Sixteen-year-old high school student Bruno Barba purchased a pig named Lola through the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program at Fullerton Union High School in Fullerton, Calif., and developed a close relationship with it.
"She's changed my life so much and I just haven't been able to look at anything the same anymore," Bruno told The Dodo.
FFA students are fully responsible for taking care of the animals, including feeding and cleaning. After hand-raising them, the animals will be off to slaughter. But that didn't happen for Lola because for Bruno, she is his best friend.
"She's just made a huge impact on me by making me realize that they're just like us," Bruno said of Lola. "They have the same feelings as anyone else and they don't deserve to get slaughtered."
As their relationship deepens, Bruno became more and more depressed about the fates of Lola and the other pigs, which are slaughtered in a lot next to their school with students seeing it.
Bruno wanted to give Lola a better home instead of her empty concrete cell, which moved him to reach out to Farm Sanctuary that helped him bring Lola to her new home in Orland, Calif.- a six hour drive from the FFA.
"Sometimes they don't make the connection that they need to not purchase pigs in FFA anymore," said Alicia Pell, national placement coordinator for Farm Sanctuary. "They think, 'Oh, I'll just raise another animal in FFA next year and find a sanctuary again' ... That just perpetuates the cycle."
The experience reevaluated his beliefs about the animals and the FFA program as a whole, and he realized how lucky he is to help Lola escape. Other students are left with no choice but to send the animals to slaughter. Bruno and his mother turned vegetarian because of Bruno's realizations.
Pell said that the FFA Program teaches children to become desensitized, which is damaging to the animals as they experience an "ultimate betrayal" after trusting its human friends.
As for Lola, she is now happy in her new home with lots of grass and mud while endearing the caretakers.
"She loves the caretakers, she loves belly rubs - she's incredibly sweet and friendly," Pell said.
For Bruno, it was bittersweet to leave Lola. However, he was happy knowing that his best friend has found a home and has a happy future.
"I was really happy that she found a new place where she can actually play around," he said. "Of course I wanted to cry. But I didn't because she found a new home where she can be happy."