21st September 2005
On the 21st of September in 2005, Alice entered our lives. She arrived in the back of a trailer driven by the pig farming who had kept her. This one-time factory-farmed pig had recently become a movie star, playing the mother of Wilbur in the Paramount Pictures production of E. B. White’s classic “Charlotte’s Web”. Alice was to be allowed to retire in ‘wonderland’.
All Alice had ever known was confinement, save the hours she spent on the movie set. Tentatively she stood in her trailer and took a step out onto something so foreign to her, yet so natural for a pig: solid earth. The pig farmer uttered, “that’s the first time she’s eaten grass”. Alice sure knew what to do with it, the same as she knew the earth was for rooting and the straw was for making a bed in. Rashes and sores on her side and rear end said they had never known the softness of anything other than concrete. Her sagging teats spoke of many litters and that her commercial ‘use by date’ was nigh. It was clear that human kindness was something foreign to her.
In Australia the ‘Code of Practice’ allows pregnant pigs (sows) like Alice to be kept in tiny metal individual ‘sow stalls’ measuring 2m long by 60cm wide. This ‘code’ protects industry operators from being prosecuted for cruelty. Tragically, some 300,000 female breeding sows are kept inside sheds continually pregnant and severely confined, forced to stand or lie on hard floors. They can barely take a step forward or back. It is these animals who produce the piglets destined to become bacon, ham and pork products.
As a result, these gentle and intelligent creatures develop physical and psychological problems that see them “worn out” before their time. They are ‘rewarded’ for their efforts by being sent to slaughter. Female pigs in factory farms are treated as breeding machines, enduring a cycle of suffering and deprivation. These sow stalls have been banned in Britain for welfare reasons and there’s a partial ban in the European Union.
Sows are extremely maternal and they will spend many hours making a nest for their piglets. But sadly in factory farming mother pigs have nearly all of their natural instincts frustrated. Just prior to giving birth they are moved to ‘farrowing crates’, an even smaller area where their body is encircled by metal bars to even further limit their movement. With no straw for bedding, mother pigs must give birth to their piglets on a hard floor. Nurturing and interacting with her young is impossible as the cruel metal frame imprisons her. Her young are removed after 3 or 4 weeks, she is impregnated again, and the cycle of suffering and deprivation continues.
This was Alice’s life. Unlike her brethren whose first taste of sunshine will come on the way to the slaughterhouse when they are so lame, ill or “unproductive” that they are no longer capable of creating profit, Alice will live out her life happily at Edgar’s Mission – forwarding its mission.
And her name, Alice, is in honour of the American writer and civil rights activist Alice Walker. Like her namesake, Alice Pig will cause people to challenge and change popular thought: of what a pig’s lot in life should be.
On February 28th 2012, Alice Pig left this world to join her piggy friends Edgar and Daisy up in heaven. See our tribute to her below.