Pigs Spared from Factory Farm and Flood Find Safe Harbor
Originally published in Animal World magazine. co-authored with Natalie Bowman
As Mississippi River floods ravaged the Midwest earlier this summer, pigs in Iowa, the nation’s top hog producing state, were left stranded as farmers evacuated. Trapped inside factory farms – some in gestation crates – or freed only to swim for their lives, the animals had little chance for survival. Farm Sanctuary responded by dispatching a rescue team to the region on June 20, unaware at the time of the monumental mission that lay ahead.
After arriving in the flood zone and seeing the extent of the devastation, we joined a coalition comprised of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the American Humane Association, and the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Certified by the state of Iowa to undertake a rescue effort in Oakville – where a government aerial survey revealed upwards of 50 pigs stranded on a 20-mile-long levee – the coalition began its operation on June 27.
Following the lead of our head of operations on the ground and disaster relief manager for IFAW, Dick Green, and logistics officer and Farm Sanctuary’s campaigns director, Julie Janovsky, crews headed out to the “Big Ditch” levee in boats. Their first task: locate survivors and bring them food and fluids to build up their strength. Persevering as floodwaters receded, leaving treacherous conditions in their wake, the 25 men and women on the ground initiated levee rescues on June 28.
Among the rescuers were Dan D’Eramo, Farm Sanctuary’s chief cruelty and investigations officer, and Chuck Pappas, shelter project coordinator. These two experts in securing and handling pigs proved vital to some of the most challenging rescues, including one involving a sick, terrified pig lodged between two trees.
Each successful rescue fueled the exhausted crew, even as the horrors they witnessed weighed heavily on their hearts. Out on the levee, rescuers watched mournfully as the Iowa Department of Agriculture came in when water receded and drove out with truckloads of dead pigs.
Those who survived against all odds received emergency care at a temporary holding area in Wapello, and on July 1, 12 of the first 15 pigs rescued arrived at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter. National shelter director Susie Coston headed to Iowa the same day to care for the pigs too sick to travel, as well as those newly-rescued off the levee. At the holding area, she set up a triage for the animals, keeping them stable and arranging for their eventual transport to Watkins Glen.
At the end of the rescue mission, 69 pigs been recovered: mostly sows, piglets and youngsters only months old. Among the females are a number of gestation sows with viable pregnancies from their time in production, and some have already given birth to litters.
Since July 10, the pigs (excepting three who, sadly, did not survive and one who was adopted into a loving home) have resided in the Emergency Rescue & Rehabilitation Center at Farm Sanctuary’s New York shelter. You can continue to follow this extraordinary rescue effort by visiting Farm Sanctuary’s Pig Rescue Blog at floodrescue2008.blogspot.com.