To some it’s just a pig sty — but to seven lucky hogs, the 10 acre woodland near Bagden Hall in Scissett is a sanctuary that saved their bacon.
Established two years ago by animal lovers Jac and Russell Haggata, Savvi, Beth, Jen, Tom Tom, Betty, Daisy and Rath can now consider it their permanent home thanks to a successful battle against Kirklees Council.
Jac, 51, said: “They served us with an enforcement notice due to a shelter we built to house the pigs and complaints that the pigs had been destroying bluebells in the wood.
“We bought the land at auction because the field we had previously kept them in was too exposed for them and we didn’t realise that we needed planning permission as the shelter was only a temporary structure.
“We launched a petition that gained support from hundreds of people from across the world and won at a hearing in Bristol six months ago.”
The successful result has meant that they can really focus on their mission to teach people about the coarsely-haired swines by encouraging folk to come and meet them.
“We took the pigs on from a farm shop in Cornwall where we used to live” said Jac, a part-time social worker.
“They wanted to breed their own so they could sell their own bacon but they decided they weren’t profitable enough.
“Had we not taken them they would have been killed even earlier than normal.
“I named all the pigs after my children’s friends – although not all of them were pleased!
“We set up a Facebook page called Pigs in the Woods to educate people about pigs.
“And now we have school groups coming several times a week so children can learn more about them and get involved with feeding them.
“Anyone is welcome to come down to meet them too as long as we’re available.”
Challenging myths about pigs is high up on Jac’s agenda.
“They’re really intelligent creatures but I think some people are misguided about them,” he said. “They’re not aggressive as long as, just like any other animal, they are looked after correctly.
“And they have a lot of similarities to humans.
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“They feel the same emotions as us and get the same health conditions.
“Pigs also keep learning for much longer than dogs and are extremely adaptable. Our pigs didn’t have any tusks until we moved them into the wood even though they were then around six-years-old.
“They use them now to forage for food in the mud – a woodland is their natural habitat.
“Obviously, due to these reasons and our growing awareness of healthy living, I think it’s best we don’t eat them.
“There are plenty of alternatives to meat out there.”
The herd is evidently right at home in the enclosed but large area, that lies on a hill and includes a mix of glades and heavily wooded and shrubbed sections to keep them constantly entertained.
Jac hopes that she will be able to help more pigs in need.
“People ring us all the time to ask us to take on a pig – I get called the pig lady by my friends”, she said.
“An animal sanctuary called Thornberry directs people onto us because they aren’t able to take on any more
“We’re planning to take on more pigs once we have created another shelter and made the area more secure
“People seem to have good intentions when they get one but they don’t realise the amount of time and effort involved in looking after it.
“The previous owners of Savvi was also led to believe that they were buying a micro pig but he got too big.
“He’s 10-months-old now and is still growing.
“He lives with us at the moment because he had an illness that almost killed him but we don’t want him or any of the others to become domesticated. We hope to partner him with a cooney cooney pig we also have and put him back outside– they’re not indoor animals, they will wreck your house.”
Jac is also focusing on obtaining charity status for the sanctuary and encouraging more volunteers.
“We’re in the process now we’ve got the planning all clear. And as part of that we’re concentrating on raising money.
“Considering the planning decision, we will be asking the council for a grant to help support our outreach work. We ask everyone whose pigs we take to make a contribution to their upkeep.
“But we’ve also set up a scheme so that people can adopt a pig, which they can then come and see throughout the year, as well as getting a certificate and newsletter.
“We wouldn’t be able to keep going without the help of our current volunteers, who visit to feed and help muck out.
“I have fibromyalgia which leaves me feeling really tired and it would be too much to come down every day.
“If people would like to help fundraise or plan events that would be great too – we would be grateful of whatever they can give, no matter how much free time they have.”
A big summer fete has been arranged by the team on August 21.
It will feature crafts, games, a tombola and cake.
For more information or to volunteer, go to Facebook and search for Pigs in the Woods or call Jac on 07872 182295.