Ramnagar close to river Kosi in Nainital (District census handbook Nainital 2011).
In all these districts human population is staying near pigs and other domestic animals. Our findings indicated that 60.7% of households raise pigs near slum settlements with inadequate sanitation, making these areas prone to zoonotic and non-zoonotic diseases. Moreover, close contact with the pigs living in these unhygienic environments poses a risk to animal health and human health (Alirol et al., 2011; Ahmed et al., 2019).
The other aspect unique to Uttarakhand is the wildlife–livestock–human interface, which poses another risk to human health. Uttarakhand has 45.44 % of the State's geographical area covered by forest and Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar, Nainital and Haridwar contribute 23.32% of the total forest cover (State of Forest Report, 2019).
Due to the increased use of land for construction activities, there has been rapid deforestation in the urban districts, increasing the chances of contact exposure of wild boars to humans and domestic animals. The wild pig is a protected species under Schedule-III of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Uttarakhand government declared wild boar as "vermin" during 2016-2019, which authorised the local people to cull the animals (as per the guideline issued by the forest department) if it is found on agricultural land raiding crops (Azad 2020). 100% of households were hesitant to talk about wild boar, but some local people stated that hunting wild boars and their meat consumption is prevalent in Uttarakhand. Except for Brahmins, Pahari Rajput and other castes relish the taste because it is a clean feeder, and its meat has low-fat content (Sethi et al., 2010).
Wild boars harbor several viruses, bacteria, and parasites diseases that can transmit to humans through the consumption of meat and other domestic animals when they come in close contact with them (Meng et al., 2009). Our survey data clearly state that 21.4% of households interviewed raise pigs near forest areas. The domesticated pig remains forest during the day and returns to its shed at night. Hence this increases the chance of contact of wild boars with domestic pigs and humans. Thus, the chances of transmission of pathogens between wild boars and humans are high in Uttarakhand's highly populated districts. Very few cases of disease transmission to humans have been reported and documented in Uttarakhand. A report of multiple outbreaks of 'Human Trichinosis' caused by eating undercooked wild boar meat pork infected with the larvae of a nematode parasite of Trichinella sp. has been reported in Tehri and Pauri Garwal districts of Uttarakhand during 2009-2011 (Sethi et al., 2010). Swine flu which belongs to the influenza virus group endemic in pigs, continues to report every year. The number of patients was more from urban areas of Uttarakhand due to congested infrastructure and inadequate hygiene (Pandita et al., 2021).
Due to the location of the pig rearer, chances of an outbreak of disease either through the animal itself or through contamination of water bodies in urban sites become more prevalent. There is an immediate need to increase the awareness of disease emergence among the policymaker, pig rearers and veterinary practitioners in the urban settings. Improving the surveillance strategies for pathogens shared between wildlife and domestic animals will avoid any risk of pathogen spillover from the wild (Wu et al., 2012; Hassell et al., 2017).
Pig husbandry practices in Uttarakhand
The households were predominantly headed by males (100%) and only male members were the main respondent in the urban areas of Dehradun. The female participation in the survey response was in places where the pig was raised in the backyard i.e., not far away from the house. Regarding the age of household head, the highest proportion (85.7%) were in the middle age group (30-55 years), only (4.3%) were in the young age group (20-29 years). 100% of households surveyed in this study belonged to the Scheduled Caste (SC) community of a specific caste. In Uttarakhand, among SC community, this particular caste has a 70.64 % urban population (PCA SC 2011). Haridwar, Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar, and Nainital districts together accommodate 86.7% of the total population of this specific community in the State (PCA SC 2011). These four urban districts also have a considerable pig population in the State (Fig. 1), indicating that a specific caste is associated with pig farming in Uttarakhand. Caste-based spatial segregation has been observed in these districts (Sidhwani 2015). Due to the urbanized nature of this community, female participation is significantly less in piggery enterprises. The work participation rate is also the lowest in this community compared to other scheduled castes, only 33.49% (Census 2011).
About 50% of household heads had primary as the highest education level attained, 46.4% by those with secondary education, and 3.6% had no formal education. As for household size, 89.29% of the household have a nuclear family (3-6 members), and only (10.71%) have a joint family (>6 members) in the home. The data suggest that though the community is highly urbanised, the economic status is dismal; hence they prefer nuclear families over joint families to avoid the financial burden of any extra members (Saggurti et al., 2005).
