Introduction to The Pig Preserve
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
By Richard Hoyle, Director of The Pig Preserve
I have never written a blog before. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever read a blog before. I am an ”old guy” born in the 1940’s…so by definition I am a “low tech” guy trying to survive in a high tech world. I have been dragged kicking and screaming into 21st century technology. I am barely computer literate and 90% of the functions on my smart phone are totally beyond my ability to comprehend. My texting skills are somewhere around Neanderthal level. I don’t “tweet” and I’m not even sure what Snapchat and Instagram are. So, when Amy asked me to write a blog post, my anxiety level went up significantly. In years past I have had articles published on pigs and sanctuary issues. I even had an educational column for several years in a small newsletter for pet pig owners. The newsletter is long defunct and I’d like to think that my column did not contribute to its demise. Being of strong Irish blood on both sides of my family, I seldom find myself at a loss for words. The Irish gift of Blarney is strong in me. We Irish don’t know how to make a long story short. And, if you ask us the time, we will frequently wind up telling you how to build a clock. But Amy asked me to talk about pigs, sanctuaries, animal rights and veganism…all subjects dear to my heart…so I will take a shot at this “blog” thing. Whether it is a one-time shot or turns into something more ongoing is something that only you…the readers of the blog…will determine.
I’m sure there was a time in my life that didn’t revolve around pigs…but it has been so many years now that I can’t recall it. As best I can calculate, this year marks my 32nd year as a pig rescuer and sanctuary director. As I often tell people, my wife and I were rescuing and caring for abused, abandoned and unwanted pigs long before it was a cool and popular thing to do. I am thoroughly convinced that running a sanctuary for pigs is a previously undiagnosed form of mental illness. It is also alarmingly addictive.
Originally, in the early years, we took in only potbellied/miniature pigs…these intelligent, social, feisty, conniving and often devious little creatures are hard not to fall in love with. But once we took in our first two farm pigs, we fell in love with the “gentle giants” and knew that they would forever more be the primary focus of our rescue work. Adding feral pigs (often inaccurately referred to as “wild boars”) to our growing porcine family seemed like a natural progression for us and we soon grew to love them as well for their uniqueness, their tremendous love of freedom and independence and their unbelievably strong ties to their family members and herd mates.
The Pig Preserve that we now operate in the mountains of Middle Tennessee is actually our third sanctuary since we began this long journey in Northern Virginia back in the late 1980’s. In future blog posts (if there are any) I will share with you the stories of how we went from a backyard 1 ½ -acre rescue to the largest pig sanctuary in the United States.
For those of you unfamiliar with The Pig Preserve, we are a 100-acre sanctuary that accepts only pigs…pigs of all breeds. Unlike more traditional farm animal sanctuaries, The Pig Preserve was created to allow the pigs living here to live their lives in a setting that closely approximates the way that the pigs would live in nature. Instead of being confined to pens, barns and tiny pastures, the pigs here are free to roam the entire sanctuary each and every day…pretty much unconfined except for the sanctuary’s perimeter fence.
Pigs are highly evolved social creatures and they are, by nature, nomadic animals…often roaming many acres each day as they graze, forage for food and socialize with the other pigs in their family group. Traditional sanctuaries are, for the most part, unable to provide this valuable gift of freedom to the pigs in their care for a variety of reasons. Pigs kept in relative confinement and arbitrarily forced to live with other pigs not of their choosing often results in the pigs becoming bored/sedentary and/or emotionally stressed. All too frequently, we see pigs forced to live in these conditions exhibiting signs of destructive or aggressive behavior.
The Pig Preserve offers the pigs a hilly, rolling landscape with large heavily wooded areas, many acres of lush pasture and four spring-fed ponds along with numerous springs and streams. As the pigs form social groups of their own choosing, barns and shelters are provided for each social group in whatever area of the sanctuary they seem to prefer. The pigs are free to choose their own daily routines. At last count we had 25 different barns/shelters scattered around the sanctuary.
The residents of the sanctuary are a mixture of miniature pigs, farm pigs and feral pigs…all coexisting comfortably together. Size and breed differences don’t seem to matter much to pigs. Our smallest pig is Luna Rose…a two-week old farm piglet rescued from the cull bucket of a factory farm. Our largest pigs are 1200-1500 pound giants like Bobbie, Big Boy, Abbie Christopher and Pineapple…all large, full grown farm pigs. The ages of our pigs vary from newborns like Luna Rose to a number of elderly pigs in their late teens and early 20’s. Our pigs come from a host of states…some from as far away as Washington, Iowa, New England, Florida, and Texas. Being a responsible sanctuary…all of our males are neutered prior to arrival and the vast majority of your female pigs are spayed. We are a sanctuary…not a breeding facility.
Our pigs are fed a special, locally milled feed of our own creation. It consists of a mixture of grains (corn, wheat, oats, barley, soy beans) mixed with vegetable oil and molasses. We also add diatomaceous earth to our feed, which serves as a natural wormer and which helps keep our pigs parasite free without the use of harsh chemicals. One of the goals of the sanctuary is to provide our pigs with the heathiest life style possible. The Pig Preserve is a vegan campus for pigs and humans alike.
The unique model we have created here is the first of its kind for farm animals. Our model has drawn the attention of other sanctuaries as far away as Europe, South America and Australia and we have enjoyed visits from other sanctuaries around the world to discuss what we are doing and ways we can spread both the animal rights and vegan message around the world.
In future posts, I hope to be able to cover a wide variety of topics, including: stories about our pigs; the wide variety of ways pigs come to live at the sanctuary; the role of farm animal sanctuaries in the animal rights movement; the desperate need that grassroots sanctuaries have for the support of the AR community; and any other topics that you, the reader, would be interested in talking about. - Rich
If interested in becoming a monthly donor or sponsoring a pig, please visit The Pig Preserve.