Lena and pigs

Sheltered in: The Cow Sanctuary

They're called "kill buyers", men who go to livestock auctions to purchase animals and then transport them to slaughterhouses. Some of them are employed by the slaughterhouse itself to do this. Others are "freelancers" hoping to make a profit if prices were low at one end and high at the other end of this deadly business.

I don't know which this man was, I just know that he agreed to turn his truck around in exchange for two hundred dollars, and to unload the pigs at our sanctuary instead of at the slaughterhouse.

Two months earlier, I'd been contacted by a friend of a friend of a friend, a student at an agricultural program. The class was to teach how pigs were commercially raised. Eight pigs had been taken from gestation crates at a factory farm, and placed in identical crates at the university . During the semester, the students were each assigned a pig, who they fed and observed. The pigs gave birth during this time, and at the end of the semester, they were sent to slaughter.

Each pig had a numbered eartag, but the teacher also gave them nicknames, like "Porkchop", and "Bacon". The students were told not to get attached to their pigs, and that these nicknames were to help them with that.

But, one of the students got attached. He secretly called his pig "Girl", and he hatched a plan to save her and the others. That's when he got hold of me…he was trying to raise money to purchase the pigs when they were sent to auction, and asked if I would donate. I could donate, but not much. However, I was able to connect him to an animal philanthropist who agreed to buy the pigs' freedom .

The student told me that he had already made arrangements with a sanctuary to take the pigs, and that all which was now needed was transportation to their new home. The university had set the date when the pigs were to be sent to auction, and I found transport to take them to their new home on that day. All was in place, or so I thought.

A week before the auction, an hour before dark, I got a desperate call from the student. The pigs were on a kill buyer's truck, headed for the slaughterhouse. Would I agree to take just one pig, his "Girl"?


Turns out that there was not really an agreement with a sanctuary to take the pigs, that the auction date had not really been set, and that somehow, the student had the cellphone number of the kill buyer driving the truck.

I momentarily considered being furious at the deceptions, but then I thought about the eight poor pigs. They'd had no part in it, except that they had entered the heart of a student, who was apparently determined to save them one way or another And they'd entered my heart too, even though I'd never met them. The two months that I'd been working on getting them to safety made me care about them tremendously, as representatives of all the millions of pigs who weren't able to get a second chance .Of course I couldn't take just "Girl", and send the others to their deaths.

Without any plan in place, I told the student to tell the driver to bring them all here. They were about a hundred miles away. Two hours driving time. In those two hours, we ran hoses to get water to an empty, fenced field so that the pigs could drink once they arrived. There was no building available, so I simply fluffed up a lot of straw on the ground to make a soft spot for them to lie in for the night, until I could figure out something better in the morning.

It was pitch dark when they arrived. No lights in the field, other than headlights. The driver was in a hurry to get it over with. The pigs were not inclined to jump off the trailer into the unknown darkness. He kicked them, he shocked them, he screamed as loudly as they did. I couldn't stop him. If they hadn't gotton off, he would have just as soon closed the door and taken them to their original destination.

After what seemed forever of this madness, but was actually only a few minutes, the pigs were all out, and he drove away. The pigs didn't drink, they didn't lie down in the straw, they just collapsed in a heap where they'd landed as they were forced out of the trailer.

In the morning, they all still seemed half dead, covered with the blue auction paint, lethargic and bloody from all the fighting in the auction pens and transport trailers. My vet gave them medication to help them get back on their feet. One of the pigs died anyway. The stress had been too much for her. She got a name before she died ~ Trixie.

But the others rallied. They found the straw, they found the water, and slowly they started to walk around and explore their new home. They started to eat again. Slowly, slowly their wounds healed, and their spirits returned. Their numbered eartags were removed, and they got names : Samantha, Simone, Alexis, Chummy, Evie, Abuela and Iena.

At first their house was a tarp stretched over fenceposts, but before cold weather arrived a real wooden pig house was built where they could stay dry and cozy. They learned that apples were good to eat, and then pumpkins. It took a while longer before they realized that grass was also food, but once they figured it out, they became champion grazers. A local farm market was kind enough to give us all their seconds, and the pigs learned about many new foods. Strawberries are very popular with them! When the wild cherries drop their fruit, the pigs gather around those trees daily. Same with mulberries, and wild crabapples.

The very best was when they discovered the pond. Although people say that pigs like to wallow in mud, these girls have said very clearly that water is even better. During the warm weather, they spend hours soaking, even though there is a mud wallow close by.

They have developed friendships with each other as well. When they were in the gestation crates, they were immobilized, in solitary confinement. Now they have a chance to meet and interact with each other. Chummy and Iena get along fabulously. They almost always sleep snuggled up next to each other. Abuela more often than not can be found grazing alongside Alexis. Simone is more of a loner, while Evie seems to like everyone equally.

A pig's natural lifespan is somewhere around fifteen years. These pigs were being sent to slaughter as "spent" when they were just five. What happiness to know that they'll get to live out the last two thirds of their lives in peace .

Please, please, everyone who reads this…remember that pigs are individuals, NOT food!


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