Case in point –teenager Bruno Barba, a student at Fullerton High School in Orange County. Here’s a young man who stood up to his school to save the life of the pig he was raising for his school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) program. Instead of ending up at a slaughterhouse, with Farm Sanctuary’s help, Bruno’s pig “Lola” (not to be confused with “Pola” the pig) was rescued and now gets to enjoy lifelong sanctuary.
Here’s a video of what happened, courtesy of Synthian Sharp and Farm Sanctuary
There are two reasons why what Bruno did was awesome. First — teens normally yearn to fit in, not stand out. They want to be accepted and liked by their peers, not isolated and cast out. Standing up for what he believed in—risking jeers from his peers—that took nerve, so good on you, Bruno.
Secondly, it took imagination. How many participants before him also would’ve liked to see the animal they bonded with in the program continue on to live a long life, but they didn’t think to do something about it?
They are each taught how to care for their animal, groom it and show it, perhaps. But when are they taught about what happens to the animals after the program is over, and the conditions that await them? Are they taught about the horrors of industrial farming?
When I was in college, I was in a program like that, and there was little mention about what would happen to the pig I worked with after the program finished. It was actually quite hilarious up to a point, because I had no idea what I was doing, and yet ‘my’ pig Emma and I developed a real bond over time and we somehow ended up winning second place in the finals.
But when it came time to say goodbye to Emma, I didn’t do anything to question her plight. I did nothing to stand up for her, the way Bruno did. Chalk it up to yet another animal-related regret of mine.
Why didn’t I do something? I really don’t know. If I had to guess, I would say that I was a rule follower, and I didn’t know that I could do something about it. That’s why what Bruno did really moves me. Because he went out on a limb, he questioned the system, and an amazing thing happened as a result.
For his act of courage, Bruno Barba became the recipient of Farm Sanctuary’s Friends Not Food Award, earning him a well-deserved title.
Now that he has forged a path, will other kids follow in Bruno’s footsteps? I hope so. I hope they will start questioning what will happen to the animals once their program is done, and when they don’t like the answer, I hope they have the courage to do something about it.
The National FFA Organization was founded by a group of young farmers in 1928 to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. It has evolved to become a leading student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership.
You know what I love about this story? Here’s how the FFA describes itself online:
“The National FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. FFA continues to help the next generation rise up to meet those challenges by helping its members to develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways.”
Did Bruno display leadership? Yes! Career success? Well, that’s too soon to tell, but here’s hoping that Bruno finds a way to incorporate his love for animals and his unique talents in many aspects of his life.
What about personal growth? It would appear so. Bruno went so far as to say that he was rescued by Lola. How about we just agree that they were both rescued, and leave it at happily-ever-after, shall we?