For most people, it would be nearly impossible to imagine raising, bonding, and becoming attached to an animal knowing that it is destined for slaughter. However, at programs like those run through 4-H, that is precisely what children are instructed to do. The 4-H youth livestock program was created as a means to help young adults between the ages of nine and 18 raise money for college while preparing them to “make a positive impact in their communities and in the world.” In the youth livestock program, kids are given the responsibility of looking after a farm animal for one year and taught responsibilities such as grooming, caring for and preparing the animal to be sold. After the year is over, the animals are brought to local county fairs and auctions where the animal is bid on, (usually for a much higher price than usual to donate to the child’s college fund), and the winner will likely send the animal to slaughter.
This program can be traumatic and emotionally taxing for the students. They are often taught contradictory principles such as petting, showing affection for and bonding with their animals, yet at the same time told that these creatures are to be categorized as animals “for market” and that they should differentiate them from companion animals. This type of direction is confusing for an adult to wrap their head around, let alone a child.
Luckily for a pig named Sophie, one student wasn’t able to follow directions so well. In 2008, Sophie was your typical pig being raised by a student in 4-H doomed to a future of being auctioned off and eventually slaughtered. Being the charmer that she is, Sophie won the student’s affection who decided he couldn’t go through with the program and ended up donating her to Farm Sanctuary’s Southern California branch instead.
Here, Sophie is loving life and treated like royalty, as Queen of the Southern California pig herd. She enjoys splashing in the pond, playing and snuggling with her piggy friends, and is always on the hunt to find new and innovative ways to satisfy her endless appetite.
Sophie’s story is the perfect reminder that farm animals are just as intelligent, playful, and loving as any companion animal. Pigs have the proven intelligence of a three-year-old, and the ability to do tricks, so it’s no wonder this student didn’t have the heart to auction her off.
We could all stand to take a step back and learn to see farm animals as the loving, incredible individuals they are, instead of simply viewing them as “animals for market.” Certainly the world would be a much kinder place if we could, don’t you think?
To support other animals like Sophie in need click here.
Lead image source: Farm Sanctuary