Naama Barak
May 8, 2023

When Yossi was a piglet, he was rescued from a pig farm and found a forever home at the Freedom Farm sanctuary in central Israel, which nurtures animals rescued from slaughter. Many of these creatures have physical disabilities requiring personalized solutions.

While Yossi was given a new lease on life, his quality of life was compromised due to his increasing weight problem – the result of factory farming methods.  

“Pigs bred in the meat industry are very different from the pigs we know in nature,” explains Meital Ben Ari, the cofounder of Freedom Farm.

“They’re expected to reach a weight of 100 kilos within a few months, ahead of their slaughtering. And that requires rescue farms to put them on a diet. Otherwise, they’ll get heart attacks because they’re genetically enhanced to eat so much.” 

Medicinal mushrooms give rescued pig new lease on life
Freedom Farm cofounder Meital Ben Ari with a friend. Photo courtesy of Freedom Farm 

As Yossi grew, his foot began getting twisted because of his weight and size, she notes. Nothing they tried helped alleviate the situation.

“We started giving him painkillers, and he needed to take huge amounts because of his size. We knew that the painkillers are definitely bad for his liver, but we always prefer quality of life over longevity,” she tells ISRAEL21c.  

“We had no choice, because we didn’t want him to be a pig that can’t move – that’s no life. And yet, we were very concerned about the state of his internal organs.”

Mushroom magic

Then, one of the volunteers at the farm who treats animals with alternative medicine suggested that the team give Yossi a mushroom extract concocted by a specialist in Israel. 

This extract, she told them, can help heal internal organs.

The team went for it, thinking they’d use the extract to complement the painkillers.

“But when we began giving Yossi the mushrooms, we started seeing that beyond his mood lifting, he actually needed less painkillers. It was like magic; it rehabilitated him from the inside – he managed to run and play,” Ben Ari says.

Medicinal mushrooms give rescued pig new lease on life
Yossi the pig has been given a new lease on life thanks to a mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine. Photo courtesy of Freedom Farm

The mushroom extract was donated to Yossi – and since then to other animals at Freedom Farm – by Rea Sofer, the cofounder of Mycospring, an Israeli company that develops medical mushroom products.

“We grow Cordyceps mushrooms, which are very strong medicinal mushrooms that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many years,” Sofer explains. 

“In humans, it works very strongly on the kidneys, and once our kidneys work better, our blood is cleaner. It also reduces inflammation, it’s anticarcinogenic, it aids lymph nodes, and increases blood oxygen levels.”

Sofer tells ISRAEL21c that he’s not very familiar with these mushrooms’ effect on animals, “but we’ve seen that it works. It’s gaining traction at the Freedom Farm, but there are also animal therapists who treat animals using our mushrooms.”

Yossi, by now six years old, began receiving the mushroom extract a few months ago, and he’s improved greatly since.

Medicinal mushrooms give rescued pig new lease on life
Yossi is now one happy pig, able once more to run around and play. Photo courtesy of Freedom Farm

“He’s in much better shape in terms of walking and his feet,” Ben Ari concludes. “We’ll definitely be carrying on with Yossi’s mushrooms having seen how much they help him.”

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