Promoting peace for pigs

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2005:

STANWOOD, Washington– The very name of the Pigs Peace
sanctuary seems to express an impossible dream.
Founder Judy Woods, 50, admits that. She works small, on
34 acres, but dreams big, understanding that her first mission is
not rescue but education. Saving the lives of the 100-odd resident
animals enables her to teach appreciation of their species. Most
common domestic species are represented, but the emphasis is on
pigs– though Woods is also quick to introduce and discuss the
virtues of chickens, turkeys, dogs, horses, goats, and feral
cats, among many others who often as not wander up and compete for
her attention.
Pigs are by nature a peaceable lot, content to eat garbage
and sleep in mud on warm days. But few pigs enjoy much peace.
Globally, 864 million pigs per year are killed for human
consumption, 133 million of them in the U.S. Most are raised in
stress-inducing close confinement.
Harold Gonyou of the Prairie Swine Center in Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan, Canada, in late January 2005 told the Manitoba Swine
Seminar in Winnipeg about progress toward improving factory-farmed
pigs’ quality of life.

“We’ve been looking at how sows fit in different sizes of
stalls,” Gonyou said, according to Farmscape Online, published by
Saskatchewan Pork and the Manitoba Pork Council.
“Right now we’re looking at the incidence that the sow is
lying on her side, and whether or not her udder then protrudes into
the next stall,” Gonyou explained. “That exposes it to trampling by
the sow next door, so we think that is perhaps an indicator that we
can use in terms of a stall being wide enough. We’re finding that
the larger sows are protruding into the next stall, very often
80-90% of the time, so we have to look at expanding the size of the
Animal advocates have been pointing this out since the late
Ruth Harrison published Animal Machines in 1964, at least.
Where pigs are not commonly factory-farmed and eaten, as in
much of the Islamic world, they tend to be reviled as “unclean”–
and, if they run free, are usually hunted, as in the parts of the
U.S. and Europe which have either wild or feral pigs. Where
free-roaming pigs thrive despite sport hunting, they are often
exterminated as allegedly “invasive.”
The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service, for
example, continuing a 35-year war on feral pigs, on January 27,
2005 announced that they will jointly spend $5 million to try to kill
all 2,000 pigs remaining on Santa Cruz Island within the next 18
months. $3.9 million of that amount will be paid to ProHunt New
Zealand Ltd., a company which specializes in shooting feral animals.
The shooting is to start in March or April. The dead pigs
are to be left where they drop. The Nature Conservancy and the
National Park Service contend that the endangered Channel Islands fox
has been hunted to the verge of extinction by golden eagles who prey
upon piglets. But as ANIMAL PEOPLE pointed out in May 1999, eagles
and foxes are both carrion feeders. The Channel Islands eagle and
fox populations boomed together, coinciding with past massacres of
sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle, who were left where they fell.
When the carrion ran scarce, the eagles added foxes to the menu.
In India, pigs are eaten only by the lowest Hindu castes,
“tribals,” and the tiny Christian minority. Pigs are rarely either
factory farmed or hunted. But India is scarcely “hog heaven.” As
the Indian street dog population declines through the success of the
national Animal Birth Control Program, street pigs are expanding
their territory, sometimes encouraged by urban pig farmers, and are
now sporadically killed as a public nuisance.
Failing to learn from experience with dogs that mass killing
only opens up habitat, encouraging faster reproduction, the city
council in Davangere, Karnataka in late 2004 poisoned more than
1,000 pigs. But pigs breed even faster than dogs. After pigs bit
three children on February 1, the city council renewed the
poisoning, and this time killed 2,000.

Beginning the mission

Woods already had a nursing career and a busy life as a
single mother of two then-teenaged boys when she started Pigs Peace.
Woods’ youngest son, Nathan Stewart, 22, grew up assisting
her with animal rescues and with the sanctuary management. Moving on
in adulthood, he still visits often to lend a hand.
Continuing to covering much of the $75,000-$100,000 annual
expense of operating Pigs Peace from her nursing salary, Woods works
the night shift so that she can do her chores during the day.
Volunteers help on weekends, but on weekdays she is often alone.
“Feeding the animals takes about two hours,” Woods explains.
“I always do it, because during feeding time I can accurately assess
each animal.”
As at most sanctuaries, the Pigs Peace animal population is
constantly changing. Woods encourages adoption–if the prospective
adopter has appropriate facilities, animal experience, and
The Pigs Peace roster typically numbers about “75 pigs, 20
feral cats, six dogs, two llamas, assorted hens and roosters, three
ponies, a horse, and Tom the turkey,” according to Seattle
freelance writer and lifelong animal advocate Eileen Weintraub.
On the last day of 2004 Weintraub visited Pigs Peace with her
husband Mark Johnson, University of Washington law professor Kristen
Stilt, who volunteers for the Society to Protect Animal Rights in
The day was cold enough for snow, but Pigs Peace is too
close to Puget Sound, at too low an elevation, to get snow very
often. Pigs Peace had a significant snowfall at least once, though.
“During our last big storm of 2002 we had 10 inches of snow,”
Woods later wrote in the Pigs Peace newsletter. “How do short-legged
potbellied pigs get through snow deeper than their legs? Snowplow
services were provided to them by the bigger pigs. In no time flat
there were snow trails with pigs following each other single file to
the eating patio.”
A frequent participant in Pigs Peace work bees, Weintraub
documented many of Woods’ most memorable rescues.
“Judy became educated about farm animals when she acquired
and fell in love with a second-hand piglet named Fern,” Weintraub
recounted in February 2003 for the Seattle New Times.
“The sanctuary began when Woods learned that the potbellied
pig fad,” peaking in the early 1990s, “had a fallout. Wayward
pigs,” grown too big to live comfortably indoors, and inclined to
dig up yards and demolish furnishings, “were not accepted into
animal shelters because they were considered livestock.” Most were
sold for slaughter.
Around the U.S., dozens of other people started pig
sanctuaries, mostly with little background in sanctuary management
and nonprofit fundraising, typically at unsuitable rented premises.
Usually they accepted far more pigs than they could provide for, and
after several years their efforts collapsed.
By 2000, the directors of two surviving pig sanctuaries
separately told ANIMAL PEOPLE that most of the pigs they were
receiving came not one at a time from misguided individuals, but
dozens at a time, from would-be rescuers who had bailed out.
“Every day I get a call from someone who doesn’t want a pig,”
Woods wrote in her first newsletter, in 1998, four years after
taking in her first pig. “They don’t understand why I can’t allow
the sanctuary to become a convenient dumping ground. They don’t
understand why I have created the sanctuary.

