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Charlotte's Pig Spared from Hog Heaven


06/29/06

Owner has change of heart after inquiries about Wilbur's future

By DOUG DAVIS
The Daily News Journal

It's a case of life imitating fiction.

In the E.B. White children's book "Charlotte's Web," Wilbur the pig was saved from the butcher. Now, a real Rutherford County piglet has been similarly spared.

 

John Batey, whose pig Wilbur appeared in promotional pictures for a new edition of the book "Charlotte's Web," has decided not to send the pig to market. Instead, Batey and his wife, Melissa, said, "Wilbur will have a good life" and a "Wilbur house." (RACHELLE MORVANT / THE DAILY NEWS JOURNAL)

The piglet, now seven or eight weeks old, posed last week for a photo shoot to promote a new edition of the book being published by HarperCollins Children's Books.

"Wilbur may never know when he becomes a star," farmer John L. Batey told a reporter after the pictures were taken. "Within a year, he'll head to market."

The fame of Wilbur � or the interest in his fate � exceeded expectations.

"John never knew when he said that he would start the discussion that has been generated," said Melissa Batey, the farmer's wife of more than 29 years.

Calls from Canada, Boston and New York came to the Bateys' home.

"A Saskatchewan radio station thought our famous pigs would be of interest to their listeners," Melissa Batey said.

A woman from Boston (a vegetarian) called to see what was going to happen to Wilbur.

Even the publishing company called to offer a pig sanctuary for Wilbur.

"I've had people to call that I haven't heard from in 30 years," said John Batey.

One Murfreesboro animal lover sent an e-mail to the Daily News Journal editor pleading with Batey to spare Wilbur's
life.

"I am married to a lovely man, and anyone who knows John knows he would be honest and fair to everyone," said Melissa Batey.

"But he didn't read the book. I had to point out that the farmer was not the good guy until the end of the book."

The long-time Blackman community swine farmer admits he didn't remember the story.

"I wasn't going to be the bad old farmer in the book," John Batey said.

"I'm going to be keeping him myself. (Wilbur) is going to be a farm animal."

John L. Batey is afraid his pig would get fat and have a short life span in a zoo or animal sanctuary.

"We are going to build a little Wilbur house for him," the 63-year-old farmer said.

The pig will be in a field near the Batey house, where they can keep an eye on him.

The farmer has even contacted a nutritionist with the Tennessee Farmer's Co-op to work on a special diet for the pig so Wilbur will lead a long life.

"I have no idea what a pig's life span is, but we will try to do the best we can by Wilbur," said Melissa Batey. "Wilbur will have a good life."

John L. Batey admits Wilbur has taken a whole new pig path from the others on his farm. They normally are fed corn and soybeans and head to market after about six months.

Wilbur even went to church on Sunday.

"All the preschoolers knew about 'Charlotte's Web' and Wilbur," John L. Batey explained.

The Blackman United Methodist Church children hugged and petted Wilbur � one little pig who won't be going to market.



 


 

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