Reflection: Interspecies Communication
Danger pig
By Raymond Douglas (06/08/13 19:48:40)
Related animals: Human, Pig

Our day at Lil’ Orphan Hammies was unseasonably hot, but maybe that was because it took place in Solvang instead of Santa Barbara. Anyway, it took our car extra time to find this mysterious sanctuary of pigs in the Solvang hills. But, when we found it we were greeted with chubby, sometimes fowl-smelling pot bellied pigs wandering in circles and seeking attention. These guys were free from any cages and would dip in little pools to cool off and then seek refuge in the shade from the day’s harsh sun. For our group, they rolled over, made great pig noises, and let us rub their bellies raw. Initially, it was a very happy environment.

As most of this quarter’s class now knows, I have a past as a hunter and farmer. While I never personally did this, I had close friends who would raise farm pigs from the smallest piglet to the largest, most mind-numbingly large creature. I would help them clean the pens, refill their water troughs, and feed them their specialized feed. I always enjoyed these pigs from the moment I saw them at the county fair as a child. They made the best noises, smelled like poop, and just wanted their heads scratched. The county fair was, however, the saddest reality they could have faced. All week the pigs’ owners would show them in an arena and the surrounding spectators would bid for the possession of their favorite, largest pig. Upon winning a bid, the winning spectator (usually another farmer) would take the pig and eventually have it slaughtered for its meat. I was always ignorant of this fact and persisted as a nice human being to these animals. And I still do today.

Back at the sanctuary we left the confines of the main house’s side yard and went down the hill to pay a visit to the veterans of the property. Some of these pigs were upwards of 15 years old and insisted on being perpetually grumpy. Even though the only fondness they would show to you would be from you giving them treats, they still had a place in my heart as these loving, innocent creatures. However, as we were walking down to this area earlier, the owner of the property pointed to a pig behind a gate on our right and suggested that we don’t go near him for he was aggressive and didn’t often like human confrontations. We all took note and went about our business. When the group started to separate into smaller clusters and single individuals, I wandered off in search of the pigs that may be commonly ignored by the sanctuary visitors. As I crossed over a waist high fence, I heard a peculiar grunting to my right. There, with its left, black eye fixated on my presence, was the pig that we were to ignore at all costs. I was in its territory and I was freaking out. Every small move that I made he would inch closer and semi-charge me. If I stood still long enough for him to lose interest and look the other way I would try to shuffle my way back to the fence from where I came. Eventually, I needed the help of Erik’s distraction to avoid any bloody encounters. Immediately after my pig shuffle, I regretted crossing his boundary. But, days later it gave me a deeper appreciation for these animals and their hardship. This old guy was most likely abused at some point in his life and remained on guard 24/7. I got in his way, yes, but I was glad to acknowledge his pain. The day at the sanctuary augmented my love for pigs and has put pressure on me to make conscious changes in my interactions with them and in my diet.

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