The Pig Whisperer

In 2009 in Piedmont Italy, Fedy set up “La Piccola Fattoria degli Animali” (The Little Animal Farm) https://www.facebook.com/PigWhisperer/

This would be a place devoted to pigs saved from slaughterhouses and factory farms, but which would also give hospitality to dogs and cats that have been ill-treated or abandoned.

We caught up with Fedy and asked her some questions.

Can you tell us where the idea came from and how you managed to bring it about?

Let me start by telling you a little story that will surprise you. Last year, three days before my birthday, my mother told me that I was supposed to be born on November 11. Everybody was eagerly expecting me that day, that was the day the hospital had said I’d arrive. One of my father’s best friends (an enthusiastic hunter too, unfortunately), who had been born on November 11, was very keen to be my godfather. But that particular November 11 was interminable, because I refused to make up my mind to emerge from my mother’s womb., which left them all bewildered. Once that day was past, the doctors couldn’t tell my mother when I would arrive. Resigned, the hunter gave up his hopes, but in the next few days another man (my mother’s best friend, a lawyer) said that he would like to be my godfather. Well, I finally decided to make my entrance 11 days later. You see? My spirit had made up its mind: my birth wasn’t going to be “soiled” by a “bond” with a hunter. So I chose to be born later, and it was a man who hadn’t got blood on his hands by killing innocent creatures who became my godfather.
I’ve told you this to show you that there are close bonds rooted in our DNA, and mine is with Mother Nature.

Now let me tell you about the shelter. In my experiences as an animal rights activist/environmentalist in Italy, in the UK and USA, I have stored memories deep within me of places I’ve visited, odours I’ve smelt, sounds and screams I’ve heard linked to the frightful realities that are kept hidden by the lobbies and the multinational companies – they don’t want people to know about them, because that would ruin their business. For example, I’m talking about factory farms and slaughterhouses.

There was one event, especially, that radically changed my life. In the 1990s, when I was living in California, one summer night I was in a huge pig farm with other activists.  I was 18. We were there to film, photograph and testify to the world so that people would realise that atrocities go on in those places of injustice, death, violence, suffering, agony and isolation.

That night, but not only then, was terrible, but we had a mission to carry out and we had to complete it as planned.

All at once, in a corner, closed in a very cramped cage, I saw an enormous sow with all her babies beside her. They were wonderful. She was majestic, she was like a big pink bear with huge ears. Some of her piglets had been squashed. She couldn’t move and couldn’t get up any longer.  It was terrible to see her in such a state. I approached her and stroked her back.  She turned and looked straight into my eyes: I shook from head to foot. She had blue eyes, which almost seemed human. I was shocked. And then she looked at her piglets, and back at me. At that moment there was a meeting of souls, and something magical and deep within me happened that night. In one second I’d seen all her pain, her agony and her loneliness. And I understood what she was asking me: to save her babies.

A mother confined to a farrowing crate with her piglets

I ran to the other activists, I wanted to take her and her family to safety. We saved all the babies who snored like new-born children in the back of the van, under a glowing friendly moon. But sadly, at that moment it wasn’t possible to save her.

I promised her that I’d be back the next night. Her eyes penetrated mine and then she laid down her head in a corner. The following night we went back to the barn, but she was no longer there. We searched high and low, but she had vanished. They had slaughtered her that morning. I couldn’t forgive myself, it was a total failure for me. Still today, after so many years, I haven’t been able to forgive myself for not being able to save her. I’ll never forget her eyes and her gaze. I’ve often asked her to forgive me for failing. Just as I ask forgiveness of all those animals I can’t save.

That night I promised that enormous animal with the huge ears that I’d be their voice and that one day soon I’d create a vast sanctuary devoted to them, to give them life, respect, freedom, dignity, peace and serenity. It’s a solemn pact, unbreakable and eternal. A pact of blood and souls. My words are very strong and deep, but those who experience the mission with me as activists perfectly understand what I mean.

And so with many, many sacrifices, great passion and determination, the shelter devoted to them was born.

Yamuna

 

What were your uncertainties?

