Diane Marsh, a co-founder of the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary somewhat pleased with the media coverage she’d garnered for her organization when she decided to host a “pig yoga” fundraising event, but she felt that the larger message she’d been trying to deliver was lost.
“This was not just a matter of putting some piglets into the enclosure with the people doing yoga as a gimmick to sell the yoga class. Truthfully, the yoga was pretty much secondary,” said Marsh. “People were doing yoga, but they spent as much time scratching the piglets’ bellies and interacting with the animals as they spent doing yoga.”
The true purpose of the event last Sunday (June 24), said Marsh, was to raise awareness of the work of the Happy Herd sanctuary and to begin to open people’s minds about the option of a vegan lifestyle.
“We don’t want to be those ‘angry vegans’, out there protesting and trying to ram our point of view down people’s throats. We’re trying to change some attitudes but do it in a very friendly, happy way. We introduce the opportunity for people to meet the animals and get to know them and, sometimes, that’s enough to get them to change their eating habits.”
Beyond promoting the option of a vegan lifestyle, Marsh and the volunteers in her organization are motivated by the desire to help animals that have been abandoned and abused.
For example, the pigs on the property are piglets that came from two rescued pot bellied pigs that had been seized by the SPCA and turned over to the sanctuary. One of those pigs, it turns out, was pregnant.
When the piglets were born they joined the pigs, goats, sheep and a collection of chickens, turkeys, cows and one donkey.
“All these animals have a personality,” said Marsh with a chuckle. “We have these turkeys who follow you around just to get their heads scratched and have you tell them they’re pretty. I have a goat that sleeps in a dog bed on our porch. Even the chickens have a personality.”
Marsh said that what set her organization’s pig yoga apart from some of the goat yoga she’s heard of is that her organization will keep the pigs for life.
“I’ve heard of some situations wherepeople have bought baby goats to promote their yoga program and then, when the goats get too big, they sell them for slaughter. We won’t ever do that.”
Beyond the animal welfare considerations of the Happy Herd Sanctuary and the possibility that getting to know the animals might lead folks to a vegan lifestyle, Marsh explained that many people come to the facility for their own therapeutic reasons.
“The animals provide a connection for people. It is therapeutic and we have people coming from all over to interact with the animals, ” she said. “I have some people here today from Illinois who have come just to be with these animals, knowing that none of them will be used for food in the future. Other local visitors have become regulars here. They come to relax and enjoy the company of the animals.”
Marsh plans another pig yoga session for July 21st in order to promote the sanctuary’s work and to raise money for the significant vet bills experienced by Happy Herd.
For more information, visit happyherd.org.