A Thanksgiving Roadtrip to Hearts on Noses
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What do you get when you combine a spectacular fall day, 44 of the cutest pigs you’ll ever see, and a dedicated animal rights worker? You get Liberation BC’s Thanksgiving visit to Hearts on Noses Pig Sanctuary!
Liberation BC’s five board members made the drive out to Hearts on Noses in Mission, B.C. on Saturday, October 6th. We were welcomed at the gate by Janice Gillett, the owner, who took us on a tour of her beautiful sanctuary. Most of the pigs we met were of the pot-bellied variety or some hybrid thereof, although a few were Yorkshires, a type of pig bred for food production, and three feral hybrids. (We learned that, surprisingly, pot-bellied pigs are also bred for food production, though on a lesser scale.) Janice also has a couple of horses, two dogs, a few cats, and a turtle. She started the sanctuary in 1993 when she found little Willy, a stray baby rooting around on the property she had just bought. Since then she has become a guardian angel to hundreds of pigs.
Janice is an incredibly hard worker. Despite the fact that she also works full time for SAINTS, she somehow manages to care for all of the animals at her sanctuary as well. Hearts on Noses also benefits from the help of many devoted volunteers.
As we toured the sanctuary, Janice and her team of volunteers told us the stories of the various residents. Many of the pigs come to Hearts on Noses via Craigslist ads, where people bought them as “pets” and then changed their minds when the pigs got to be too big or inconvenient. Janice helps to adopt them out to loving forever homes or brings them to live with her through sponsor donors. Naturally, many of the stories we heard were sad. We met Sherman, who had had one of his ears and one tusk bitten off by a family dog.
We met Lucy, who had been so overfed that it will take over a year for her to lose enough weight to be able to walk around comfortably.
Meanwhile, Panda had been left in a small crate for most of her life and had both her ears and her tail chewed off by rats.
Janice is a pretty tough cookie, but the emotional toll this work has had on her became evident when she told us the story of one pig whose caregiver was going to give him up after 10 years. She wiped tears from her eyes as she tried to imagine how this pig was going to feel, leaving the only life he’d ever known.
At least one of the stories was a happy one. When a male and female pig arrived at Hearts on Noses about five years ago, Janice knew immediately that the female was pregnant, although the owner denied it. Sure enough, she soon gave birth to eight babies and now the whole family lives happily together in one luxury-sized pen.
For me, the best part of our visit came when the pigs were released from their pens to roam free all over the sanctuary. (They all spend a good amount of time roaming freely, although only certain ones can be out together at the same time.)
The most excitement came when Roscoe, a 1000-pound Yorkshire, came bounding out his stall. It was a more than a little intimidating to see him coming towards me but I was told to just put up my hands so he could see I had no food and he would walk on by…and sure enough, he did.
We spent a good part of our time rubbing the bellies of various pigs while learning all about them both as individuals and as a species.
And no part of this sanctuary was off limits to pigs. Even in the house, on the way to the bathroom, we had to step around two pigs asleep on dog beds in the living room!
We were all a little sad to leave Hearts on Noses but the good news is that we’ll be doing a fundraiser for them in the future. For those of us involved in education and outreach it is so inspiring to meet the people who work on the front lines – they are simply amazing. So this Thanksgiving, Liberation BC and hundreds of pigs are thankful for Janice and all her volunteers!
If you’d like to help out at Hearts on Noses or make a donation, you can contact Janice at heartsonnoses[at]shaw.ca. You can also make a donation via CanadaHelps.org!
Check out this video of our visit:
(Oh! After leaving the sanctuary, we went to Chomp, an amazing vegan, gluten-free restaurant in Port Moody that specializes in local and organic delicacies. It is most definitely recommended.)