Broader goal

“Last year 5,000 potbellied pigs went to slaughter,” Woods
continued. “There is not a single pig here who was not worth saving.
While it is not realistic to save all of the potbellied pigs in need,
I do know we can and do make a difference.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter M.L. Lyke wrote about her
further purpose in December 2002. “The one-time Seattle city kid,
whose grandfather was a butcher and whose father was a hunter,
became a vegetarian at age 15, after reading an editorial
challenging the hypocrisy of those who oppose clubbing seals but pay
no attention to the dead animals on their plates,” Lyke wrote.
Elaborated Woods, in her 2003 fifth sanctuary anniversary
newsletter, “We set out to create a quality lifetime home for
animals who are usually slaughtered at an early age. We also set out
to educate people of all walks of life about the nature of the pig.
We are committed to sharing our compassion and respect for all
animals for encouraging all who love animals to do the most profound
loving thing: don’t eat them.
“Many people have lived with puppies and kittens, dogs and
cats, and support shelters for them,” Woods continued. “Setting up
Pigs Peace, we were warned that we would get no support. People
don’t want to be exposed to the animals they eat, and will turn the
other way. I didn’t listen.”
Woods initially billed Pigs Peace as “A safe haven of love
for potbellied pigs,” but amended the description to, “A safe haven
of love for pigs and their friends” in 1999.
The transition to a broader mission was confirmed in March
2000, when Pigs Peace temporarily sheltered more than 1,000 hens
rescued from the collapse of Amberson’s Egg Ranch, at nearby Lake
Fined $21,000 by the Washington State Department of Ecology,
and under orders from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to
stop polluting tributaries to Lake Stevens within 10 days, egg ranch
owner Keith Amberson allegedly abandoned his flock for the first time
in February 1999. About 250 starving hens were evacuated by Susan
Michaels and Mark Steinway, cofounders of the Pasado’s Safe Haven
sanctuary in Sultan, Washington.
Amberson gassed another 20,000 hens with carbon monoxide,
and beat an attempted cruelty prosecution by contending that he left
the hens without food to induce a forced molt, a standard egg
production practice that simulates the effects of late winter on wild
birds, bringing on a new egg-laying cycle.
Thirteen months later Amberson left 50,000 hens to die. Most
of the survivors spent weeks or months at Pigs Peace before
recovering sufficient health to be placed through adoption or be
shared among other sanctuaries as far away as northern California.
This time Everett District Judge Tom Kelly fined Amberson $500,
ordered him to do 200 hours of community service, and barred him
from keeping animals for two years.
The Amberson Egg Ranch rescue was Pigs Peace’s biggest single
project to date, but pig rescues have produced more stories.
In 2001, for example, Woods accepted three pigs from a Loma
Linda University researcher.
“When they arrived,” Weintraub recalls, “they were hesitant
to come out of the trailer. They didn’t know how to eat real food,
had never seen trees or pigs in freedom, touched grass, or been
outside. They were even more divorced from normal behavior than pigs
from factory farms. The day they arrived, a good friend of the
sanctuary died,” longtime Northwest Animal Rights Network board
member Mitzi Leibst.
Leibst “dedicated her life to animal advocacy and fought
against the use of animals in research,” Weintraub recalled. “Two
of the three pigs were placed in homes, and the one who stayed,”
who had once suffered a broken spine, “was named in her honor. Now
Mitzi will come running when called. But she still exhibits classic
trauma behavior, affectionate one minute, shutting down with a look
of terror the next.
“Many residents of Pigs Peace have big personalities,”
Weintraub observed. “Many are former house pets, like George. One
day, George watched Nathan make a sandwich with ingredients from the
refrigerator. Now, whenever George gets into the house, he makes a
beeline for the fridge, opens the door, pulls open the vegetable
bin, and drags out the lettuce. Thankfully, only Oscar has learned
to open the gate leading to the courtyard around the house. The
other pigs line up behind him, and once naughty Oscar opens the gate,
they follow.
“Part of the fun around the sanctuary,” Weintraub continued,
“is watching the friendships that form among the pigs. They often
hang out in groups of three. Spud, Elissa, and Daisy often sleep
right next to each other in the barn. From a distance, you might
just notice a big pile of hay. As you get closer, out pop three
porcine heads.”
True enough–and elsewhere among the hay are other clusters
of pigs. On a cold day the whole hay storage area is a nest of pigs,
burrowed in deep to keep warm.
“But not all the pigs get along so well,” recalled
Weintraub. “Henry and Chloe were a tight pig couple. Then they had
a spat and refused to sleep in the same barn. Chloe started losing
weight. After six months, they reconciled; with domestic squabbles
over, Chloe regained the weight.”
One could say the pigs made peace.

[Contact Pigs Peace at P.O. Box 295, Stanwood, WA 98292;
360-629-6433 e-mail <>; web <>.]
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