It seems that bullying is a massive problem these days, you hear about it when you get together with friends and it rears its head almost daily when something tragic is splashed across the media, a devastating result of bullying. We all know someone who has been impacted if in fact it hasn’t touched our own lives personally.
It is a horrific act large or small and it is rampant. While you probably know the issue plagues our young people, thanks to the anonymous veil of the internet and social media, but the issue is not uncommon with adults and even our vulnerable elderly as well. Let’s face it even though as adults we know better, we too unfortunately fall into the role as the bully; be it shouting from the bleachers at a kid’s sports event or simply by not allowing a car to merge in front of us followed by an assortment of hand gestures. Though I try hard, sadly I too have fallen into that role. These behaviours affect our animal world here on the farm too. With different personalities and pecking orders unfortunately the meek are prey for when establishing who the top dog (or sow) is.
We only have 6 sows, a rather small number, and these girls all have names and personalities to match. Working closely with the girls each day I have had the pleasure to form and nourish relationships so when pigging time arrives I am a welcome helping hand. After the mom has given her best to the piggies she is rewarded with a sabbatical to regroup and regenerate with the other moms. For some it is a kick up the heels event (kind of like finishing up breast feeding) and for others they have a difficult time adjusting. Adele was one such sow, a first time mom that gave her all and did a great job with her 8 piglets. The day we moved her to her new home, within an hour she fell victim to bullying from 3 other sows. We broke up a nasty situation with great effort and sat pondering just what we could do for this 375 lb. dolly. Adele was near death after being held down, trampled and bitten by the other sows to the point of not even being able to hold her own weight and stand. In a conventional barn these injuries would have been too substantial and deemed not economical to fix. The only reason we can think of is the other sows sensed her withdrawn state having just been separated from her piglets. Was she confused so to speak, showing separation anxiety as she tried to adjust to this massive change that had recently occurred? Do animals get depressed? Do these animals fall prey to bullies just as people do? I am not a pig, nor do I speak swine so we will never understand what really happened. I do know what when we found her she was in a sad state, clearly beaten down and felt pretty much like giving up. She had been bitten and had large bites and scrapes from her attackers that are too horrible to describe or show. Astounding for ladies that know one another and had always gotten along. Needlessly bullied. After great pains and a few pulled muscles we got her to back safely into the barn where she was visibly shaken, her chatter was agitated and almost desperate. She could not stand and seemed to struggle just to find comfort as we started to clean her up and address her injuries. It may sound odd, some of you may say “it’s just a pig” but with healing hands, comforting words, some extra attention and a peaceful environment we healed this poor Adele and eventually under a watchful eye reintroduced her to the other sows. Obscenities flew but no one threw the first punch. All appears well to this day.
The whole incident brought home the question yet again; why does bullying have to even happen? Do we really instinctually seek out and try to destroy mammals that are different, weak or troubled? I know the whole (do on to others) circle of life thing…. Only the strong survive, etc. etc., but why does it seem that mammals easily prey on those that are already hurting? Is it because their weakness disgusts us or are the weak inferior? Or are we afraid that exposure to weakness will bring out the weakness in ourselves? It’s a thinking subject for sure, makes me stand back, take a deep breath and pray for patience and understanding for those in life that are different or down.