I never had any, I always knew in my heart what I had to do, what road I had to follow. I had hard moments, when I suffered a lot, or when I felt it was all too difficult or things weren’t going right or not the way I wanted. But that’s life, and I understood that these were tests to be passed and that they made me the person I am today. Every event, every experience, everyone we meet along the way is never just by chance. It happens because we have to follow a certain path, and learn. Nothing is by chance, ever, everything happens for a reason. And above all, no one is on Earth by mere chance.

What are your strong points?

Having a goal, an ideal, a mission in life. Knowing I had found my place in the world and was doing my bit to change and improve our humanity, changing and improving myself first. If you want to change the world, you first have to change yourself. I’m an idealist and passionate about nature, people who know me well know that. The fact that I believe deeply, work hard, in a team, tenaciously, determinedly and with perseverance and the very best I can. That’s been my strong point. My perseverance. Saying to myself: “Don’t give up, Fedy, you can do it. We can do it. All the more if we stick together.”

How did the people around you react?

It’s a long, detailed, complex, delicate, very personal, confidential matter. Everyone has their own mind, their own character, their emotions, their experiences of life, and that’s as it should be. In general, I can say: some reacted well and followed me or comforted me or told me to carry on. Others tried to impede me. And someone who loved me asked me to choose. But I want to end by saying that I’ve never needed a pat on the back from anyone to keep me doing what I believe in. And I’ll never need it. I’m not looking for glory, an audience, heroism, being the centre of attention, personal recognition, or thanks for what I do for the Planet. I do it because I believe in it passionately, because it’s my creed, the road my soul has chosen to follow, a task to carry out with honour, respect and dignity, and which has shown me my place in the world. You see what I mean? To make this world a better place for everyone to live in should be a joint responsibility. We’re talking about our humanity.

What were the important stages you had to go through?

Every stage was important to make me do better, improve, grow and become stronger. Life is a series of valuable meetings and lessons. My experiences of life and as an animal rights/environmental activist have been a very great lesson for me. And so also have my friendships. My dearest loved ones. The great men to whom I have been romantically involved and grateful for their support. The human relationships that teach us to evolve are a great teaching.

My relationship with the animals, which teaches me every single day how much we humans have to learn from them, is my school of life. And you know what? You learn something every day. The secret is to understand what, to share it and hold on to it as a valuable lesson.

I’ve made progress and I’ve made it, the shelter exists and I’m grateful to the people who’ve helped me set it up, but I still have a long way to go, a lot to learn, tasks to carry out. Life is a journey and I always say it’s the most thrilling journey you can make. I asked the Universe to give me the chance to meet great people with whom to do great things for the Planet and for humanity.

What difficulties do you meet with every day?

Roger

The shelter is totally self-financed and survives with my salary and the donations I receive through my little volunteer association “La Vie en Rose (non profit-making)”, donations from people who’ve been fond of the shelter for a long time and whom I really thank. And they’re not only here in Italy, but abroad too.

I’m split between the work I do at the shelter and which is a natural passion, and what I do in the afternoon, when I work in a big engineering company, to be able to bring home some money at the end of the month, to earn my living and guarantee the best for all the wonderful creatures at the shelter.

Managing the shelter is a hard task, a responsibility and daily duties, and you daren’t make mistakes when there are lives at risk. I keep going to the best of my ability and with the resources I have (the volunteers) the very best I can. Since I founded the shelter with sweat and passion, it’s up to me to look for the best resources so that they give the project greater value. I’m very careful and selective in looking for volunteers and collaborators: I want the best for this project. My volunteers are good people, they can work as a group and they love the animals, and that’s what counts for me. I’m the one who has legal, organisational, financial and management responsibilities. I’ve chosen this road and I’ll follow it to the end.

And then there’s the hard part, you know? When you go into those dreadful places, and then when you come out, you have to get used to going back to everyday life, and playing a part, like an actor. Anyone who’s seen the horror close up, as I have, knows exactly what I mean…

They’re choices. Life is made up of choices. Choices mean sacrifices, and those sacrifices are necessary to reach the goals you’ve set. I know the activists understand what I’m saying: there’s a high price to pay in your social and private life. But I repeat, it’s a choice. And everyone follows their own road.

