AR-News: (FL - US) Girl refuses to send 4-H pig to auction

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Thu Jun 10 08:35:31 EDT 2004



Pig bound for slaughter wins heart, then freedom

By Noaki Schwartz | South Florida Sun-Sentinel 
Posted June 8, 2004 

MIAMI -- It was somewhat repulsive: cloven hooves, sparse hairs poking from its hide, and it snorted.

So Jennifer Smith, a student at William H. Turner Technical Arts High School in Miami, was surprised that she grew attached to the pig she started raising for auction in December. After all, the 16-year-old fried bacon for breakfast most mornings.

But after caring for Miss Piggy as much as four hours a day, even hanging toys that resembled a baby's mobile in the animal's cage, Jennifer couldn't part with the hog. She devised a plan to keep Miss Piggy from slaughter.

The months of pig rescue have not been easy. Other students harassed her, called her a "traitor," appalled that she "went soft on a pig."

Jennifer was caught between conflicting philosophies.

"It's really a matter of if you see animals as a source of nutrition or not," said Bill Stagg, a spokesman for the 76-year-old Future Farmers of America program.

Jennifer remembers the day she met her pig. At just 50 pounds, the piglet showed spunk, bossing around the other animals. Jennifer named her Miss Piggy, a nickname she herself once endured.

The teen visited Miss Piggy daily, bathing the pig and filling a bottle with water so Miss Piggy could knock it around the pen.

Soon, Miss Piggy's curly tail would wag when Jennifer visited, and the pig liked having her belly scratched. She squeals with anticipation when she smells tomatoes but leaves string beans at the bottom of her trough.

She isn't allowed pickles.

"They give her indigestion," Jennifer said. "She burps."

As the months wore on, Jennifer began to agonize about the auction in early April at the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair. To keep the pig's weight below the minimum 200 pounds, she began feeding her less. Miss Piggy seemed to pick up on what was happening.

"The week before the fair, my pig stopped eating," Smith said.

The pair dodged the auction, but just weeks later, the pig was again in danger. Someone broke into the school, slashed her hind legs and rump, and shot another pig in the same pen to death. Police have no suspects.

Afterward, Miss Piggy wouldn't eat, couldn't stand up and shook. When Jennifer came to class crying, some students taunted her and whined, "My poor pig."

Though the school called a veterinarian, the pig's wounds became infected; Jennifer spent two hours digging maggots out of the pig's leg.

One school official offered to give Jennifer the meat if the pig became too weak and had to be slaughtered, she recalled.

Eventually, Jennifer staged a rescue.

Her mother, Kimberly Smith, paid $325 for the hog and in May, the two quietly transferred her to the Wildlife Care Center in Fort Lauderdale.

On Sunday, Jennifer and her mom will take Miss Piggy to the Shepherd's Green Pig Sanctuary in Silver Point, Tenn. Its Web site shows flowering meadows where pigs can frolic and promises bed warmers for the animals as they age. Jennifer will spend a week there to help her friend adjust.

As for the class at Turner, she learned that some plants boil slaughtered pigs to make it easier to slide off their hides, and that bacon comes from the pig's neck.

Smith also learned she cared about pigs.

As she petted the now-225-pound animal panting softly at her feet, wagging its tail, she confessed something else: "I can't even look at bacon anymore."

Noaki Schwartz is a reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.








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