We had underestimated two important factors: Hazel’s intelligence and strength. Up at 4:30am we attempted a revised plan. We moved the carrier closer to the pen so Hazel wasn’t able to escape and readied ourselves with crackers and pasta. The elusive dance began. Kindness wasn’t working, food was ineffective and Hazel quickly broke free of our DIY harnesses. Frustrated, with 5 minutes left until our 7am deadline, I decided to be a little more aggressive and sprayed her with a hose (which she hated) in the direction of the carrier. We got her to the door and Sean and I simultaneously realized the only option left was to push her in. Up practically to our knees in pig poop, we got behind her with all of our force and, fueled by adrenaline, pushed her into the carrier. Defeated, she stood there, looked out of the air holes and silently asked ‘why?’. As we caught our breath, we praised her for being a damn good, and strong pig.
Carrier ratchet-strapped onto the trailer, we sadly drove 10 minutes to the local farm. Thinking the rest would be easy, we waited our turn then backed up to the ‘loading dock’ where Hazel would be cleaned prior to entering the processing barn. We opened the door half expecting her to charge us like a bull, but, instead, she lied down and refused to move. The elusive dance turned into a standoff. For about 45 minutes, four men and myself tried to coo, lure and push her out of the carrier. She took charge of her destiny and dug her hooves into the floor firmly expressing her opinion….until someone suggested trying the bucket trick. Quickly, one of our helpers grabbed a clean white bucket, put it over Hazel’s head and, now that she was newly disoriented, gently and easily pushed her onto the loading dock. We quickly closed the trailer ramp and with a snap, she was secured behind barn doors. We took a breath, filled out the USDA paperwork and quiety drove back home.
At Rennsli Farm, Hazel had a good life: she ate organic food and had plenty of fresh air, warm bedding and loving attention. But somehow, despite memories of all that positive experience, I’m still deeply saddened by the events of her final 24 hours. Sentient beings communicate at levels beyond words and Hazel was a good mental linguist. The exchange of love and care for sustenance and energy is how humans survive, whether through growing vegetables or rearing animals for harvest. Despite my sadness, we have decided to continue to be omnivores, with a strong lean towards vegetarianism, because that’s what makes sense in this climate with a short growing season. We learned a lot from raising Hazel. We will make sure our future animals are introduced to livestock carriers early in life so their final transport is not as fear-inducing. We will also train our young animals to wear harnesses so they can be moved more easily as they grow. Everyone told me not to name Hazel, but that wouldn’t have helped. She was still a part of our family and a very good pig.
Rest in peace Hazel. We will respect every ounce of nutrition you provide.