The house construction type of the pig rearer in all the surveyed households was 100% solid construction with bricks and cement. They have 100% water supply either from hand pump or other sources and electricity supply. Every (100%) household has Television as a source of entertainment. Only (21.4 %) of the family had taken pig rearing as a primary activity. They were enthusiastic about giving the traditional information about their rearing practices; otherwise, 78.6% had other odd jobs and rearing pigs in a small herd. In Uttarakhand, the pig rearer community has been continued to be known by their caste occupation and as observed that 64.3% work as sweepers in the various institute and municipal corporations (Ganguly 2019)
Due to urbanisation and improvement in community literacy, our survey data suggest a diversified occupation, with 10.71% in the army and 3.6 % in other jobs. Other activities for their livelihood are ceremonial music and poultry and some are also involved in game animal sports like cockfighting and pigeon flying. None of the households owns agricultural land to cultivate in other fields.
39.29% of the participating households raise chicken for commercial purposes. 25% kept cattle. Few families kept pigeons and wild cock for gambling and betting purposes. Households kept 2-4 adult sows and 1-3 hybrid or boars (need confirmation) with their piglets in their herd (Fig. 5a, 5b, 5c). They identified the breeds in their herd as indigenous and mixed parentage of indigenous crossed with the exotic breed and putative crossed with a wild pig. 28.6% of pig rearers maintained probable breeding boar of feral origin in secrecy due to its easy availability and high sale value (Fig. 5d). Detection of wild boar-like piglets in the head could be due to the possible hybridisation of the domestic pig with the wild boar in the proximity near the fringes area of the forest. However, these need to be examined by molecular genetic data to confirm the intentional or by mistake rearing of wild boar-like piglets for commercial use.
Production and management of pig
The combination of farrow to finish (piglets born in the herd kept by the household are raised in the same herd till slaughter) and piglet production (more sows are kept in a herd for piglet production to sell the piglets) systems is a type of production system observed in 85.7% of the households surveyed. Only 14.3 % of the households practiced fattener production (piglets were purchased from the households and raised for slaughter). The major rearing pattern observed in the study area was a semi-intensive system (96.94%) (Fig. 5e) followed by an extensive (3.57%) (Fig. 5f) system. Though these systems need less capital investment, disease incidence and parasite infestations are high. The girth tethering of the pig is not followed in any area. Almost all the pig farmers feed swill (from restaurant and kitchen) to their herd, which costs them INR 500 (6.57 USD) per month. Feeding and watering are given twice a day to the household's herd that follows a combination production system. During winter, warm water is mixed with food to keep them away from the cold. The pig rearer did not measure the quantity of the feed provided to the pigs.
Animal health services are available at INR15 (0.20 USD) as a consultation charge, but no veterinary doctors visit the sick pig. 100 % of the households said that there is no service for vaccination and treatment of ill animals. Decreased appetite, classical swine fever, nails cracking, diarrhea, worm's infection, and foot and mouth disease are common among pigs.
Reproduction, breeding and breed preference
The natural and controlled breeding method is the only available method for reproduction present in the area. The breeding males are from their farms or nearby farms and sometimes wild relatives. The castration of the old boar was done by 100% of the respondents. They castrate their male pigs by traditional indigenous methods and these pigs get a good amount if given for religious sacrifices in festivals and ceremonies. 100% of the respondents had recorded the farrowing of indigenous pigs twice a year, with a litter size of 6-8 piglets on average. 100% of the respondent preferred the traits like mothering ability, reproductive performance, and disease tolerance over general appearance and scavenging ability as a quality of the females that were to be kept by the owner in the herd for future production.
Marketing and Annual income
The majority (100%) of pig farmers have a family income ranging from INR 30000 - 1.0 lakh (394 USD-1313 USD) per annum. The selling price of the live adult pig range INR 3500-4000 (45-USD -52 USD) and piglets INR 2500-3000 (32 USD- 39 USD). The animals are sold to the traders, butchers and the village animal fair. The butchering is done by other scheduled caste communities. They sell the meat INR 180-200 (2 USD) per kg in the shop after inspection by veterinary doctors in a registered slaughterhouse. If sold directly to the consumer, then assessment is not done.
Limitations to pig-keeping
Pig husbandry practices are an unorganised sector in Uttarakhand; hence 100 % of the households considered rapid infrastructure growth and administration pressure a significant constraint to pig keeping. Few families also mentioned that pig raising forms major conflict issues with the neighbor who follow Islam as a religion. No household mentioned the diseased condition of the pig as a constraint because the majority kept mixed parentage herd of wild and indigenous breeds hence better adapted to the climatic condition and low management inputs.