Around the beginning of December we became aware of a situation involving two very young piglets at a pig farmer’s home needing to be rescued. We were asked to get involved because the piglets were suspected to have been stepped on by the mother. They had injuries that were believed to be hematomas on their legs. Since they were not nursing from the mother or growing as fast as the rest of the litter they were not going to be receiving medical care.
After coordinating their rescue to bring them back to our sanctuary we took a short road trip to get them. We took them straight to the MSU Large Animal Hospital. As we held these adorable piglets in our arms we felt hopeful that maybe these injuries were not as bad as they appeared. We imagined we would take them back to SASHA Farm and give them a good life with our other rescued animals. Our volunteers and staff would shower them with love and care for their needs. We could not have predicted the outcome of that visit. As all the different doctors and staff surrounded us and examined the pigs their findings made our hope start to fade. The piglets both had a fever and were septic. Their tiny little snouts were already turning a dark purple. The piglets were very lethargic. Healthy piglets do not readily sit so still in your arms. When it came to their “hematomas” the doctors determined that it was actually infection in their joints. The pigs were taken down to the radiology department for more information on the joints. The radiographs revealed infection into the bones in their legs. On the female piglet the infection in the bone had progressed so much that the bone had eroded away in one spot. This area of bone would not grow back. The damage to their joints and bones was causing pain and lameness that would last their lifetime. The male piglet was improperly castrated and that may be a likely cause for his infection.
As one can imagine this was overwhelming to hear all this. Another doctor had stopped by to give her feedback on the condition of the piglets. The male piglet had labored breathing which was due to adhesions on the lungs. Many of the symptoms the piglets had mimicked a disease that is highly contagious if they had it. One of the piglets had pressure sores likely the result of trying to nurse and not being able to gain access to the mother. Piglets will try to push their way into the mother’s nipples and get these sores. As a result of not being able to nurse the piglets did not receive colostrum. Colostrum is made up of antibodies passed on from the mother to help the piglets build up immunity. This was a definite answer to one reason the piglets were malnourished. The piglets were also not vaccinated which could have helped their chances to fight an infectious disease common in pigs. The doctors did not estimate that they would live more than a few more days. The piglets were humanely euthanized as we wept along with some of the staff. It did not seem fair that this happened to those piglets. They only got to live a few weeks. We returned to the sanctuary with the piglets to bury them in their final resting place.
Almost $500 later we were unable to save the piglets but were reminded of a very important lesson. Commercial pig farmers do not care for the overall well-being of the pigs. They are a commodity, a dollar sign. Pigs are a “something” not a “someone” to the farmers. Vaccinating is often not done due to their lack of concern and cheapness. Castrations are often not done in the safest method. The only reason the piglets made it out of that farm was because of the farmer’s wife. She did not agree that they should stay there and continue to suffer without medical care. As, we close that sad chapter of our rescue experiences we now look forward to a happy ending with another pig rescue this week. We recently were told of a pig in Iowa that likely fell off a transport truck. The pig was found in a ditch with injuries. A woman found the pig and contacted us to see if we could provide a home. We were happy to help. We arranged transport and picked up the pig in Iowa and brought him back to Michigan. 1500 miles round trip in 32 hours. Our new pig’s name is “Johnny Cash” and he is just a few months old. Johnny Cash will join the other rescued pigs at SASHA Farm as being one of the “lucky ones”. Many pigs suffer from illness and disease at commercial farms. Recent undercover videos reveal horrific abuse by slaughterhouse workers. Female pigs are confined to Gestation crates unable to turn around or be closer to their babies. Teeth and testicles are removed and tails cut off without pain medication. This holiday season please keep pigs off your plate and go vegan. Please consider a donation in honor of SASHA Farm’s Lucky ones. Your contribution will help us provide care for our new pig Johnny Cash and all the other rescued pigs at our sanctuary. We know you will agree that pigs are someone and not something.