If you had asked me a little over ten years ago where I would be today, I strongly doubt I would have said, ‘Rescuing and caring for farm animals and spreading a message of kindness with the world.’ There is a wonderful quote that states: ‘I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.’ And when I reflect back over all my life has been, I think this statement sums it up perfectly.
When I was younger, all I wanted to do with my life was to ride horses and have a pony of my very own. I guess that is pretty much every animal loving girl’s dream. But ours wasn’t a particularly well off family and my folk were city folk. So my pleadings for a pony fell on deaf ears. However, to quote my mother, ‘The worst thing you can say to Pam is “You can’t.”’ This is not because I was a particularly belligerent child, but rather I relished a challenge then just as I relish a challenge now – that indefinable moment when you dare to ask, ‘What if?’.
So, the intrepid 5 year old that I was, took to my scooter (I was never allowed a push bike because my mother considered that to be far too dangerous). I removed the scooter’s tyres and, using a ‘borrowed’ pair of my mum’s pantyhose, I tied a tyre to each end. I then fashioned this, to my mind ingenious,contraption into a saddle straddling the kitchen stool.
Years later, I guess my mum got sick of never having any pantyhose so she took me off to the local pony club. And it was here that the foundations were laid for my association with farm animals.
Ten years ago I had another, ‘What if?’ moment when something big happened in my life – something that would change everything. Actually, it wasn’t so much a something but rather a some one. That someone was a gentle pig I came to love and adore and whom I named Edgar Alan Pig.
And while Edgar sadly passed away in 2010, just after his seventh birthday party, he still lives on in the hearts and minds of all who knew him. Most importantly for me, he changed my life forever. It was during those tender moments we spent together in his stable, me rubbing his tummy and him offering his enthusiastic piggy grunts at just the right moment, that I had my most profound ‘What if?’ moment.
I am sure all of you reading this have had a special animal in your life who touched your heart like no other. Maybe it was a dog who, when you called his name, came running like the wind. Well Edgar knew his name and would come running as fast as his fat little piggy legs could carry him whenever I called out to him.
Maybe you had a special feline friend who chose to ignore you when they found something far more interesting to entertain them. And yes, Edgar was given to those moments also. Or maybe it was a special rabbit or bird, who just loved being scratched or made a fuss of. Yep you guessed it; Edgar had his favourite spots he too loved to be scratched and fussed over.
For all intents and purposes, Edgar was just like everyone’s beloved pet except for one stark reality – he looked a little different. However, in coming to know my Edgar as I did, I quickly realised that the ways in which he was different from the animals we label as pets were limited only to outwardly appearances. I learned that these differences most certainly did not justify the way our society treats animals like him and those who we farm for food and fibre.
And so, challenging all those who insisted, ‘You can’t,’ I gave up my fulltime paying job, I hung up the riding boots on my successful equestrian career, I was to bid farewell to my partner of ten years when he posed the ultimatum, ‘It’s me or the pig,’ and I said goodbye to ever having a ‘normal life’ as I threw caution to the wind and decided to dedicate my life to the protection of farmed animals, because I did not want to reach the age of 85 and think, ‘What if?’
Ten years on and thousands of farmed animals have been given a second chance at life after having made their way through our farm gates. Not only have we given these creatures a life worth living, we have also given many of them their very first taste of human kindness.
But I like to think Edgar’s Mission has been able to achieve much more than just this in that it has also been able to change the way people view farmed animals. Through our outreach work, humane education programs and farm tours, thousands upon thousands of people have had the chance to get up close and personal with farmed animals and in doing so, have had cause to question many of the long held practices they undertake yet have never really thought that much about.
At any given moment, farmed animals sit on the sideline not only of our lives but of our ethical and moral decisions. These are animals whose lives we determine with those very same decisions, yet their suffering we never see.
There can be no doubt that seeing the animals we farm for food and fibre as individual, emotional creatures with an ability to happily lead meaningful lives causes many people to recognise that our current animal protection laws, along with the exemptions they contain, cannot possibly be justified.
And I take great comfort in knowing that by giving a voice to my farm animal friends, we are able to speak to hearts and change minds. We are able to allow many others to also have their most profound ‘What if?’ moment.