Running, leaping and bounding through our pastures with wild abandon, this incredibly cute little bundle of energy moves faster than a speeding bullet, propelled forward by the joy of being young and free to experience her very first spring outdoors. Life for Fiona, however, hasn’t always been so sunny; in fact, her past couldn’t have been any bleaker.
Rescued from certain death on a factory hog farm along with another small piglet, Fiona had endured much abuse by the time she came to us at just under two weeks of age, as she had already been cruelly tail-docked without anesthesia and ripped from her mother’s side to be primed for the commercial food chain. Like countless other piglets who are to be raised for pork, she and her friend were destined for a crowded concrete pen where they would be fattened up for about six months and then slaughtered before they even had a chance to mature. However, not all piglets actually end up fitting into the industry’s plan, and the cruelty they endure at the hands of agribusiness takes other forms.
As pork producers push harder and harder to usher pigs through the system more quickly, more and more babies are becoming ill and malnourished from being weaned off their mothers’ milk and forced to fend for themselves at a much younger age. In fact, there is currently an approximately 20 percent mortality rate for piglets per litter. Written off as acceptable losses by farmers, who also breed sows to give birth to unnaturally large litters, the piglets who become sick are typically culled — often by being violently killed, or simply left to die without receiving individualized veterinary care. Such was the case with Fiona and her companion, who came to us in such poor condition that we feared they wouldn’t be able to survive.
As such, we took both piglets to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals when they first entered into our care and it was here that, sadly, the little boy piglet we never even had a chance to name passed away within hours from severe bronchial pneumonia and abscesses that had spread over 90 percent of his tiny lungs. Though underweight and weak, Fiona, to our great relief, was able to come home with us the same day, and after being treated with a round of strong, broad-spectrum antibiotics for two weeks, turned into a much healthier piglet with a hearty appetite.
Under natural circumstances, piglets are dependent on their mothers’ milk for their first three months, and look to their mothers for comfort and guidance for an even longer period of time throughout childhood. Having been brought into the world by a callous industry that has no regard for the animals it exploits, Fiona was therefore understandably terrified at losing her last familiar porcine companion and being left on her own. Though she was now in loving hands, she would flee to a corner of her stall to hide from us in fear when we first brought her home. But as we offered her warm bowls of milk replacer and food mash combined with gentle pets and soothing words, she soon settled in and allowed us to shower her with love.