IN CONVERSATION: PAM AHERN, EDGAR'S MISSION
EDGAR'S MISSION IS A SANCTUARY + A HAVEN FOR RESCUED FARM ANIMALS IN LANCEFIELD, ABOUT AN HOURS' DRIVE FROM MELBOURNE. FOUNDER, PAM AHERN + THE DEDICATED TEAM, DO EVERYTHING THEY CAN FOR ANIMALS IN NEED + IT'S ONLY THROUGH DONATIONS THAT THEY ARE ABLE TO CONTINUE THEIR IMPORTANT WORK.
Edgar's Mission have been a part of our commitment to give back to animals from day one. Recently we had the opportunity to catch up with Pam to talk about the incredible work the sanctuary does + the inspiring story of Edgar Alan Pig, the pig who started it all.
SB: TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU CAME ACROSS THE UNIQUE + WONDERFUL, EDGAR ALAN PIG?
In 2003 I had a crash course on how to hold a pig. The scene played out at the back of a pub in a small country town. Meeting at the arranged time to collect one Edgar Alan Pig, words are yet to be created to convey my excitement. Perhaps they never will. Yet sadly, I was to learn that such a level of excitement was not held by dear Edgar. Eagerly I listened as mental notes were taken, as my pig handling 101 session was delivered. “Now the best way to hold ‘em is to grab them by their back legs like this. Now they may squeal a bit at first, but if you make the action swift they will quickly stop”.
With the parting words to never pick him up by the tail, front leg or ears – the ears especially as it can cause haematomas – ringing in my ears, I shuddered at the thought of just how this was known. And so Edgar, my trusty little pig + I set off on the most incredible journey of which I was to learn so much about pigs, + no small part was the best way to hold one.
I will never forget the journey home. Edgar sulked all the way refusing to eat his apple. First lesson, pigs can be such drama queens. Attempting to put my newly acquired pig handling skills into action I softly cooed, “come here Eddie” as I offered my upturned hand. But alas despite the many treats, toys + wonderful bed on offer, all failed to entice Edgar from the carrier and my love was still unrequited.
Stretching further in for that back leg as I had been instructed earlier, Edgar scooted away as fast as he could, retreating to beneath the straw. Undeterred I reached in, found the leg + pulled Edgar from his hidey hole as he screamed the most blood curdling + human like scream I have ever heard. “What to do now?” + although my heart told me to stop, my head soldiered on as I continued to carry out the manoeuvre, seizing his other leg + hoisting Edgar up. With the blood now rushing to his head once again, all noise stopped, + he just hung there with a blank look in his eye. He did nothing, just hung there.
Learned helplessness quickly sprang to my mind, struggling to make sense of it all – “this is wrong, so incredibly wrong”. As I gently as I could, I lowered Edgar to the ground, he scooting away again, then pausing, + contemplating his options before he turned + stared back at me, his back hunched offering a look I never wish any animal to ever send my way again. And I pledged then and there I would never again cause them to do so. And yes, I have learned pigs truly do contemplate. Often you can see this at play, pausing in the moment to take in and consider their options before acting. We humans are most definitely not the only species who can do this.
So how to hold a pig? Well over the years I have worked hard, studied long, observed well + learned many things about pigs. None the least is they are indeed incredibly intelligent animals. And if you want to a pig to be something, best to work out how this can be achieved on their terms, not yours. Their smarts are so keen.
And clean, oh my pigs are so so incredibly clean. Except of course if they have just trashed your kitchen! But seriously, given the chance they will not urinate or defecate where they sleep. Honestly if the many horses in my care in my former life as an equestrian had such powers of personal hygiene, I would get several years back of my life from the many hours consumed toiling their stalls.
In fact, the more I learn about pigs, I see they are more like us than we care – or should I say dare – to think. But most of all, what I have learned about pigs is the best way to hold them is in your heart.
SB: WHY DO FARM ANIMALS IN PARTICULAR NEED RESCUING?
Like most, I grew up loving + caring for animals + took great comfort our society did too. Enshrining it in legislation, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Sadly what most, including my then self, don’t realise is that when it comes to protecting animals we are guilty of playing favourite. We treat animals not on their ability to suffer, their desire to be with their family + friends, or their capacity for happiness + joy, rather animals are treated on the form they have taken, our familiarity we have with them + the intended use we have of them.
What that means is we have codes of practice for animals who are farmed for food + fibre, that mean we can treat them in ways we would never accept if they were our family’s pets – the ones who traditionally share our hearts + homes. This breaks my heart, + sadly theirs too. However I truly believe in the goodness of the human heart, so we here at Edgar’s Mission tell the stories of rescued farmed animals, give people a chance to learn about them + what their lives are really like. Then people can become informed + lead lives that marry with their ethics.
SB: HOW DO THE ANIMALS AT EDGAR’S MISSION LIVE THEIR LIVES?
Every animal who enters our sanctuary gates has these words whispered in their ears “you are safe now, you are at Edgar’s Mission + we shall not just give you a life, but one truly worth living”. What this means is the animal will have a life about choices, their choices not ours. They can choose the things that they want to do + at their pace.
For a chicken that will mean scratching about in the soil, hanging under the acacia tree, making a nest in private + whatever takes their little hearts fancy. For a pig that will mean mud, wallow, tummy rubs, lying in a bed of golden straw, rooting about soil, chatting with their buddies + they really do love to chat! For goats, they love to climb, you know how cats love to sit in boxes, well goats just love to climb (+ that could well be on you!)
SB: HOW CAN PEOPLE SUPPORT EDGAR’S MISSION?
So many ways, naturally financial donations are awesome (you can even include us in your will, to be a living legacy of your kindness). You can like + share our posts on social media, you can do a tour + be inspired by the animals or even book a stay in one of our tiny houses, + (post COVID) come + volunteer. You can even arrange for your school, or work group to come out + get down + dirty too!
SB: WHAT’S NEXT FOR EDGAR’S MISSION?
We have our awesome Be Kind To Animals Week October 1-7 + we are super excited. We're also looking forward to our tours + open days recommencing but for now, I had better go + feed those little lambies.
We encourage all to help out Edgar's Mission any way they can. At Sans Beast we donate $1 from every purchase, as well as all gross proceeds (that's everything but the GST) of the Everything Pouch + profits from our bag charms, to Edgar's Mission.
We can't recommend a visit to Edgars Mission highly enough. It may even be life changing for you. Our founder Cathryn felt this way, when she visited back in 2016 + has visited each year since.