The safety of a lone pig sparked an emotional standoff on Thursday (12 February) in a peaceful Peterborough village.
The porker, nicknamed Peppa, has been lovingly fed and tendered by staff at the New Range Riding School and Rescue Centre, in Eye Green, for the last four weeks.
But they were horrified today when its owner turned up accompanied by the driver of a van, which, they say, had the words “hog-roast” printed on the side, leaving them fearing the worst for Peppa.
An appeal for help was put out on the social media site Facebook which was quickly seen by 900 people with some animal lovers then rushing to the site.
At one stage the entrance to the field - a caravan site where Peppa had been kept - was blocked by a lorry to stop the animal being taken away.
But after more than two hours of bargaining, an agreement was finally reached to pay £100 for Peppa.
The van soon departed, leaving the pig at the field, two-and-a-half hours after the drama had begun at about 9am.
The money was paid by animal enthusiast Paula Nicholls who owns the New Range Riding School and Rescue Centre which is next door to the site.
Ms Nicholls rushed over to the stand-off from her home in Gunthorpe after fearing that the one-year-old male pig was to be taken and killed.
Van driver John McGinn, owner of the Dog in a Doublet pub, said the centre had got the issue confused and he had bought the pig to take to a petting zoo he owned to look after it.
Mr McGinn was accompanied by a former tenant on the site when he went to pick up the pig.
The former tenant had been the pig’s owner, but Mr McGinn said he had bought the animal off him.
However, having picked the pig up, the pair found themselves blocked-in by a lorry owned by the site’s landlord, Charlie.
The argument, said Ms Nicholls, went on for two-and-a-half hours before she made a payment of £100 to buy the pig.
Ms Nicholls, who has owned the riding school and rescue centre for 30 years, believed the van was owned by a hog roast company.
“I was horrified when I heard about this. I could not get there quick enough. I was not going to let him go,” she said.
Ms Nicholls said the rescue centre had been looking after Peppa for four weeks.
Mr McGinn said: “My only concern was for its welfare.
“We have a nice and cosy petting zoo where I was going to take him.
Mr McGinn added that he was not prepared to leave the site until he had received money for the pig which he says he owned.
The situation was inflamed by a Facebook status from the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norwich which claimed the pig had been abandoned and that a hog roast van had come to take him away.
The status prompted approximately 10 animal lovers to rush to the site to offer support to the landlord.
By co-incidence, the sanctuary had sent a van that day to the site to take the pig into its care.
Once the earlier stand-off had been resolved, the sanctuary picked the pig up and were taking him back to the site which homes more than 2,000 animals.
It was not possible to contact the former tenant.
Donationas can be made to help feed and care for rescued animals at Hillside Animal Sanctuary via www.hillside.org.uk/acatalog/donations.html.