The story, Charlotte’s Web, will always be one of my favorite animal tales. As a child, I was immediately drawn to Wilbur’s plight. Pigs are raised for meat. It’s a simple fact. I’ve never been at peace with the idea. Sadly, current trends have caused a great demand for pork products. It’s America’s latest obsession.
I hear it all the time. You can find bacon in everything from sandwiches to ice cream. But don’t worry…I’m not going to lecture my readers about why they should become a vegan or vegetarian. I understand it’s a personal journey. I made the decision to give up meat over twenty-five years ago. It’s a choice that I’ve never regretted.
Let me just tell you a little bit about my beautiful piglet, Ms. Charlotte.
My husband and I adopted her on my birthday. Some women enjoy diamonds on their special days. I prefer to rescue farm animals. The concept of “teacup pigs” is very popular in the media. I’m sorry to report that they don’t really exist. I know…it’s heartbreaking news. Pigs advertised as “micro-mini pigs” or “teacups” are actually potbelly pigs. They are smaller than standard hogs, which can weigh up to a thousand pounds. I can assure you that these animals are definitely not teacup size. Potbelly pigs can grow to be quite large, often weighing in the hundreds. I happen to have three beautiful potbelly pigs: Ziggy, Grunt, and Baby Bubba.
I adore my potbellies. They are smart, affectionate and curious. But, I must admit, my piggy friends can be challenging at times. They have temper tantrums, destroy household items, and are master escape artists. But I love each and every one of them.
My boys are quite stocky… and they are unable to fit inside of a teacup. The “micro-mini pigs” advertised are usually photographed when they are only a few weeks old. Images of their petite parents “suggest” just how small the pigs will be. They usually appear “tiny” since they are quite young themselves. Pigs can reproduce by five or six months of age. Many breeders encourage their customers to restrict the pigs’ feed, basically starving the animals in order to keep them small. In my humble opinion, it’s a form of animal cruelty. This is why I always encourage animal lovers to do their research before adopting a new pet. Adorable images on the Internet can be deceiving. Who wouldn’t want a tiny piglet that could fit inside your pocket? It’s so tempting. But be careful of scams-artists that sell these stories. They are not looking out for the animals’ best interest. If it seems to good to be true…it probably is.
Well, let me get back to the story of Charlotte the Pig. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog articles, we have many wonderful animals on our farm, Sock Monkey Ranch. It’s quite the menagerie. However, even with our large brood, I can usually find room for just one more. With this in mind, I decided to rescue a full-size farm hog this summer. My husband and I did some research and discovered a pig farm near our home. They sell a somewhat rare breed known as Old Spot Gloucester pigs. Originating in England, the breed is known to be docile, intelligent and easy-going. The owners were very knowledgeable and helpful. They showed us several of their breeding sows. I was somewhat shocked by their size. They easily weighed over a thousand pounds. There were pigs everywhere the eye could see. Dozens of piglets wandered about the property, exploring, rooting the rich soil,eagerly searching for tasty treats.
Many of the pigs were free-ranging. It was a nice environment, considering the horrible realities of factory farms. They are very common these days, a kind of Hell on Earth for pigs. The animals rarely see the light of day. They are housed in crates so small that they can’t turn around. This farm offered a better alternative for the animals. Yet, the majority of the pigs were still destined to be sold for butchering. It’s a cold, hard fact. As I mentioned before, there is a great demand for bacon.
I desperately wanted to save them all. Sadly, I had to pick just one. I looked at so many piglets that day. Many were rolling around in the mud, squealing whenever their litter-mates bumped into one another. I glanced over at my husband helplessly. How could I choose just one? But he was preoccupied by a litter of piglets roaming across the field. Several tiny babies had caught his eye. They were not for sale it turned out. The group was destined to become breeding stock. This is just another sad reality for farm pigs.
I realized that I would have to make the choice myself. After some time, I finally decided on a quiet girl lying in the middle of an impressive piglet pileup. She was the only one that appeared to be untroubled by her fidgety litter-mates. I suddenly knew, without a doubt, this little piggy was going home with us. So I named her Charlotte.
It was a dream come true! The owners of the farm helped us load her inside a dog crate in the back of the car. She was not happy about being picked up. Her high-pitched squeals reminded us of the fact. But Charlotte soon realized that there was a blanket inside with her. Our new piglet began nibbling and playing with the soft material. Her annoyance was instantly replaced by her new obsession with the cotton comforter. I realized that she probably had never had a blanket of her own. That was about to change.
We thanked the farmers and made our way home. It was time to meet the rest of the family. My husband placed the crate inside our backyard so we could keep an eye on our new charge. She was a little reluctant to come out at first. Our other animals, Mackenzie the Lamb, Albert the Goat, and Bubba the Pig, took turns checking her out. Baby Bubba appeared somewhat annoyed about having to share his yard with yet another animal. But he eventually got over it.
The pigs were destined to be great friends!
Mackenzie and Albert soon warmed up as well. 🙂
Falling in love with Charlotte was easy and natural. She seemed to appreciate everything that was given to her. She enjoyed her new bed, blankets and toys. Our piglet really loved her Purina Nature Match Sow and Pig Feed. She was overcome with joy when she discovered her first ear of corn in the food bowl. Life was good!
Charlotte soon took to following me around the farm, running when called, and politely rolling over for belly rubs.
Our piglet has doubled in size over the past six weeks. She’s going to be a large hog. And that’s fine by me.
I’m often overcome with emotion when I hear about other pigs in the world that are not as lucky as Charlotte. Some very sad stories in the news have recently come to my attention.
One incident involved an over-turned truck of pigs in Toronto, Canada. Many of the animals were killed or injured. An amazing organization, Toronto Pig Save, reported on the event. They bear witness to atrocities and abuse suffered by factory-farmed pigs. Their volunteers give loving support to those that are voiceless.
I watched the horrific ordeal unfold on Twitter. People came forward to offer sanctuary to the pigs, even offering to purchase the animals in order to save them. The company that owned the animals, Fearman’s Pork, refused to release any of the pigs to the public. Several of the victims couldn’t be processed for meat on account of their injuries. Why not allow them to have a second chance? Sadly, this was not the pigs’ destiny. There were no second chances for those suffering animals. What happened next was beyond comprehension.
Many of the injured pigs were killed at the accident site, behind barricades of cardboard. Several were marched to a nearby butchering plant to be slaughtered. I felt helpless after hearing the story. Why couldn’t the company allow a little mercy? Don’t they know that pigs are sentient beings? They could only see them as a commodity, something to be bought and sold, butchered and eaten.
I hugged and kissed my piglet that day, thankful that I have the resources to save at least one life. I wondered if people knew just how special my Charlotte was, well then, perhaps they might view other pigs as something more than a breakfast side-dish.
But I can’t answer that question. I only hope and pray that pigs will one day earn the place in the hearts of mankind- just as cats and dogs do today. Know what’s on your plate…that’s all I ask.
My Charlotte is just like all of the other billions of animals butchered in this country for pork products. She luckily dodged that bullet…thankfully. I often think about her litter-mates. I truly wish that I could save them all. But for now, I will simply protect my little girl, shower her with all of my love and attention, and be grateful that I could help her. Why is she so important to me? Well, I learned a lesson many years ago in the pages of a book. Ms. Charlotte is “Some Pig!”