STOCKTON -- New York-based Farm Sanctuary calls the removal of six pigs from a Delta island a rescue, but for those who live in Stockton, they call it something else.
“I would call it stealing property. I wouldn't call it a rescue in any way, shape or form,” said Blair Hake, the director of the California Delta Chambers and Visitors Bureau.
The removal of the pigs is specially hurtful for Roger Stevenson, the Stockton man who claims the pigs are legally his.
“They're my pets. I should be able to do with them as I please,” Stevenson said.
Now, he’s filed a report of theft with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
The animal rights group argues they acted lawfully and said in a statement:
“…Farm Sanctuary met with the owner of the private island where these pigs were born and reside and obtained his permission to rescue and give the animals proper homes. This was not done in secret. We obtained the pigs lawfully from the rightful owner.”
Stevenson said about four years ago the man who owns the land agreed to house the pigs on Walter’s Island. He told FOX40 he was going to use the hogs as food and also hoped they would eat the overgrown weeds and vegetation.
“Well I thought it would be nice to have a food source on a rainy day,” Stevenson said.
He said this isn’t the first time an animal rights group tried to "rescue" his animals. Stevenson said two years ago, a group tried to remove the pigs from the island. Stevenson claimed the sheriff’s office found that the pigs legally belonged to him.
Stevenson also said the owner of the island agreed, and each week visitors would feed the pigs which was documented on a Facebook page dedicated to the unofficial Delta mascot.
“They seem to be well fed, they seem to be in good health, we try to take care of them,” Hake said.
But organizers with Farm Sanctuary said the pigs were found malnourished.
“I would argue that those animals are healthy and happy out there,” Stevenson said.
Now the island that neighbors lovingly called “pig island” stands still — empty.
The animals are at UC Davis. Farm Sanctuary released another email on Wednesday afternoon which stated:
• These are not wild boars, they are domesticated pigs—just as one wouldn’t think that dogs left alone on an island would fare better than if they had a loving home with all the amenities they need, these pigs wouldn’t fare better abandoned on an island with their fates’ left to chance—remember that these rescued pigs are the *survivors* of the island;
• The pigs were on private property and so, even though many community members interacted with the pigs (with or without the owner’s consent), the pigs did not belong to them;
• UC Davis veterinarians are assessing and treating the pigs right now, some of whom have lice and black diarrhea. Their focus is on medical care and so they will not be giving a statement at this time. We are happy to share photos, video, and documentation reflecting the pigs’ conditions;
• Farm Sanctuary has been rescuing farm animals for over 30 years. We often hear that farm animals are “treated just fine,” even in cases of extreme cruelty or neglect. Our mission is to protect all farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living. These pigs needed rescue and we commend the owner for agreeing to give these pigs the life they deserve—a happy and safe life with lots of care and love from trained professional caregivers; and
• Farm Sanctuary has two shelters in California, one in Orland and one in Acton, where visitors can meet our residents, hear their stories, and learn about our work.