While some are having candlelit dinners or romantic outings for Valentine’s Day, Elaine West is spending it close to some of her loves – pot-bellied pigs.
West is one of the founders of Rooterville, A Sanctuary Inc. She and her husband, Dale, will be hosting their second Valentine’s Brunch on Sunday to promote plant-based diets and compassion for animals.
Rooterville, located in Melrose, Florida, is home to more than 300 rescued farm animals, most of which are pot-bellied pigs.
The Wests are expecting about 40 animal lovers to attend, close to last year’s turnout. The menu includes vegetarian and vegan dishes like kale power salad, “crab” cake benedict and “chick-un” salad sandwiches. Tickets are $35, bought through the Rooterville website.
West said most pot-bellied pigs that end up in shelters are given away for food and never given a chance to find a home. At Rooterville, the pigs are given the attention they need to thrive and a live healthy life.
“People might just think of a pig as a piece of pork chop or bacon, but when they come out here they actually see that they have a personality,” West said. “They’re just like a dog or cat, only in a different body.”
Stasia Rudolph is one of Rooterville’s biggest supporters. She moved from Miami-Dade County to Bradford County because of Rooterville.
Rudolph worked for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Miami-Dade County before she retired. She said she first came upon Rooterville while searching for a home for a pig she rescued. She was impressed by the level of organization and its commitment to animal advocacy.
Rudolph said her favorite experience with Rooterville has been learning to love another species.
“Learning to appreciate pigs for something other than your food is an amazing experience,” she said. “How smart, good and social they are really puts you in your place as a human.”
Rudolph said she is also a fan of Rooterville’s Valentine’s Brunch. She described it as a wedding scene in the middle of a pig farm with white tents, round tables and fine china.
Shelley Emerick, a case manager for Humana in the Gainesville area, said her experience with Rooterville changed her life.
She contacted Rooterville to take her pet pig because Emerick had cancer. They took her pig, but they also informed Emerick on the effect diet can have on health.
Within a couple of months, Emerick’s health had turned around and she came back to get her pig. She eventually adopted two more.
West said she experienced arthritis and debilitating allergies before she and her husband switched to a plant-based diet for ethical and health reasons. West no longer experiences either.
“You don’t have to eat a huge chunk of meat to eat well,” West said. “Some of the plant-based meals I’ve eaten have been the most flavorful I’ve ever had.”
West said she is excited to host an environmentally-friendly meal for the Valentine’s Brunch.
“No animals will be harmed in the making of our Valentine’s Brunch,” she said.