Saturday, October 01, 2005

"The Promised Land for Pigs"

(Or, why I don't eat pork.)

I came across this interesting piece the other day at Radio Netherlands. Apparently, massaging pigs (and, I presume, other such animals) may actually relieve stress:

Dafne Westerhof is a very glamorous Dutch woman who for years ran a communications company at one Amsterdam's swankiest addresses. But nowadays, Dafne's high heels have been pushed to the back of the wardrobe in favour of her rubber boots because ten years ago, Dafne set up a farm-cum-refuge which is now home to one goose, one sheep, two cows, ten cats, twelve pigs and 150 roosters...

Ten years later Dafne Westerhof has become very well-known within the Netherlands, and not just because of her opposition to mass-production of livestock for agriculture or her willingness to rush out and rescue abandoned pot-bellied pigs found wandering around the Dutch countryside. Over the last few years, Dafne has discovered something rather wonderful. People like to be with pigs. Not only that, but pigs seem to have a beneficial effect on people, especially if people can get to massage a pig. Massage a pig?

Dafne explains: "Once I bought a three-week old piglet from a farmer and she was very nervous, scared of everything. So I started to massage her and immediately she became calm. And then I discovered that pigs have a sort of 'secret spot' at the point where the front legs meet the body - their armpits, if you like - and if you massage them just a little at this spot, the pig will go into a sort of trance."

And it's true. Not one minute after Dafne had begun to massage, that very same nervous piglet, the now a seven-year-old sow called 'Aagje', slowly toppled on to her side and lay there quietly in a state of contented bliss.

"Once I was on television," continues Dafne, "and many people called me to ask if they could come and see the pigs for themselves and maybe even try the massaging. So I held an open day and it was amazing. I saw people crying as they came into close contact with these animals and I realised that apparently there is a need to be with pigs."

As a result, Dafne Westerhof set up a workshop called 'Communication with Pigs'. And not only that; she now runs regular courses on 'Communication within the Workplace' and 'Stress Management', which involve contact with the pigs. But tyrants beware: pigs, it seems, are extremely sensitive to people's vibes and group dynamics.

You know what, it sounds like a wonderful idea, and I hope it proves successful. Those of you who love animals, as I do, know just what it means to have them in your life and how much better your life is to have them around -- and not just dogs and cats, although my cat, Keiko, is truly one of the loves of my life.

Our society tends to view animals, especially those that are raised for human consumption, as lesser creatures to be used and abused and completely disregarded. Maybe it's time we appreciated them for what they bring to our lives and for the intrinsic value that they themselves possess.

Dafne Westerhof deserves our admiration.

And, yes, I love pigs. Go massage one.

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