Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pigs: The Man Returns

Our goals in our little family farm have never been to upset anyone. We raise animals for the sake of a better product- an exceptional (yet affordable) food source. We do it as an assertion of our independence and proof of our ability to survive. And yes, we do it because we can- for bragging rights. Of course we always knew that there would be some upturned noses by the people who prefer not to know from where their food comes, but the kind of persecution we have faced lately goes far beyond the consternation of the squeamish few. This is personal.

Sunday evening, while walking the dog we were babysitting, I saw that one of the slaughter pigs was grievously injured. She had somehow gotten her hip hung up on a protrusion in a fencepost and tore a foot-long, two inch deep gash in her ham. The slice went through skin, fat, and meat. It was too deep to use the liquid bandage and too wide to sew. So, to cut our losses to a spoiled ham versus a completely spoiled pig, I delayed our dinner guests, and we prepared to put her down immediately.

It screamed. The process is usually quick and quiet. A single, small caliber round to the head, followed by a cut in the throat, a couple squirts of blood, a few kicks, and it is over in a minute or two. This pig, however, screamed. It screamed loud and long, during dinner hour, on a mild-temperatured evening, on a holiday weekend. Someone called the police.

When my parents and several of Pennsylvania's Finest arrived, I showed my guests inside to relax before dinner while Mr. Farmer apologized for the noise and explained what had happened. Once they saw the animal and heard the explanation, they seemed satisfied and went on their way. We had a lovely dinner and my mother seemed pleased with her birthday tulips. The adrenaline wore off sometime well after midnight, and I was finally able to sleep.

Sadly, it was not over. Two days later, more law enforcement arrived. This time they were investigating a complaint of animal cruelty. Mr. Farmer confidently showed the officers to the well-maintained pen with large water barrels being filled constantly with fresh running water. They could easily see that the pigs had ample space, food, water, and shelter. Then, out of nowhere, one of the six-week-old piglets wandered out into the open with a severe gash in its belly and entrails hanging out. We fear that the sudden disruption from the arrival of the unexpected visitors while the pigs were eating may have caused it to get trampled. That surely did not help our case any.

Later that night, the police arrived again. This time they were questioning us about a hysterical neighbor. Cars had been racing around our usually-quiet neighborhood. Someone leaned on a car horn at 9:30 at night. The neighbor was repeatedly screaming, "why are you on my property?" to no one in particular. The whole thing was very strange, and we assured the officer that we didn't know anything about it, except that we had been outside because we were helping a friend move into a new house up the street. We were being targeted because of the previous days' events.

So, the pigs are on the move again. Some are off to the Beta site where they spent last summer. Others are are on their way to what we'll call the Gamma site, another suburban farm where a few of our other pigs currently reside as a result of a previous sale. We're downsizing. There are still four to slaughter and the three breeders whose fate is still unknown. These are dark times for us; I am thankful that we have friends and supporters who stepped up to help us with this catastrophe.

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