And when your task is to spread a message of peace, liberty, compassion, love, respect, you interact with the world, with a thousand different heads and brains. And you have to know how to express yourself and act in the best possible way. You’re putting community up against injustices to animals and the disasters we’re committing every day in our environment. We activists sensitise, we bring a message to the world. Everyone receives it in their own way, and reacts with free will.

I don’t call them “difficulties” but “responsibilities”. I hope that answers your question.

What makes you do what you do?

All the horrible and unimaginable things I see every time I visit those terrifying places with other activists, it’s something I will never forget, it is part of me!

You know, I’m an idealist. It’s my creed that drives me. My love for Mother Nature and Mother Earth. Respect for the Planet and total awareness that life is a great gift that was given us by the Universe, and we mustn’t take it for granted. We’re all part of a Whole and we’re connected with one anther. I deeply respect life and liberty, and these are the values I fight for. I’m greatly bound to the people of the Native Americans. They believe that when the blood of a man mingles with the blood of an animal, the man and the animal become one single thing, a single entity, a single soul. It’s true. I’ve chosen to devote myself especially to pigs for the reason I’ve already explained, because of that meeting that changed my life. They are wonderful animals, they are living creatures with great dignity, strength and wisdom, with a great sense of family, extremely reserved, intelligent, protective and curious. They are extremely sensitive, perceptive, peaceful and calm animals. They can be terribly funny and can make great pets. They are very clean animals and love to lie on straw bedding and get mucky outside in order to escape sunburn and protect themselves from biting insects. People think they are dirty, but probably don’t know that on todays factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds and stuffed into wire cages, metal crates and other torturous devices. These animals will never do anything that is natural and important to them, and never feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded into trucks headed for the slaughterhouses  and killed pitilessly.

Basically, they are sociable animals, although they remain territorial and diffident. You must never take anything for granted with them, you have to win their trust. And those eyes of theirs look human… And then, you know, on the alimentary and social scale they are considered the cheap of the cheapest and that’s why at the Shelter they are the true protagonists. They’ve written a new chapter of history.

Have you ever thought of giving it all up?

NEVER! Not even for a fraction of a second. I’m obstinate, right? How can I give up when I’m a person who has found her path? How can I give up when I’m a person who has a mission in the world to carry forward? “Giving it all up” isn’t part of my DNA. The cause is my whole life. All this has incalculable, unrivalled value. Beyond price and of blinding power. Activists, people who devote their whole lives to the cause, to an ideal – they can perfectly understand my words. It’s something deep that sinks its roots in you, in your bowels, in your blood, in every part of you, and that nothing and no one can ever take away. Never!

What motivates you to continue?

Fedy & Fred

I’m like many other activists committed to the cause – we’re doing this for our humanity. That’s what motivates me to continue. As you know, our life choices (in this case regarding food) have a very great impact on the environment, which I greatly respect. And often the consumer makes choices unknowingly when he decides to eat animal products. If the community is informed about what really happens in those places, they can decide and make their choice. And they can never say “I didn’t know”.

Climate change, global warming, poverty, hunger in the world, deforestation, scarcity of water – the list goes on and it’s long, you know? Who brings all this about? Man, obviously, with the disasters he causes daily.

I deeply love Mother Earth and I don’t want to see her destroyed through the fault of humans. I’m here, strong, healthy, upright and alive, I don’t follow the masses, I fight every day, trying to make my contribution. The Shelter plays a fundamental, essential part on the subject of “empathy”. Basically, you don’t eat your friend. “Working” on empathy, on the emotions, on the sensitive side of man, on “feelings” in a word, people stop eating meat. And believe me, in spite of all the horror I’ve seen, I’ve promised myself, in my “role”, not to impose anything on anybody. Because imposition leads to total defeat. You can’t imagine how many people write to me from all over the world to say that, following the adventures of the gentle piggies on the Facebook page (La Piccola Fattoria degli Animali/The Little Animal Farm), they’ve been so moved that they’ve become vegan. Can you understand the great strength, importance and power there is in this message? The constant, daily spread of the message leads to an awakening of consciences worldwide, so that people realise that a life without cruelty and killing is possible. It’s not just an ethical choice, am I clear? It’s economic, social, ecological and healthy. And the life of our marvellous Planet depends on it. You remember that line, “If you save one life, you save the whole world”? Well, that says it all.

