A Visit to Out to Pasture Farm Sanctuary
One of the greatest sources of suffering and oppression on this earth is hidden behind the walls of factory farms. More than 45 *BILLION* animals are killed for food by humans every single year worldwide, and most of those lived their entire, short lives on factory farms. Many of them never saw the light of day. And many of them died for nothing, as their flesh is often wasted in this gluttonous land of plenty. This is a holocaust of unimaginable magnitude, being carried out each and every day.
If you don't already know about the horror of factory farms, I urge you to learn more. You can start by watching Meet Your Meat, a video chronicling some of the oppression, cruelty, suffering and death that are an everyday part of today's "farms" where animals are raised for meat. See Meet Your Meat here: link to www.exploreveg.org. This is a cause of much suffering. More animals die as cogs in the wheel of factory food production than from any other cause. This is unnecessary, and insupportable. It doesn't have to be this way.
Humans do not need to eat meat to thrive. In fact, science is increasingly teaching us that vegetarians and vegans are healthier, happier, thinner, and live longer lives than non-vegetarians. (See, for example, link to www.huffingtonpost.com link to www.eatright.org.) Eating meat increases the risk for a person to develop heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and many other health problems. The meat industry has brought us virulent forms of E.Coli and antibiotic resistant germs, not to mention Mad Cow disease. Yet the industry continues to sell the idea that we need meat, that meat is somehow "good" for us. The truth, though, is that the American habit of eating meat with every meal is only good for the profit margins of factor "farmers."
Just as humans do not need to eat meat, animals do not need to suffer the cruelty and indignities of life on a factory farm. There is a better way. Across the country, there is a growing movement of dedicated activists who are providing sanctuary to animals that would otherwise have been denied dignity, respect, compassion, and life. While there have always been people willing to share their hearts and provide sanctuary to other animals, the modern farm sanctuary movement began about 20 years ago. Back in the mid-1980s, activist Gene Baur began rescuing farmed animals from slaughter houses, and bringing them in to sanctuary. He and other activists built a beautiful sanctuary in Watkins Glen, in the idyllic Finger Lakes region of New York. More recently, they've built another sanctuary in Orland, California. Besides providing shelter for animals rescued from slaughter houses and factory farms, they began providing education and outreach, teaching people about factory farms and showing people how to eat without causing suffering. (The Watkins Glen shelter, for example, hosts a bed and breakfast in which visitors can stay in one of three rustic but comfortable cabins out among the pastures, decorated with photographs of the animals who live there. There, they can meet the animals as the complex and beautiful individuals that they are. They can also learn about veganism, and can pick up recipes and literature on how to live and eat cruelty-free. In the morning, guests arise to a sumptuous vegan breakfast.) (For more about the Watkins Glen and Orland Farm Sanctuaries, see http://www.farmsanctuary.org/index.html.) The movement grew and spread, and now there are literally hundreds of sanctuaries around the world, run by revolutionary people with the compassion, empathy, and creativity that it takes to change the world.
I had the privilege to meet with two such people today, out in Estacada. A small crew from Animal Defense Media finally made our way out there to visit with Kit and John Collins, and the many non-human animals who share their small but comfortable 3 acre farm. We met pigs, chickens, sheep, rabbits, and many others, each with his or her own story to tell. There was Casey, the border collie, who had been abandoned by a neighbor and then hit by a car many years before, and who is now loved and cared for as every dog should be. There was a rabbit palace, where rabbits could burrow into tunnels and nest in straw. Many of the rabbits had been rescued after animal activists noticed an announcement on Craig's list promising rabbits who were "ready for slaughter." Thankfully, they turned out to be ready for sanctuary instead. We met Lloyd, a llama who had once been a guard to a flock of sheep. Both the sheep and Lloyd had been attacked, though, leaving Lloyd with some serious injuries. Lloyd likes to sit on a pile of straw in the middle of the sanctuary, and nothing can persuade him to take shelter indoors. He sat regally chewing on something unseen throughout my visit. (By the way, I learned that llamas really do spit. Who knew.)
