Two weeks ago, Rosa, one of our rescue pigs, gave birth to 7 incredibly beautiful and ridiculously cute piglets at Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary (full disclosure: I am president and co-founder).
The whole experience has been truly magical. We rescued Rosa, along with another Vietnamese pot belly Luther, from a serious case of neglect high up in the Spanish mountains. Their former owner was an alcoholic who left them to fend for themselves, resulting in them living on the streets of the local village desperately trying to find food.
It wasn’t long after we brought them to the sanctuary that we realized Rosa must be pregnant and that we would soon be inundated with baby piglets!
In the following months, she grew bigger and bigger and every day we waited for signs that she was going to pop. Just when we started to second guess ourselves and question whether all this extra weight was in fact the culprit of all the fresh fruit and veggies so generously donated to us by one of the local grocery stores, the nest building began.
These things are pretty precise with piggies and true to form, exactly 24 hours after nest building commenced, Rosa went into labor. We were out collecting the mail when we heard the first squeal and as we sprinted back to the nest we were greeted by the tiniest and most innocent little being we had ever had the pleasure to meet. Within minutes of leaving the womb this little piglet was cleaning itself off, moving to its mother’s head, touching noses, vocalizing and then suckling…and all thereafter followed suit.
Watch the piglets being born in this video below:
From the moment she saw them, Rosa was smitten and she hasn’t left their side since. The bond they have developed is impenetrable and every time the milk is flowing, she sings to the piglets and they all charge and wrestle to get their share. She is highly protective of her little ones and is frantic when one of them leaves her sight even for a moment. The other day one of the piglets squeezed under the fence and upon realizing it had no clue where it was or how to get back, it started squealing in panic. When Rosa heard its squeals she acted like any mother would and became increasingly distressed until they were reunited. Seeing them together free and happy warms my heart.
Being privileged enough to bear witness to this beautiful event got me thinking about the importance of animals being able to give birth in a natural environment and raise their own babies; a basic instinct and behavior that so many pigs (and other farm animals) are denied.
In factory farms, there is no warm welcome for piglets who are born into this world. Mother pigs spend the majority of their short lives confined in gestation crates, which is effectively a cage barely bigger than the pig herself, rendering her unable to turn around or comfortably lie down. It is here that she will give birth. Not outside in the woodland where she so desperately craves to be, but here on a concrete floor where she can only glance at her babies through the metal bars that stand in the way of them being able to affectionately nuzzle and communicate. The industry claims that these crates are used to prevent the mother from accidentally crushing her piglets, but in reality all it really comes down to is economy of space and profit. Rosa wasn’t confined to a gestation crate and Rosa never crushed her piglets.
There is also no nest building for pigs that are part of the production industry. As stated in a March 2004 article in the Des Moines Register, “A pregnant sow’s biological need to build a nest before having her litter is so great that some sows confined in modern hog buildings will rub their snouts raw on the concrete floor while trying to satisfy the drive.”
As if that isn’t enough to break your heart, soon after being born, piglets have their teeth clipped, tails cut off and are castrated all without pain relief. Then at only two-three weeks of age, the same age our precious piglets are now, they are taken from their mothers and placed into small crowded enclosures where they will live afraid and confused for 4-6 months, at which time they are sent for slaughter…and the entire process starts again.
Unfortunately, it’s not a happily ever after for most piglets, but we must look at stories like Rosa’s and her babies and use them to model a better more kind world for animals. Surely nobody could ever look into the eyes of these little baby piglets and ever want them to come to any harm…