On February 20, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary in Mehoopany, Pennsylvania got a call about a piglet in need of a home. A week earlier, a humane police officer had responded to a citizen complaint about a situation of extreme animal neglect: two emaciated piglets who were being raised for “backyard meat” had been languishing for months in an uninsulated, outdoor pen during one of the harshest winters in decades. Night after night for weeks on end the two piglet brothers huddled together through sub-zero temperatures, whipping winds, and blistering blizzards. With no straw or bedding in their exposed pen, they were forced to lie in ice and freezing mud.
By the time the humane police were notified of this situation, one of the piglets had already died and the other was near death’s door. The responding officer visited the residence and was able to persuade the owner to surrender the listless and critically ill piglet for urgent veterinary treatment and rehoming.
Jeremiah, as the young pig would come to be called, spent the next few hours being treated by a veterinarian who, despite his best efforts, did not believe the little piglet would pull through. In addition to having spent all winter in freezing temperatures without any bedding or protection against the cold, Jeremiah had been nearly starved to death. He was suffering from numerous critical conditions, including extreme anemia, and a long term case of untreated pneumonia that left his airways so severely scarred, blood spewed from his nose non-stop as he struggled to breathe. His body was covered in bruises and ulcers from being forced to constantly lie in ice, snow, mud, and his own urine and feces; his muscles had atrophied so badly that he could no longer walk.
Indra Lahiri, the founder of Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, has written poignantly of Jeremiah’s first night there: “Wiping tears away that first night, I approached him with a bowl of fresh water. Our eyes met, his holding a spark of gratitude and trust. He sucked down the water thirstily, ate as much as his strength would allow, and allowed us to help him into a soft bed of hay. We piled blankets on top of him and slipped a soft pillow under his head, then just sat with him as he fell into a deep sleep, grunting contentedly.”
For the first couple of weeks at sanctuary, Jeremiah could do little more than lie in his warm bed, but he relished the care and attention he received, welcoming affection with full trust despite the mistreatment and abuse he had previously known at human hands. Though he still could not walk, his pneumonia cleared up, his spirit brightened, and he communicated enthusiastically with his caretakers. The sanctuary cats soon discovered Jeremiah’s cozy nest and decided the piglet was the perfect snuggling companion.
Then on March 8, just a little over two weeks after his arrival at Indraloka, the little pig with a prognosis of long-term mobility issues stood and began to walk. It is difficult to imagine the hopeless hell out of which he has finally stepped in order to enter his new life, but he does so with gratitude, determination, and great joy. It is almost as if he has made it his task to fulfill the promise of his name: Jeremiah, which means “lifted up by love.”
While Jeremiah was rescued from a living nightmare, the truth is that life for nearly all pigs raised for meat begins in extreme cruelty. On small farms, factory farms, and so-called humane farms alike, virtually all piglets are subjected to excruciating mutilations without anesthesia or pain relief. “Processing piglets” typically includes at least one, and frequently all, of the following abuses: cutting off piglets’ tails, cutting out their testicles, tearing notches of flesh out of their ears, and breaking off portions of their teeth. These torturous procedures are all legal. To learn more, please see our feature, Bacon: A Day in the Life.