Roosters of all kinds crowed their welcome to us as we toured the farm. Spike, for example, is a refugee from a factory farm. Like many factory farmed chickens, he was bred to grow large breasts very quickly, at the expense of his own health. So large he can hardly walk, he was recovering from mites today. (Mites are a common affliction among chickens. On a factory farm, they would suffer the loss of their feathers without treatment. But here, he received the medication he needed and is slowly growing his feathers back.) He was clearly relieved to be reclining in soft hay in a little wooden house, a comfortable distance from his neighbors, rather than jammed into a sunless shed with thousands of other birds, waiting for slaughter. There was a beautiful, big, barred rock rooster, proudly perched up on a branch. This one had known just which yard to fly into. He found his own way to sanctuary, after appearing out of nowhere in the back yard of a very compassionate animal rights activist who brought him here. We also met a flock of turkens, also known as Transylvanian Naked Necks. These odd chickens have few feathers, and look like their necks have been plucked. Rumor has it they were bred this way to make slaughter and plucking easier. They tend to be extremely intelligent little birds, and these ones were beautiful and healthy.
Kit and John have also taken in dozens of feral (and not so feral) cats over the years. There are feeding stations all over the farm, and we saw cats darting in and out of barns, nestling beneath tall grasses, sleeping on roof tops, and rubbing against the legs of larger animals. One of the cats has only three legs. All of them are beautiful.
Besides all of those animals, there were a couple of rescued horses, a donkey, and a little pony whose name, I think, is Rainbow. And my favorite of all, there were at least 9 little pigs. Kit and John take in rescued pot bellied pigs. Juanita came from Molalla, where she had been abandoned by the same people who had been fighting over Snowball the white deer (see http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3505/11962/). When she arrived at the sanctuary, Juanita was in very poor health, and her prognosis was not good. She was diagnosed with cancer, and had a 20 lb tumor removed from her body. Kit and John refused to give up on her. They let her move into their home, where she sleeps in a crate in their kitchen, and they began administering homeopathic medicine to her. From what I could see today, she seems to be doing very well. Although not fully recovered, she is happy, very vocal, and has a hearty appetite. She devoured many of the bananas we brought for her and the other pigs.
Out in a large and clean pig pen, six other pigs rooted around, talking amongst themselves and happily taking bananas from our hands. One actually came up and sat on her back haunches in front of us in order to politely request more bananas. John demonstrated their table manners by feeding them some porridge while we were there. He put the food into separate bowls for each of them. They joyously went from bowl to bowl, unceremoniously nudging each other aside to get a taste from every bowl. It looked like a game of musical chairs, only with lots of loud noises and lots of yellow porridge clinging to little black snouts. In a little barn off to one side, I met another little pig -- my favorite. She was nestled comfortably down in a great pile of straw, snoring contentedly. I reached down to scratch her behind her hairy ears (I couldn't resist). She woke up, pushed her nose up out of the straw, and let out the most prolonged and contented grunt I have ever heard. Who knew pigs talked so much! She grunted and gurgled every time I touched her. She seemed very happy to be there. I think there was one more pig in the pile somewhere, but I didn't see it.
The farm, the animals, and John and Kit were all very inspiring to us. They showed us what can be done with a little bit of space and a lot of ingenuity, to create a sanctuary for farmed animals. They have built a loving home and a respectful relationship with animals who really needed a break. They've taken in animals from all sorts of difficult situations. Some of the food is donated from various sources, but they buy a lot of it themselves, and they also pay for most of the veterinary care themselves. They're seeking 501(c)3 status, to make it a little easier to fund the sanctuary, though that's still pending.
If you're looking for a way to help farmed animals, I would say the first and most important thing you can do is to stop eating meat and become a vegan. It's easier, and far more important, than you might think. (In my household, we're all vegetarian, and working toward veganism. Some of us are closer than others to that ideal. I have to confess, I do eat the eggs from the very well-loved chickens who live with us, but other than that I'm pretty much weaned from dairy. Others in my house still eat a little dairy, but not much.) There are lots of books, websites, and groups that can help you in your quest for cruelty free eating.
Another thing you can do, if you have the space and the will, is to start your own farm sanctuary. There are literally millions of animals out there who could use a place of compassion and sanctuary. If you think this is something you might like to do, this site will give you lots of information about how to go about it: http://www.farmanimalshelters.org/shelter_establish.htm.
Finally, if you don't have the room or the ability to commit to starting your own farm sanctuary, but you would like to do something to help, consider donating time or resources to the good people at Out to Pasture Farm Sanctuary. You can find out more information, including how you can help, by visiting their website here: http://www.outtopasturesanctuary.org/. And, by the way, if you're a veterinarian or know a good vet who would be willing to donate some time and services to a very worthy cause, please get in touch with these folks. They've been burdened with some enormous vet bills recently, and I know that good, inexpensive medical care for the animals would be greatly appreciated.
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