Copyright (C) Pacific Publishing Company
Originally published in City Living Seattle, Sept. 14, 2011
By Christie Lagally
“Any plans for the weekend?” my coworker asked.
“Yes, I’m visiting a pig sanctuary,” I said emphatically. My co-worker’s face displayed curiosity and confusion.
“Why do pigs need a sanctuary?” he asked. I said I’d find out.
Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Stanwood, Wash., is a picturesque meadow farm providing a permanent home for all breeds of rescued pigs. For 17 years, caretaker and Sanctuary founder Judy Woods has maintained and cared for her charges. My husband and I visited Woods on a quiet Sunday afternoon in August.
The first two pigs we met were a cross-section of the Sanctuary’s population. Ziggy, a 9-month-old pink Yorkshire pig was brought to the farm sporting only three legs but a great attitude about life.
Ziggy was enjoying her private water pond when we arrived, and she hopped up to get her head scratched. She shares her hut with the most recent sanctuary arrival, Boris, a potbellied pig who was victim of blatant neglect in his previous home, leaving him nearly blind and unable to walk.
Woods explained his recovery would take time and extensive medical care, but she had seen this happen before. Each of the 191 sanctuary pigs has a special and often-difficult story.
Many of the residents are former pet pigs, those sold from pet stores or breeders marketing potbellied pigs as “perfect household pets.” These animals are frequently abandoned, abused or neglected when an apparently unsuspecting individual purchases a piglet and soon discovers they live with a pig who can tear down wallpaper and requires frequent attention, care, exercise and feeding for the next 18 years.
But it’s not just pet pigs that find sanctuary here. Pigs Peace is also a permanent home to pigs used for medical research, taken from horrible conditions on factory farms or cast off from the entertainment industry.
The flip side of these sad stories is that Woods and supporters of Pigs Peace have made it possible for the animals to live their lives as happy pigs. Each of the pigs has specific piggy friends. Pigs, on a warm summer night, will forgo their cozy, hay-filled barn to camp in the meadow and actually build a small hut for the party.
“If people feel the work we do is important, we need them to support the Sanctuary,” said Woods, who works on fund-raising and updates Facebook daily to keep the public informed on the pigs. (Pigs Peace is hosting a “Walk for the Animals” on Saturday, Sept. 17, around Seattle’s Green Lake to support the Sanctuary. More information is on-line at pigspeace.org.)
A young couple from Issaquah was also visiting that day. Heather Faoro and her husband said they have always liked pigs, but this was their first opportunity to visit a pig sanctuary.
And while the couple doesn’t claim to be vegetarian, Faoro said that she and her husband don’t eat pigs.
“It’s hard to bond with these animals and not make that shift,” Faoro said of their decision to stop eating pork.
While a visit with the Pigs Peace residents leaves you pondering the ethics of meat consumption, the organization provides a workable solution to this quandary.
In the heart of Seattle’s University District is an upscale vegan grocery called Sidecar for Pigs Peace. Store manager Doh Driver and her team of volunteer store keepers operate the colorfully displayed grocery offering a wide variety of foodstuffs, including high-quality mock meats, vegan marshmallows and even vegan cat and dog food.
Driver says some of the most popular items include a cheese substitute out of Scotland called “Sheese,” and vegan corndogs, a customer favorite.
A happy life
As the sun was setting on our Sunday evening visit to Pigs Peace Sanctuary, Ziggy came out to say goodbye. She had been eating carrots with a fellow pig and was rooting through the grass for the pieces.
My husband, Eric, stooped down to scratch her stomach when I witnessed the most potent moment of the evening. While Eric scratched, Ziggy slowly closed her eyes, and the edges of her long snout-covered mouth tipped decidedly upward in an unmistakable smile of deep contentment.
While I knew almost nothing of pigs, in that moment, Ziggy told me so much about the beautiful nature of these animals, and the reason we need a sanctuary for pigs.
CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions at http://www.sniffingouthome.org.