Portia was rescued from a factory farm and was bred for pork meat for human consumption. Originally rescued by Fiona from Manning River Farm Animal Sanctuary , in 2015 Fiona was tragically diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. As she was looking at months of debilitating treatment, she set about seeking forever homes for the animals she had worked so hard to rescue.
Farm Animal Rescue were able to provide a home to Portia and three other pigs, Ellen, Moby and Kane. Current pig residents at the time – Heather, Thomas and Howard – also rescued from a pig factory farm, would need to start sharing their home at sanctuary.
Fiona and Portia - Manning River Farm Animal Sanctuary.
We knew that Portia and her friends would take some time to get to know the existing residents, to make friends and get used to one another. Pigs love their food and so we'd need to take extra care at dinner time to ensure everyone had a good meal, and to minimise any squabbles over food. We installed a feed trough that allowed everybody to eat at the same time.
The original pig barn, built to house six pigs, became a bit of a squeeze for seven so we also needed to install additional watering facilities and put up a second small pig house. This allowed the pigs some growing room and personal space.
We promised Fiona that we would keep the Manning River pigs happy and content, safe and loved. We could imagine how distressing it was for her to see animals that she'd worked so hard to rescue go to other homes because she was no longer able to care for them. However Fiona’s courage was un-wavering and she worked tirelessly to ensure that every animal found the perfect home.
Portia loved her life at sanctuary. Initially there was a little tension between her and resident pig Heather, however they soon became friends and would often hang out together, chatting, or sleeping side by side.
We noticed that every summer Portia would go camping in the sanctuary forest. She would choose a site on the farm each year with lots of tree cover with access to the water which she loved. We could tell she was content.
Portia grew older and her friend Heather passed away. In early 2022 we noticed she didn't want to move around so much, and had a chronic skin condition, which we were treating with ointment and antibiotics, and which she soothed with mud, but which wasn't going away.
In March 2022 Portia had been struggling to walk. After several visits from the vet we sent this message to her kind sponsor,
"While we have had Portia up a few times, and she is able to walk, she simply doesn’t. The last time we got her up she found walking extremely difficult, no doubt because her muscles have atrophied from a lack of use.
The meds have improved her awareness, and she is now very communicative and expressive, but we are at the point where she has zero mobility. While her antibiotic treatment has been fairly successful, she still pops up the occasional lesion and it’s clear that if she comes off the antibiotic, or it stops working, the lesions will be back.
She is very comfortable, and she is on a significant amount of pain management, but this will only last so long as the muscles in her body start to wear away and she develops bed sores."
It was decided that we should relieve any further suffering, and she was euthanised the following day.
Portia's life was vastly different to the majority of pigs born in Australia and around the world. Had she not been rescued, she would likely have lived a short life enclosed in a cage barely larger than her body, on a concrete floor, never experiencing the sun, grass or the pleasure of a mud bath. Being female, she may have endured being impregnated several times existing in a sow stall, where she could not turn around or move forwards or backwards, giving birth to many litters in a farrowing crate, before being killed at a fraction of her natural life span.
We were lucky enough to get to know Portia, and had the honour of learning from her. We saved Portia so she could show everyone who met her that she was here to share our world with us, and not for us. We saved Portia because her life mattered to her, as it did to us. We found it impossible, when we looked deeply into her eyes, not to make the connection between this beautiful, curious and intelligent animal, and the pork or bacon she was destined to become. We saved her and what we discovered, as she free-roamed around the sanctuary, was an individual who wished for a life that wasn't dictated by someone else, just as we wish for our own lives.
Thank you Portia for sharing your rich personality, your zeal for life, and for the joy you brought us all, and for opening our eyes a little bit more, every time we looked into yours.