Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Exceptionally Lucky

Monty and Amy

The weekend before last there was an ice storm, so no sanctuary visit. It is only January and already I have missed a week!

This past weekend the weather was chilly but still nice. We have a couple new regulars on Saturdays now. One is young man, Eric, who went vegan just a few months ago, after seeing Forks Over Knives. It’s always interesting to pick the brains of people who are new vegans, and to see the various influences that led them to veganism.

Eric, taking a quick break in the pig yard

He was talking a bit last weekend about his transition, which was about as abrupt as possible. He went to see Forks Over Knives as an omni, and while he was in the theater watching the documentary, he basically said to himself, “well, that’s it, you’re going vegan.” And he did.

Hearing stories like this always makes me wonder how it is that there are people like Eric (who is into weight-lifting, and had been “the biggest meat eater” by his own description, prior to going vegan) who make that connection at lightning speed and change their life to realign with their new-found convictions, where I can only assume that the vast majority of people sitting in that room with him either didn’t make the same connections, or simply didn’t have it in them to act on it, despite being presented with the same information and images. What makes the difference between those who act and those who don’t?

Well, that’s the eternal question, I suppose. And it likely has to do with the entire tapestry of their lives, rather than the one snapshot in time. Which leads me to the related question: what made Eric, and the others in that room, choose to watch a documentary that they must have known would present them with information that could have a strong impact, strong enough to convince them to make major changes? Or am I wrong about that? Do people think about that before watching documentaries? Maybe that is just me.

The other new regular is a long-time supporter and (occasional) volunteer of the sanctuary, who recently decided to make his volunteering a regular thing. He also happens to be a world-famous author, who writes about pleasure in the lives of animals – Jonathan Balcombe. I’ve enjoyed his books and always enjoy talking to him when I see him at the sanctuary, so I know it will be fun to hear some of his observations of the animals as we do chores, especially as he gets to know them more as the weeks go by.

Jonathan and Lenny

Marius is the king of the hill in the goat yard, but in my experience he’s really sweet to the humans in his area, even as he chases upstart goats around. Contrast this to Lenny and Jeremy, who seem to think that we are goats, and who we’ve learned to not turn our backs on! We often have to put them in one of the stalls while we clean the yard.

Bad boys! But Marius, when he’s not sweet-talking the girl goats, will do his best to get his share of attention from us. Last week I happened to capture a couple shots as he approached Amy.

The Approach...

It reminded me of how our dogs and cats will act, moving so that the conveniently free hand dangling at the side of the human just happens to end up right on their head or neck or back, and the human typically will start petting them. That’s exactly what Marius did, and of course it worked like a charm.


Hamlet did his usual “come pet me” grunt as we were emptying our buckets from the horse barn into the spreader.

Hamlet and Amy

Hamlet is such an interesting case, because he’s – I hate to say it – the ugliest pig you have ever seen. He has weird flaky dry skin, and this funky hair that goes in all directions at once and seems to trap just about everything imaginable in it. (Last weekend it was food pellets in addition to the usual hay and grass!) He tends to be off doing his own thing, and doesn’t really come up and ask for attention…until we’re out of the pig yard. He knows that we’ll be emptying the muck buckets from the horse barn into the spreader right near the pig yard, so he’ll go and wait and get attention then. Perhaps he likes that there will be no other pigs around to compete with for attention.

For whatever the reason, I think many of us have a soft spot in our hearts for this particular pig, who is so ugly he comes right back around to being cute. Two different people independent of each other (as far as I know) have come to the sanctuary to visit with the animals and to choose who to sponsor, and have ended up sponsoring Hamlet specifically because he looks so ugly! I thought I’d told his full story in an earlier post, but now I can’t find it. Figures!

The short version is that he was bought to be killed for a pig roast, but that particular year there was a delay between when they brought the pig home and when they were to kill him…and in those few days, with Hamlet following the people around like a dog, they decided to release him to Poplar Spring instead of killing him. The wife of the couple came to PSAS periodically to visit Hamlet for a few years, and always insisted that Hamlet was different, that he was special, that he (and he alone) had “deserved” to be saved from being killed.

Essentially he’s the last pig you’d really expect someone to put the hat of exceptionalism on, and yet the people who bought him did exactly that.

Whatever this blog accomplishes (and I’m never sure exactly what it might accomplish), I hope that it shows people that these animals have individual personalities. They are not machines, they are not automatons, they are not commodities, and they are not products. They are individuals, and they have their own likes and dislikes, their own wants and joys and disappointments, they have all the idiosyncrasies that comes along with being an individual.

And yet, they are not exceptional. They aren’t the chosen few who “deserve” to be rescued while the rest “deserve” to die. These rescued residents are all just like the billions who are not as lucky. All of those billions “deserved” to be rescued, they all have lives they want to live, they are all individuals, and they all want the same thing as we do – to live, free of harm, free of exploitation. At sanctuaries, we meet those lucky and rare rescued few. We meet those few we’ll ever be lucky enough to get to know.


10 responses to “Exceptionally Lucky

  1. ☼Illuminary☼ January 31, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    The parallels I could draw…
    Humans are such strange animals are they not?

    • Deb February 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      That’s a good point, I was focused entirely on the non-human animals when I wrote this, but it’s really a lot more universal than that!

      Yes, humans *are* strange animals!

  2. Sandra February 1, 2012 at 1:47 am

    Oh, the story of Hamlet is so touching! How could anyone eat a wonderful pig like him?

    The further I stay away from meat, the better I feel about my decision.

    • Deb February 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      I think his story shows that if people saw them as individuals, they wouldn’t eat them. Or maybe I’m being naive. Yet there are so many stories of farmers getting to know a random individual, and not being able to send them to slaughter. In the Animal Ag curriculum, the students are told, explicitly, that they should never name the animals, never get attached.

      Glad you are feeling good about staying away from meat! The animals certainly thank you!

  3. Nancy February 1, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Pulchritude is a subjective matter, while I know you care for the nonhuman animals here and in general, I do not think you would be expressing your reactions to their “ugliness” like you have here for Hamlet. He is beautiful to me.

  4. Provoked February 6, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I know what is not beautiful – and it’s that horrible notch on Timmy’s ear! Of course no fault of his – It’s the ugly in the situation humans have made. Sad…

    But the good stuff certainly has to be Monty, Hamlet and Marius and the good two legged animals that are lucky to share time with them! Eric’s story in particular is the best part of this post. With such a constant uphill climb… We need these moments of validation and hope. Thank you.

  5. mindy February 7, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Great post. That picture of Lenny cracks me up.
    I wish I lived close enough to a sanctuary to volunteer! What fun you must have!! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Deb February 17, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      Lenny cracks us all up! He’s a trouble-maker, but in a way that makes us smile, usually. Glad you enjoy the sanctuary stories. I feel very lucky to live so close to a sanctuary. Maybe someday one will open near you too! Seems like I’m learning about new (or new-to-me) sanctuaries all the time.

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