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The Rock-itt : April 2012
Reasons- reason-n argument, motive, cause, or justification, intellectual faculty by which conclusions are drawn from premises. plural reasons On the 23rd of September, 2005, a forlorn looking sow with a look of distrust in her eye arrived at Edgar's Mission. She arrived in the back of a trailer driven by the pig farmer who had used her as a breeding sow. Up until that point in tim e she had only been known by a number. I nam ed her Alice, she was tragically beautiful and I instantly fell in love with her. As soon as her four trotters found terra firma she plunged her snout down and grabbed huge tufts of green grass, turned her head skyward and savoured the succulent juice like it was the most delicious thing in the world. And to her it no doubt was. This poignant mom ent when for the first time in the life of this intelligent and emotional creature she had the opportunity to see and do som ething so natural was not lost on all present including the farmer who stood agog and in amazement said "wow, that's the first tim e she has seen grass". "All things are possible until they are proved impossible - and even the impossible may only be so as of now." - Pearl S. Buck Alice, I was to learn, was about five years old and she had been a piglet making machine for her entire life, save the months prior to her sexual maturity. Her world, I believe, existed of metal bars, concreted floors, and the rations necessary to sustain life. No sunlight to bask under, wallow to splash about in or environm ent to explore, these would remain an impossible dream. She would produce 2.4 litters of piglets each year and they would be weaned off her at approximately 3 weeks of age, and I truly believe she would love and miss them. At around 4-5 years of age, like all breeding sows, her 'productivity' was in decline and a one way ticket for her servitude would be in order. But Alice was a lucky pig, her 'get out of jail' card came when she was plucked from the obscurity of the factory farm to play the m other of Wilbur in the Paramount Pictures portrayal of E B White's classic book Charlotte's W eb. Charlotte's W eb indeed saved the lives of many more pigs than the movies star's. While Paramount Pictures, ably assisted by Animals Australia, secured loving and lifelong homes for the 42 little piglets that played Wilbur, the m ovie took pigs into the hearts, homes and minds of people everywhere. But finding a suitable home for the sow would be a challenge. We felt up for just that. Unlike all the cute little piglets who had known little other than human kindness, Alice was a 200kg plus adult pig who had barely taken more than a few steps in her entire life, had never seen sunlight or smelt fresh air. Her body was stiff from getting up and down on the barren hard floor, the m any scratches on her sides showed the legacy of this, and her interactions with humans had always been driven by human wants not hers. She would run from me when I entered her pen and she showed little interest in the world around her. In fact, when I first met Alice I knew it would take some work for me to earn her trust - the look in her eye said hers was a world without hope. And so I began to give her reasons to live. The first came with introducing her to the wondrous world of gastronomic delights far removed from the bland diet afforded comm ercial pigs. Deliciously sweet smelling pig mash, apples, carrots, kiwi fruits, mangoes, pears, grapes, fruit buns and wheetbix, were all offered and she would just sniff at them, unsure of what to make of their inviting scents. But boy she did love grass, and so when she had eaten all the grass in her pen I would head out each day and cut her bucketfuls. I would even carry a bucket in the car and stop along the roadside and cut long grass whenever I saw it. It was no accident that four of the porcine stars of Charlotte's Web were to find sanctuary at Edgar's Mission. E B White's tale of Wilbur and his barn yard friends is the classic tale of loyalty, trust and sacrifice, all qualities those of us in the animal protection movement know well. When word got out that W ilbur's day were numbered his friends who had come to know him as a terrific and radiant pig realised that it would take a miracle to save him, and it was Charlotte, an unlikely spider who saw miracles in the ordinary that made this possible and in doing so convinced the farmer that W ilbur was indeed some pig and worth saving. www.edgarsmission.org.au By Pam Ahern