There’s a wonderful quote, I’m sure you have all heard of it, that goes: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Like most people, I have had important teachers who have inspired and guided me, offering sage advice at just the right times in my life. However, my most important teachers have not been of the human kind. They have been animals, in all of their glorious shapes, sizes and sounds. But there is one who stands out like no other – the first pig.
The first pig I was ever fortunate enough to meet, and to whom I owe an eternal debt of gratitude for guiding me to just where I needed to be, was Edgar Alan Pig. At the time of our first meeting I was what I thought to be a committed animal advocate, leading what I considered to be a pretty good life. However, Edgar changed all that and so much more, as together we trotted down a path I could never have imagined, him stopping every now and then to smell the roses – something I really have to learn to do. Giving up my full-time paying job along with hanging up the boots of my successful equestrian career and saying farewell to ever having a normal life, it was because of my meeting with this first pig I was to meet many many more pigs. And cows and sheep and goats and chickens and ducks and turkeys, as I foundered Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary, currently located in the picturesque Macedon Ranges, just outside of the tiny township of Lancefield.
My story, similar to that of Bob Comis, a one-time pig farmer who had a change of heart, speaks to just what happens to your life in that moment of pure, unbridled honesty. When you give yourself over to looking into the eyes of a pig and there before you, staring right back at you, you see a living, breathing, feeling being who too is thinking. While I’m not exactly sure of what they’re thinking about, just as I can never really be sure what another human is thinking, I know with great certainty that they are thinking.
The thing that struck me most about Edgar was his amazing ability to just be; to enjoy the small treasures life offers, like the sunshine, a straw bed, a beautiful day, a treat that had previously gone undetected in his pasture and, of course, the muddy glory of his wallow.
I remember the day like it was yesterday, I was with Edgar in his stable rubbing that glorious tummy of his and what I had to do just came to me. You see, the transition from ‘normal’ life to sanctuary Founder and Director was not something I actually ever planned, the idea propagated, pretty much like Edgar did, until it got kicked into gear at that moment.
You know, people can tell you the fire is hot, but until you put your hand in you never really realise just how hot it is. This is so true too of the rich and emotional world of animals who simply just want to be. That’s all – they just want to be. Gosh, we humans really do have so much to learn from animals. I’m sure you’ve heard that pigs are smart, clever, clean and even comical, but until you meet one, you really do not know how much so. I can assure you that each and every one is a unique individual.
Edgar’s Mission, in providing sanctuary to rescued farmed animals in need, gives people the opportunity to meet these animals on the animals’ terms. For many it will be the first time they get to know pigs and all the animals whom are farmed for food and fibre. And for many this meeting with their first pig (cow, goat, sheep, chicken, turkey or duck) is indeed quite profound and life changing.
Sometimes in life our greatest teachers don’t stand at the front of the classroom nor pontificate from podiums before us, they belong to gentle voices coming from curious snouts tugging at our heart strings, guiding us to where we need to be.
Footnote to this story:
This piece is an edited version of my introduction delivered for the Australian Premiere of “The Last Pig”- which follows Bob Comis’ last year of free-range pig farming. From one time free-range pig farmer to vegetable farmer, his change of heart comes after the recognition that there is no such thing as “happy meat”.
You can learn more about this movie here: www.lastpig.com.
A note on the tile of The Last Pig. In his article, What Humane Slaughterhouses Don’t Solve: The Last Pig Problem, Comis explains the experience of the last pig left in the slaughterhouse pen. Pigs are extremely social animals and find comfort in their herd, their family. Those left alone in these pens have been known to repeatedly “chew on metal bars. They will try to climb whatever can be climbed. They will jam their snouts under the bottom rung of a gate over and over again and strain and struggle to lift it off of its hinges. They will smash themselves against the walls and gates again, repeatedly.” And so on. No matter how free range a pig may have lived nor how “humane” the slaughter method considered, for the last pig, their last moments are devastated by immense suffering.
Read his article here: www.thedodo.com/the-last-pig-459704635.html.