What satisfactions do you get?

Seeing a worldwide awakening of consciences, more and more people reached and moved. All this is contagious, it motivates and brings inspiration. It’s possible to change the world, but first we have to change ourselves. And then, one heart at a time. And one step at a time. It’s wonderful to see happiness in animals who’ve suffered terribly. Among those who have an ideal of life and work to make the world a better place, a deep relationship is installed: it’s wonderful to live in peace and harmony with those like you (human beings) and with every living species. Seeing peace, life, liberty, respect, love and happiness in the world among people and in our relationship with animals has praiseworthy value. That’s the satisfaction I receive. And it’s enormous.

What’s your dream?

A vegan world, of course. A different world, where all species live in peace and harmony. A Movement in Italy, at last united for the cause and the mission, because only together can we win, with strategy, organisation and winning spirit. More and more activists desire this and try to unite the Movement.

But I still have a special dream, for which my heart has never stopped beating. But to bring it to fulfilment, I need to have a powerful sponsor, a great voice for animals and the environment, so that I can create what I have in mind, a Sanctuary devoted to pigs saved from slaughterhouses, factory farms and vivisection laboratories, but also devoted to boars saved from hunters and poachers (the ones who are wounded or orphaned during a hunting expedition and would die if they were recovered because they’re too weak). Why boars, you ask? My father killed so many that he left me traumatised.

You see? Some women are looking for a husband, the ideal man. Finding a husband is the last thing that interests me. I’m looking for a sponsor who’ll help me to do something great for the Planet and for our humanity, and it’s only with his help that my team and I will be able to make it. I dream of a WORLDWIDE AWAKENING OF CONSCIENCES, so that there is respect for human beings, for animals, for every living being, for the environment, for Mother Earth.

What fears do you have?

Ercole

I’ll answer you like this, I don’t want to have any. And when I do, I try to transfer my attention at once to positive thoughts, because they are what I want to concentrate on, on carrying out the things I want to do, always reminding myself to do my utmost and do my best every minute. See what I mean? I want positive energy to go to positive things.

And I repeat, I believe passionately in what I’m doing and in the mission I’m carrying on. Every one of us must be contagious in what we do, and infect others, and contribute to making this world a better place for everyone to live in, humans and animals.

What would you like to see fulfilled in the next few years?

Obviously the sanctuary devoted to pigs and boars (but where any animal can live who catches our eye during our lives and who needs help) built on immense, far-reaching acres of land. There will be trees, flowers, accommodation for night-time and daytime wardens, a small veterinary studio for emergencies. A team of trusted, motivated individuals, who want to work to give added value to the project. And all this will be possible thanks to the support of a great Sponsor who will help us make history, and who I’m sure will be proud to have financed the project. Many, many lives will be saved. There will be a great collective awakening of consciences. A greater spread of the ethical message. Greater respect among human beings, for animals, for the environment.

In your view, what makes a life worthy of being lived?

Sophie

Having a reason to live and to fight for every day. You have to live, not just survive. It’s important to follow your heart, to really listen to it and understand where it wants to take you. The Universe constantly sends us signals to tell us what road we have to take. I’ve understood what my task is, the mission I must carry forward, my vocation. And I’ve chosen animals and the environment.

It’s fundamental to love what you do, you have to put passion in it, believe in it to the end, even in difficult times. Everything makes us stronger. You have to persevere, have courage, take risks, fight with all your strength. Yes, all this for me makes life worth living. And when my heart stops beating, I’ll know I’ve done my bit, I’ve contributed to writing a piece of history for the salvation of the Planet.

But it goes further, because this ethical commitment has to do with community, our humanity. And if we don’t understand and learn that the life we have wasn’t given to us by chance, but for a sacred reason (and it’s up to us to understand what that reason is) and that we’re all connected and part of a Whole and that we must respect one another, we’ll have failed dreadfully as human beings and we won’t have understood what is the real magnificent meaning of LIFE.

 

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