I remember touching one of the sows in those crates. She was red and big with fourteen piglets tussling off to the side. She flinched. I could feel a strange sense of horror deep inside me, but I pushed it down. I rested my hand on her back and, for one brief moment, she leaned into it and then jerked away, as if burned. She could not understand my sudden interest in touching her with gentleness, no pig in the pork industry does.
Anyone who can explain the rightness of a cage has never been in one, never felt the sides of it pushing and denying access to the natural world. They have not felt the frustration of nothingness, of being restricted, of being in a barren, empty world. When her instinct drives her to make a nest for her babies, she cannot. When her preference would be to nurse her piglets in a deep bed of leaves, she cannot. When she wants to run away from the humans who abuse her, she cannot. When she wants to burrow in straw with her sister and brother, she cannot. And when she is desperate to save her piglets, when they are taken forcibly from her at 2-3 weeks of age, when the wrongness of that separation is evident in her tense muscles and strange cries, she can do nothing to stop it. Everything done to her is an attempt at removing her from instinct and desire and what she wants and needs.
We know what happens to her piglets. They too will be stripped of their dignity and of their pigness. Then they will be killed and eaten by a species who does not need meat to survive. She will spend years in that cage, repeatedly artificially inseminated, repeatedly denied access to a nest and the outdoor world, repeatedly abused and repeatedly stripped of her babies.
I don’t need meat to survive. You don’t either. Pigs need to be allowed to express all that makes them them. And they cannot do that on a farm or in a place that sees them as roasters and production units. Since there are so many alternatives to pork, there isn’t any reason not to start choosing a compassionate diet now. Do it today, for the millions of sows denied true motherhood and the hundred million piglets turned into pork. We must honor who they are by not reducing them to what our palates desire.
Marji Beach - Animal Place Sanctuary.