A stinking, snorting tale of NIMBY cruelty from the Bavarian heartland.
BAD KISSINGEN - It’s a common scenario in Bavaria: somebody wants to keep pigs at home, often because doing so anywhere else wouldn’t be worth it. But then the neighbors inevitably get into the act. Pigs stink. Pigs grunt.
Nothing against a nice piece of pork, mind you, but raising them... No, NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) you don’t. Citizens’ initiatives, petitions – some even go to court to try to prevent a pig farm from opening. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t. Nothing new there.
But there is something very different about the latest pig issue that has come up in Bad Kissingen, a spa town in south-central Germany. This is not about a pig farm, but two small pigs named Bella and Paula who live in the garden of a physiotherapist who works from home.
For four years, therapist Heide Balzer-Ruhl has been using the pigs in sessions with disabled children. "I let the children pet the pigs," she says and the effect on the children is positive. "You can see it on the expressions on the children’s faces.” She has been working as a therapist in the spa town for nearly 40 years. She also uses dogs in her work with the children.
Apparently, nobody was disturbed by the presence of the pigs, at least not for a long time. But Balzer-Ruhl recently moved the location of the pen in the garden and it now borders directly on the terrace of neighbors, who say they were surprised by the change when they returned from a vacation.
The therapist had apparently told other neighbors about the planned change, and none of them had any issues with it, or with the animals. But the one couple who apparently had not been advised took things amiss and complained to local authorities. The couple did not wish to comment on events.
"The pigs are right in front of their nose," town spokesman Thomas Hack stated, intimating that “nose” was the operative word here and not only the sight of Bella and Paula but their smell were offensive. Balzer-Ruhl maintains that the pigs have less of an odor than a dog because they are given a vegan diet that includes corn, carrots and crisp breads. She adds that excrement in their pen is cleaned out three times a day.
Local authorities are going to have to take a decision in the case, and Hack indicates that there is sympathy for both parties. Legally however the matter is cut and dried: even though a veterinarian has stated that the small pigs have the best care and living conditions, keeping them is not on. "You’re not allowed to keep pigs in a residential area," Hack says.
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Photo: Kyle Hickman
So for the past four years Bella and Paula have been living in a legal grey area. "It shouldn’t have been going on, but nobody complained," the spokesman says, adding that down at the municipal offices they are hoping the neighbors will find a mutually acceptable solution to the problem. One couldn’t lose sight of the fact that the neighbors have rights, on the other hand Bella and Paula are awfully cute, he said.
Therapist Balzer-Ruhl is also hoping for a harmonious outcome. There must be a way to find to common ground, she says; she certainly doesn’t want any unpleasantness with her neighbors. If only they had complained directly to her first before alerting authorities. She finds it difficult to contemplate having to part with the animals.
So right now, Bella and Paula’s fate hangs in the balance. Meanwhile the German media – both the papers, and now television – have picked up the story. Stay tuned.