Here Piggy, Piggy!
I was about 11 or 12, it was summer break and it was my turn to stay at our aunt and uncle's farm for a couple of weeks. Our family was from the 'big city' and it was super fun to spend time with my relatives and animals in the barnyard.
I recall the day vividly as if it were yesterday. Upon my arrival to the farm on a hot and sunny prairie day, I ran directly to the barn where my cousin was doing chores. I immediately noticed a young pig was on his own in a small stall. I asked my cousin why he was there and he shared, "A big sow bit him badly on the leg and I'm trying to get him healthy." I asked if I could start feeding him and give him his daily medicine. My cousin agreed and I quickly set off to mix the finest 'oat slop' for his meals at the granary next door.
I decided to call him, Piggy (yeah, so creative) and began feeding him along with several 'check-up' visits throughout the day. Within a few days he improved to the point where, although he had a limp, he was healthy enough to be with his family and friends in the field.
I really wanted to keep feeding him, so I made up a pail of his tasty slop, ran to pig field (rubber boots and all), jumped up on the barb-wired fence and called out, "Here Piggy, Piggy! Come, Piggy, Piggy!" I was not sure if he would respond, but to my surprise, he emerged from the large community of pigs running with a limp as fast as he could and sporting what seemed to be a big smile. He even made a sound that was different than snorting - it was like he was talking to me! I continued his daily, custom slop schedule and couldn't wait to see his big, sloppy smile every day.
Then, my summer vacation ended and it was time for me to go home. It was very difficult to say goodbye to my little Piggy.
I'm sure you have guessed by now what happened to Piggy. Although far from a happy ending to my story, it had a massive impact on my life. Unfortunately, at the time, I was young and like most of us, didn't connect my love for animals to my plate. However, years later I did choose a vegetarian (vegan) diet upon recalling my Piggy experience in the midst of reading John Robbin's eye-opening and compelling book, Diet for a New America. I've never looked back.
As I wrote this story, I realized again, how much that summer break relationship - albeit too short with Piggy - has influenced my choices today as the founder of Virchew. It fueled what has become a lifelong dedication to share all that I can about the power of plant-based foods, and kindness and equality for all - including all animals we share this planet with.
With that, here's our shout...ummm, snort out for fabulous PIGS!
Did you know that many people have this misconception that pigs are dirty animals? In fact, people insult others by calling them 'filthy pigs' and comparing messy homes or offices to a 'pig sty.' Truth is that pigs are very clean animals! In fact, they are so clean they can live indoors just like dogs and cats as loving companions.
With so many misconceptions about pigs, we want to share 8 awesome reasons to take these smart and fun animals off your plate and out of your dog's bowl!
Pigs are Uber-Smart & Have Great Memories
Scientists have determined that not only are pigs smart, they are smarter than dogs. (Seva, my border collie just did a head tilt! Whaaat?) They're also smarter than some primates and even 3-year-old children! Pigs are ranked as the fourth most intelligent creature on earth with some; being taught to play joystick-controlled video games, have abstract thought, use tools, recognize their own names, dream, and follow commands.
Pigs can use mirrors to locate food that is not directly visible, a task only a few other animals such as dolphins, elephants, and chimps, can accomplish. Pigs can be taught to sit, jump, fetch, and catch Frisbees.
They are Highly Social
Pigs are extremely social animals. They form close bonds with people and other animals, love contact with others and enjoy getting massages. Pigs show affection by grooming each other. They greet each other by rubbing noses (aww!) and enjoy hanging out together, sunbathing, playing and listening to music. Pigs love to sleep together in nests, cuddled up nose-to-nose. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle up to a pig?
Pigs are Playful
Pigs love to play - just like human children. Play is an important part of piglets’ social and cognitive development. Pigs like to chase each other, run around, play fight and wrestle and push balls around with their noses, all the while grunting and squeaking (which is piggy laughter). Pigs like toys and will use their imaginations to find a way to play with cardboard boxes, blankets, hay or whatever they find on their explorations. Like our children, pigs tend to get bored with the same toy quickly so it’s important to keep them stimulated with different play objects.
Oink! Oink! Let's Get Chatty
Pigs communicate constantly with each other and they do not just say oink. Pigs have a vocabulary of over twenty distinct oinks, grunts, snorts, snarls and squeaks that have specific meanings. They convey their intentions, how they are feeling, warnings, greetings, and when it is time for dinner. A mama pig has a special call to let her piglets know it’s time for dinner and mother pigs stay in close contact with their piglets through grunts and squeals. Newborn piglets learn to recognize their mothers’ voices and their mamas sing to them while nursing.
Pigs are Good Mamas
Pigs have a matriarchal family unit where piglets are cared for by female relatives. Pigs are good mothers and develop strong bonds and love for their children, just like human mothers do. In the wild, the mother pig builds a nest for her unborn babies in a place she thinks will be safe for them. Sometimes she will walk over 6 miles to find a suitable place and will give birth to her babies in this secluded area. The mother pig will stay with her piglets for about two weeks before returning to the herd where she will wean her babies and teach them how to survive. Mother pigs get anxious when they are separated from their babies and mourn when they are taken away.
Pigs have Big Personalities
Just like us, pigs have individual personalities with a wide range of traits and emotions. Some pigs are more playful than others, some are more serious, some are more daring and some are shyer. Some pigs seem to handle stress better than others who may suffer from depression. Pigs experience both positive and negative emotions and can feel happiness, sadness, grief, and pain. Pigs are aware of their suffering and losses.
In fact, pigs are highly sensitive animals and can become quickly bored, anxious, and depressed when confined to cramped spaces and mistreated. Pigs tend to be peaceful animals and only show aggression when they or their young are threatened. Pigs are curious, insightful, enthusiastic, and optimistic animals who like to be entertained and have fun.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes!
Pigs may not wear capes but they can be superheroes when they need to be. There are many stories of pigs who have faced danger and jumped in to save the day. Pigs have been reported to have saved humans and other animals from drowning, fires, and intruders. One pig flagged down a passing car to help her human companion who was having a heart attack!
Born with Compassionate Hearts
Pigs are compassionate animals who show distress when they see another animal or human suffering. They are also forgiving as anyone who has ever visited a farm sanctuary knows. After being severely abused, rescued pigs learn to trust again and seem to not hold grudges.
Around the Lower Mainland and British Columbia are animal sanctuaries dedicated to our piggy friends. Here are three worth checking out:
This blog post on amazing piggies would not be complete without a huge shout-out to Esther the Wonder Pig. As a 4-pound piglet, Esther was purchased by a loving couple - Derek and Steve - who thought a micro-pig would make their family complete. Unbeknownst to them, Esther was not a micro-pig and grew and grew until she hit 600-pounds! Her 'dads' have; documented their life with Esther on social media, immortalized her in a New York Times best-selling book, and built an international community of awareness that has millions seeing 'pigs as pets' and not as 'pigs on our plates.'
Virchew invites you to consider not only keeping pigs off your plates and out of your dog's bowl, but also sharing the love by supporting the above rescue sanctuaries with visits, volunteering, and donations to continue their amazing work!
Lastly, let's talk bacon jokes. We can all make a difference by not liking, forwarding or laughing at bacon jokes. Bacon comes from pigs - smart, fun, nurturing, loving, pigs. When we educate ourselves and our friends by sharing stories like Esther's or the facts in this blog, we are the change. We are the voice for the voiceless.
Want to dish up delicious bacon-free breakfast and dinner options for yourself and family? Try these food options that are available through Greater Vancouver's own, Vegan Supply! And, of course, if you want to give Virchew a try for your doggo, fetch a FREE Sample here.