When park rangers found Winston, he was wandering alone down College Point Boulevard in Queens, New York. Farm animal sightings are more common in Queens than you might expect. Every year hundreds of animals are shipped to the area’s live markets.
In live slaughter markets, which often deal in factory farm castoffs, animals may spend many days in cramped pens or cages until customers purchase them. Once selected, they are grabbed, hung by their feet, killed with a knife-slash to the throat (typically while fully conscious), butchered, packaged, and sold. Animals are often transported from states as far as Texas and Oklahoma to New York City, adding exhaustion, dehydration, and the stress of transport — often in extreme weather conditions — to their bleak lives. No wonder animals do their best to flee. With both storefront slaughterhouses and urban animal farming on the rise, New York City has experienced a spike in stray farm animals in recent years. In the past decade alone, Farm Sanctuary has rescued more than 500 animals from the city.
Where Winton’s journey began is a bit of a mystery. He had not been subjected to tail-docking, a prevalent industry practice in which piglets’ tails are cut off, without the use of anesthetics, to prevent other pigs from pulling or gnawing on them — behaviors provoked by the intense stress and boredom rampant in overcrowded pork factories. Winston is, however, a Pietrain, a breed popular in industrial pork production. Whatever his exact origins, he was certainly headed to an early death before he made his getaway.
The NYC Urban Park Rangers who brought him to Brooklyn Animal Care and Control know just where to call when a farm animal crosses their threshold. As soon as we received word from them, a team was dispatched to Brooklyn to bring the piglet home to our New York Shelter.
Winston, worn out from the ordeal of transport, captivity, and escape, slept for most of the trip. Welcoming the weary traveler at 3:00 a.m., caregivers settled him in a private stall in our sheep barn, where he will live until he is ready to join our other pigs.
On his first day at the shelter, Winston was skittish and didn’t want to be touched — which is understandable, considering the rush of activity and the likelihood that he was subject to callous treatment before his rescue. He quickly realized, though, that he was in a different sort of place, altogether, and he is now feeling right at home. Winston likes to burrow into a nest of straw and then come exploding out of it as soon as he hears a visitor, eager to investigate. He is fascinated by the sheep and snuffles the slats of his pen in an attempt to get to know them better. Taken by their new neighbor, the sheep respond by playfully head-butting the fence, which gets Winston so excited he spins around in circles making happy hooting noises.
Although he is still shy, Winston (named by readers of the New York Times’ New York Today blog, which ran a story on him) warms to visitors after a brief acquaintance. Despite the fear and danger he must have known, he is one very happy, active pig, ready to take his new life by storm.