On a warm Sunday afternoon in October, Lily the pig lies flat on her side, eyes closed, snaggletooth poking out from a wide, peaceful grin. The enormous fans trained on the bevy of sows combat the heat and ruffle their short, wiry hair. Lily grumbles just a little when the pig leaning on her back shifts position, but soon settles down again, snorting into the hay. Lost in daydreams, she doesn’t so much as twitch when I reach out to tickle her wrinkly pink neck.
Lily may seem like a porcine pacifist, but her snaggle-toothed grin hints at a secret past of intrigue and rebellion. As a youngster, she jumped off the back of a truck headed to a slaughterhouse and literally saved her own life. A car behind the truck screeched to a stop and brought the pig to what they thought was safety at a farm. But when they heard word that Lily was indeed being fattened for slaughter, she was rescued once again and transferred to another 300-acre farm in northern California.
A Farm Sanctuary, that is.
The Farm Sanctuary, founded in 1986, strives “to combat the abuses of industrialized farming and to encourage a new awareness and understanding about farm animals.” Its founders began by visiting farms, stockyards and slaughterhouses, where they found many animals that had been left for dead. Since their inception, the Sanctuaries in California and New York have rescued thousands of animals, placed many in homes across the United States, and educated millions of people about their plight.
Fall sunshine pours into the pig barn at Orland’s Farm Sanctuary, where I have come to visit for a couple of hours. Grassland stretches for acres in every direction and troupes of feral sheep march in formation over a distant hill and out of sight. Turkeys chortle. Sheep bleat. A cow moos softly and rather nonchalantly. It’s tempting to secure a pile of hay. And. Just. Drift. Off.
But while the pig before me has earned her right to peaceful napping, I can’t say that I have done anything so momentous as to jump off the back of an overcrowded, moving truck to save my own hide. And I can’t sleep just yet because I am lucky enough to be offered a private tour by an employee who somehow knows the personal story of nearly every animal on the farm.