'Animal Matters' November 2013:
PIGGY TALES... PIGS
Piggy Takes... Piggies... Just bacon butties and sausages?... Or very intelligent, highly sentient beings?... even computer whizzes?
“I never met a pig I didn’t like. All pigs are intelligent, sensitive souls. They love company. They all crave contact and comfort. Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never suspect from your relationship with a pork chop.” (Sy Montgomery (author and naturalist): The Good, Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood).
“I like pigs. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Geraldine, a rescued pot-bellied pig, on a visit to Kindness Ranch, a sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates former laboratory animals. Geraldine behaved like a companion dog, leaning into me as I rubbed her back and flipping over on her back as I rubbed her belly. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could do anything that could cause her to suffer. We can learn a lot of positive lessons from pigs about loyalty, trust, friendship, compassion and love if we open our hearts to them. Calling someone a pig is really a compliment.” (Mark Bekhoff, (animal behavioural scientist): Psychology Today: Animal Emotions, 9 October 2011).
Once it was considered an insult to be called a pig. However, in the light of new knowledge and understanding about what it actually means to be a pig, I feel that anyone with a heart and any discernment should, as Mark Bekhoff says, consider it as a great compliment.
Pigs have been found to have intelligence way beyond that of a three year old human being. They are highly sensitive, deeply emotional, affectionate and easier to train than dogs. They have good memories and can remember their own name within seven days of birth. They can get seriously depressed as we humans can. However, they also have a great sense of fun and capacity for enjoyment. They LOVE to play. They are capable of problem solving, can respond to verbal commands and researchers at Bristol University have found they are also quite capable of cunning and deceit when it suits their interests! That they are dirty is a misconception. They are not naturally so, much preferring to keep clean given the right opportunities to do so. In the wild, they are also naturally clean.
The following true story demonstrates the depth of affection of which pigs are capable. Tom and Ellie were two piglets who were rescued from a factory farm in Australia in 1996 and taken to an animal sanctuary. Ellie was named after Ella Celotto, a young woman who, in l990, bravely exposed the very cruel treatment of pigs on this farm. After they were rescued, Tom and Ellie lived together from l996 until 2004 and a very close bond developed between them.
At the beginning of June 2004, Ellie suffered from a large and painful growth in her stomach. Nothing could be done to make it better. With great sadness, the workers there put her down and buried her in the grounds of the sanctuary. Tom slept on her grave each night for three nights. Then he refused to eat. He was given medicine and nursing care but never recovered from the shock of losing Ellie. After one month of refusing food, he was beginning to show signs of pain and distress from not eating. Sadly, the only solution was to put Tom to sleep so that he didn’t have to suffer any more pain. Such bonds have often been observed in animal sanctuaries by the workers there and there are many such stories.
Pigs have even been found to be whizzes at computer games. Hamlet, a famous pig at Pennsylvania University in USA, has demonstrated his ability on a computer. He quickly learned how to use the joystick to get a sweet (of course!) without any trouble at all. He can be seen on You tube. Hamlet and his half-brother Omelette have spent hours playing video games and have now become bored and fed-up with them; at times, refusing to play and just sitting on the controls. For this reason, a new team of pigs has been called in for training!
Not only can pigs excel at computer games, they have also been known to save humans from burglars and drowning. One such remarkable pig, Priscilla, in Houston, Texas, turned out to be an animal hero when, aged only 2 months old, she rescued her young master from drowning. The boy, who could not swim, had jumped into a swimming pool. As he got out of his depth, he started to drown... his watchful pet pig saw what was happening and raced to the rescue. Without any further delay, she jumped into the pool, swam towards him and let him grab her halter. Then she swam back, every so often slipping under the water with the weight of the boy, but managing to pull herself up above the water to go on swimming. She knew that if she allowed herself to go under water for too long, the boy would drown. The little boy weighed four times as much as she did. For years afterwards, she would become nervous near water.
In “The Pig Who sang to the Moon” by Jeffrey Masson, we are introduced to a solitary pig, named Piglet, who lived on a beach in New Zealand for years. She was particularly popular with children whom she loved and allowed to sit beside her and to pet her tummy! Masson tells us that “she was immaculate, well-mannered, sensitive, intelligent and kind to strangers... you could not ask for a better neighbour or ambassador for farm animals. Her emotional life was particularly near the surface. She always let you know what she was feeling: Most of the time it was obvious from the smile on her face, especially when she was swimming or playing with her small human friends... she was sensitive to music and liked to hear the violin played...”. A photo taken of her on a night of a full moon when she was making the sweetest sounds, as if she was singing to the moon, is evidence of this.
Not only are billions of these wonderful non-human beings savagely killed and eaten by man, they are also a popular choice in weapons’ research and explosives’ tests. Needless to say, large numbers of them are used up in this way, subjected to excruciating agony and left to die.
"Anything that has life tries to stay alive. No living creature would give itself up as food for another living being. Animals, birds and fish also feel the desire to live just as humans do. They too would struggle, cry and feel the pain in being hurt, just like the way we would if we were captured and threatened to be killed". The only difference is that animals cannot verbally express to us the agony that they feel. It has been reported that pigs that are being slaughtered cry in a manner similar to the way humans scream." (Sathya Sai Baba: Summer Showers, May 1996, pages 131-133).
That many billions of them annually are cruelly raised, brutally mated to reproduce and even more cruelly slaughtered worldwide is unspeakably tragic and shameful. Horrific accounts of sadism inflicted on pigs in slaughterhouses exist... Recently Animal Aid, UK reported on some unbelievable abuse of pigs and this has lead to their ongoing campaign to have CT cameras installed in slaughter houses in the UK.
For anyone who is interested, there is a lot of literature now available on what remarkable and amazing animals pigs are. And by the way, the star of Babe, James Cromwell, was so impressed by his co-star, Babe, that he became a vegetarian as a result.
“An awakened soul realises the intrinsic uniqueness and sublime sameness of all souls as having the same spiritual qualities although residing in totally different physical and subtle bodies. We must be in a position to sympathise with the circumstances of all people and things. Even an ant would not like to die, an insect loves itself as much as an elephant loves itself, or a human loves himself. Every living being has a love for itself. The ant feels hunger as intensely as an elephant feels hunger. The physical dimension of the body is not in any way a deterrent to feeling pain and pleasure, whatever be the circumstance and the species into which one is born. Thus the Yogi realises that the soul is one.” (Krishna: Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 6, 32).
(Article written by Mercini Sherratt for Vedanta Empire's charity incentive)
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