Dear unknown pig, today, I write an apology. Now I know you will not be able to read this letter, not for the fact that you aren’t intelligent, for I know well, more than most, that you have the cognitive ability to do numerous, complex tasks. Mastering computer joysticks, learning to operate switches and levers, coupled with keen problem-solving abilities, are just some (if given the chance) of your many talents. I write this letter, nonetheless, in the hope that your human friend will read it.
Dear pig, I am truly sorry I didn’t take the opportunity to speak up for you when I first saw you the other day at the pet expo. You were lovingly held in the arms of your human. The first glimpse I caught, was of your cheeky, little bottom, and cute wiggly, pink tail as they poked out from under your human’s arms. My friend and I both thought you were adorable; our smiles could not betray this fact.
But how quickly our faces also didn’t betray our next emotion: our jaws dropped, and our hearts skipped a beat when we saw the metal clip that had been punched into your sensitive, little nose. Whilst your human proudly showed you off to the stallholders just down the way, our collective hearts sank. I watched you for a while – the precious, little piece of porcine creation that you are. I watched and waited; waiting for the right time to seize the moment, and to speak with your human.
But, alas, that moment never came. Your human began to move off, and our stall became far too busy. In the micro-second that I should have acted, I didn’t. Instead, I ran though the conversation I shortly hoped to have, on your behalf, in my mind. I wanted to properly rehearse my spiel, lest I offended your human, for that would have served nobody’s end.
I wanted to tell your human how we both shared a special love of pigs. We would have chatted about how endearing you and your kind are. How inquisitive, intelligent, fun-loving and clean pigs are. Then, I would broached the elephant in the room, or rather the ring in your nose. I would have politely asked why you had it. I would have asked your human if she would consider removing it.
I would explain that being a pig, you were hardwired to dig. It comes as part of your job description. I would have explained that your snout contains many tactile receptors, as many as we humans have on the palms of our hands. I would have explained that the very use of a nose ring acknowledges, and exploits this fact.
I would have relayed that you, like all pigs, would love to spend the greater part of your day (up to 75%) doing one of the things you love best – rooting and foraging about. However, with a nose ring, this would remain a frustratingly elusive, impossible dream.
I would have taken the opportunity to explain that your snout helps you navigate your world and also helps you to interact with those around you. I would have mentioned that the ring in your nose would compromise these much-cherished activities.
I would have explained that the reason nosed-ringed pigs like you do not dig, is not so much because it hurts, but rather to stop it hurting. I would plead for empathy, and ask your human to experiment with having clips placed in each of her fingertips and then being told to go dig up your food. Finally, I would have stated the rings are cruel. However, I didn’t, and, I am truly sorry.
Martin Luther King Junior once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.
Dear unknown pig, you mattered to me then, just as you matter to me now. The irony that you were proudly paraded around on a day devoted to companion animals, (animals that our society would never tolerate as being subjected to such treatment), was not lost one me.
The fact that your nose ring went largely unacknowledged, is a sad indictment on our society. Despite our ability to embrace people of all races, colors and creeds, animals such as you are still strangely outside societies realm of of ethics, compassion and animal protection legislation.
Yet I know, and now science is acknowledging too, that regardless of species, all animals have the ability to suffer, the ability experience joy and also happiness, imbued as you all are, with rich, emotional inner worlds.
Part of my reluctance to act, was because I was worried how I would be perceived. I didn’t want to appear arrogant or harsh. I didn’t want to sound like a ‘pain-in-the-neck, know it all’. Also, I didn’t want to alienate your human. But, I should have put my own issues aside, to stand up for you. I didn’t, and for that I am beyond sorry.
A wise woman once told me that the most useless word in the English language is ‘sorry’. Years on, I do understand her point, for I truly believe actions do speak far louder than words, and that talk is so often cheap. Benjamin Franklin captured this principle succinctly when he said, “Well done is better than well said.”
I indeed had the most fortunate upbringing, rounded-out with sage-infused advice from both wise men and women. Our family placed great importance on ‘doing the right thing’, of being mindful of others, of speaking kindly and keeping one’s room tidy (sadly that lesson I didn’t learn very well!) We were taught the importance of responsibility, of doing one’s chores, and of acknowledging one’s mistakes.
Of the latter, we were taught the value of owning up to our mistakes, seeking to redress them and any wrong we may have caused onto others. It was something we weaved into the everyday fabric of our life. For example, if one accidentally bumped into a stranger and caused them to drop their load, we would immediately ask if they were okay, stop to assist, and see them on their way, all the while, making a mental note to not be so careless in the future.
In short, we would do our very best to right the wrong. It is with this in mind, that I have made Edgar’s Mission my living apology to pigs, and indeed all farm animals, for the wrongs my past lifestyle-choices have caused their kind.
But, this is not an apology veiled in guilt, burden or sadness. Nor is it an apology that casts a heavy shadow over my life. Rather, it is a celebration of our ability to change both our thinking and our actions. A celebration of our ability to live a life of kindness, and a celebration of our ability to positively shape the world we live in. A quote from our Kindness Trail leaps out at me every day, as it reminds me to “Move on. You can never reshape the past – but you can shape the present”.
And so, little pig, I sincerely hope your human has read, thus far, as I encourage her to remove the ring that pierces your dear, little snout. I say this because a lifetime of experiences guides me to the belief that when we are sensitive to the lives of animals, we are more caring and mindful human beings.
I encourage your human to gently stroke you while a caring Veterinarian casts you free from the shackles of the nose ring, as she whispers in your hairy, little ear “I’m sorry piggy, I’m sorry”. For this may be the greatest, and most meaningful apology she will ever make.