Meet Sasha Bennett, a lively, energetic, funny lady with a huge smile, a massive heart & a will of iron
Sasha began rescuing vulnerable animals during her time as a dog behaviourist. She has several dogs in her care, all of which were deemed "difficult" & had led complicated lives.
Karam is one of those dogs who knows what he likes & knows what he doesn't. When faced with his strong personality humans had floundered. Karam has lifelong sanctuary with Sasha who listens to him & understands what makes him tick. Karam is so much happier now, a best friend to anyone he gets to know & is even mixing well with other dogs.
Sasha's story with pigs begins in January 2019 when a group of men were found to be operating an illegal slaughterhouse in Wales. They were processing smokies for the black market. Smokies are considered to be a delicacy in some cultures & involve blow torching the skin of a sheep. Banned here, there is a lively & profitable black market for them which these men took advantage of.
Bramble Hall Farm, the scene of the illegal operation was raided by a multi agency task force & the animals seized.
The conditions were truly horrendous.
Live sheep were penned in the slaughter room, watching others being killed, disembowelled & cut up in front of them.
The pigs were living in the same environment as the sheep, starving, forced to eat whatever they could gain access to. Including entrails which had been discarded on the slaughterhouse floor.
More than 50 dogs & puppies were being kept with no food or water in their own excrement.
When the farm was raided the Dogs Trust sprang into action, deploying their ambulance to rescue the dogs.
A spokesman for the trust said
“On Tuesday, January 29, we assisted Pembrokeshire County Council, and Dyfed-Powys Police in attending to dogs whose welfare has potentially been compromised at a premises near Pembroke Dock.
"More than 50 dogs were removed from the site and Dogs Trust staff were on hand to ensure that affected dogs were safely retrieved and transported with care to council premises in our specially equipped animal ambulance.
"The health and welfare of the dogs is our priority and we will do all we can to assist Pembrokeshire County Council."
The RSPCA took the horses into their care.
The sheep were sent to market.
The pigs were deemed a risk to human health if they were to enter the food chain due to the nature of their diet at Bramble Hall. Potentially they have a risk of being affected by TSE, which is like BSE in cattle. So, they were put under a destruction order & transferred to a DEFRA isolation unit.
Sasha mounted a rescue bid. How could she let this herd of pigs be disposed of in this manner. Their lives mattered & she was determined to do everything she could to save them.
Nine months of legal battling followed the pigs transfer to DEFRA eventually culminating in the pigs being transferred to Sasha's care.
A major triumph & quite possibly a landmark case, certainly a very happy ending for the pigs. But for Sasha it was just the beginning.
The pigs had not been separated into male & female only groups to afford the pigs some family planning at the isolation unit. They were expected to remain at the unit for 28 days or so before being killed & disposed of, they would be killed pregnant or not. So, when Sasha gained responsibility for the pigs nine months later, 53 became 91.
It was now Sasha's responsibility to care for 91 half tonne animals for the remainder of the natural lives, which in the case of pigs is usually around 15 years.
Infrastructure needed to be put in place at Sasha's property to keep the pigs adequately protected from the elements.
And pigs need to eat & the food bill to keep the pigs tummies full is over £1000 a week, plus they need access to good healthcare, preventative medicine where relevant, bedding & enrichment.
Where on earth does anyone find the income to pay for that for the next 15 years?
Some of you may believe that we don't need to support people like Sasha or the pigs & that the pigs should have been disposed of while in the DEFRA unit.
Regardless of our beliefs we will find ourselves confronted with situations similar to this more & more as we move forward.
Farmers are up against it. There is no denying that. I am not a farmer but my family are reliant on our business to support us. We are in the business of making money just like farmers.
And if I were a farmer I would be concerned. The number of people not consuming meat or dairy products has quadrupled since 2014. That's a lot of customers to have lost & a lot of income to lose.
Consumers are savvy & getting savvier all the time. They are concerned about how their choices affect the environment, their health & other people & animals.
Reduced meat & dairy consumption isn't a fad, it is here to stay & will continue to reduce well into the future.
So where does this leave the animals that are farmed for their meat & milk?
Where will they go when a cluey farmer swaps his cows for oats or his pigs for nuts?
Your answer to that question might be to simply dispose of them. Kill the surplus & get rid of the carcasses. But there is a better way. Sasha's way.
Global Vegan Crowd Funder, a platform for ethical & ecological vegan projects has launched The Pigoneer 2000 Club as a solution to funding the feed bill for the pigs for life.
Each pigoneer is asked to pledge a monthly donation of £2.50, a paltry sum which most of us can easily afford. Members of the pigoneer club can pledge more than the minimum donation if they would like to. We are looking for more members to feed all of the pigs so please join us!
This simple yet very effective model not only ensures that Sasha can sleep at night knowing that the pigs will be fed but gives us a glimpse of the future.
I predict that this will be a new normal at some point in the not to distant future & am incredibly proud to be among so many forward thinking people who recognise the value of life & want to sustain it.
I was fortunate enough to spend several years living & helping at a non working farm that gave city kids a chance to taste the countryside. We had some sheep & goats & a pig. They were all individuals with their own unique personality. When I look at my dogs & compare them to that pig that I knew, I can't see any difference. That isn't a cliche, it's my experience. My pig would come when I called his name, play with a football & if he was in the mood to do so would take a stroll around the paddock with me or offer his belly up for a tickle.
Below is a tweet from Sasha. In the video our ambassador Pig Sid is having a wonderful time playing around in the barn while some of the herd have a siesta.
Sid's life matters, all their lives matter. Just like my dog's & mine & yours. They are no different.
Please get in touch if you have any questions or something to add to this blog, you can email me here
Visit Sasha & the pigs here
Join The Pigoneer 2000 Club here
Please listen to this interview with Sasha from Beneath The Wood Sanctuary to hear about the pigs in Sasha's own words.