The slaughterhouse beckoned for a mother pig and her six piglets but Viva! and Dean Farm Sanctuary came to the rescue
By Juliet Gellatley, Founder & Director, Viva!
We were delighted that we could offer this little family a life together in the beautiful Welsh countryside. Although unaware of it, these pig ambassadors are playing an important role in educating people about the horrors of factory farming by juxtaposing their new lives with our shocking footage from Britain’s factory farms.
When I was filming footage for our Face Off campaign, I saw so much cruelty and neglect. Coming away from those hell holes I had an overriding feeling of impotence that I couldn’t rescue them all. But I was determined to find a way of rescuing at least some pigs.
I went to my friends, Mary Frankland and Janette Fry at Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary near Chepstow, and asked (begged!) if they would save some pigs with me. To my relief they readily agreed. Within minutes we had decided to rescue a mum and her piglets and within a day arrangements were in place.
We found a farm that was closing its pig unit but still had a mother sow with her six babies, just three weeks old. Mum was due to be slaughtered in a month and piglets in five months. So, before the week was out, Mary, Viva!’s Justin Kerswell and I loaded a van with straw for mum and a dog carrier for her babies and snaked our way northwards.
Mum seemed to know perfectly what was required and opened the gate herself to get to the van where her babies were, being uncharacteristically quiet. Maybe she knew we were there to help her.
For safety, she was separated from her babies by a board and it was fascinating listening to the distinctive calls she made to them, like a deep cough – and then to hear them answer. This touching exchange continued for several minutes until she was satisfied her babies were safe.
I had butterflies when we reached Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary, nestling as it does in pretty rolling countryside, excited that these pigs really had a home for life – acres of fields, woodland, scrub and even their own stream. It really is pig paradise!
We carried the baby’s cage into a huge barn and opened the door. One by one they trotted out, so cute, curious and vulnerable. We opened mum’s door and she made a bee line for her little ones. Next, she paced through the straw, elatedly tossing it in the air with her snout – high quality oat straw and mounds and mounds of it. She snuffled and snuffled in it, an entirely new experience, making contented snorts! And then she lay down and her piglets hungrily suckled, a picture of perfect contentment.
That night she tucked up her piglets (really, she did) so that each was completely covered in straw. We could not see them – only the occasional peep at us giving away their position.
One Week Later
The piglets, three boys and three girls, were mad things, running around just like kittens and puppies – bonkers and joyful! Chasing, gnawing, nuzzling, playing, jumping with sheer delight, snuggling up to mum and one another. I sat quietly with them and soon enough they couldn't resist and were climbing on me, biting my wellies and one, the softest, kissed me on the lips!
When her babies found their way through straw bales and into the turkeys’ night shelter, mum went ballistic, panicking that she couldn't reach them, her bond strong, they soon returned. I stroked her and she choose to snuffle right by me and I reflected on what her life might have been on a typical farm. Her babies would be taken from her at three weeks old, she would be forced into a rape rack and made pregnant again; incarcerated in a concrete cell, made to give birth in a metal crate.
Watching this mum and her babies, and knowing the fate of other pigs, is horribly poignant and painful. What the human race does to our fellow earthlings is beyond despicable.
I hope this mother and her babies can represent the millions of other mothers and little ones on factory farms. The more people who can witness the wonderful scenes in front of me, the more who will give up meat because the only way to truly rescue animals is to stop eating them.
A few days later, mum and piglets experienced the big outdoors for the first time! Watch how they responded and their adventures on Viva!’s Facebook and at viva.org.uk/pigrescue.
Find out more about our pigs and perhaps adopt them, helping towards their keep and Viva!’s campaigns to expose pig factory farming in Britain and to take this story far and wide. viva.org.uk/donate
Watch the rescue below!