Farm Sanctuary – Making the Connection

I have been following Farm Sanctuary’s work for quite a while now and I am completely enamored with them. Farm Sanctuary is such a wonderful organisation and I believe was one of the first sanctuaries for farm animals. Since Seb and I heard of them, we have supported  them by sponsoring animals, usually hens (larger animals are expensive). Our first hen called Wendy passed away about a year ago and we received the most touching heartfelt letter telling us of her last few days in the sanctuary and the impact she had had on those around her. We knew that this place is a special and that we wanted to include a visit to the farm on our once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Having met my dearest younger  brother the afternoon before, we drove part of the way to Farm Sanctuary to a town called Vacaville (Vaca is spanish for cow which seemed rather apt given our visit the next day). We got up early in the morning and headed off for one of the farm visits that they do every Saturday morning. As we were walking around the place we were struck with many things.

1. Just how incredibly clean the place was. I was lying on the ground in the pig shed with my head on a pig’s belly and there was no pig poop anywhere to be seen. They told us how with only 600 animals they are able to manage the waste generated from the animals on the farm without having to take it off site or put it in those terrible holding ponds that cause such pollution. I love this!

2. Just how friendly and relaxed the animals were.  I grew up in a village near farms so I have seen plenty of farm animals, but I have to say that I was never able to approach sheep or cows. Obviously this is because most farm animals will not have  the love and affection and time spent with people that the animals have at Farm Sanctuary so it was so special to see the bonds that CAN exist between farm animals and people given half a chance.

3. How knowledgeable the guides were about the individual animals, their knowledge of farming as well as their ability to communicate with their tour guests (we had some who were NOT yet vegan).

4. I was really astounded as to how big cows and steers are when you get up to them. I was able to get up close with a 16 year old steer called Yugo and I was moved by how huge he was. Such a wonderfully gentle animal with the most beautiful dark eyes.

5. We were all particularly surprised to find out about the care needed for the older animals. There are several animals at the sanctuary who are now middle aged or elderly and there is very little known about how farm animals age and what to do with them when their do. Farm Sanctuary are working with Cornell university to try to work out how best to deal with animals that have arthritis and other aliments considered with aging. I found the fact that no-one knows what happens when animals age is incredible. We have manipulated turkeys to have such large breasts that they can no longer reproduce naturally or cows to produce such a large amount of milk yet we wouldn’t waste the time to research animal arthritus considering animals are nearly always slaughtered when they are still so young.

Here is a list of common farm animals, their natural lifespan and their ‘actual’ lifespan from Humane Facts. Essentially nearly all animals are killed when their are babies. Babies! No wonder we have no idea on how to deal with aliments concerned with getting older.

Natural lifespan: 15 years
Killed for food: 5-6 months

Natural lifespan: 20-25 years
Killed for food:
Cows raised for beef: 6 months
Dairy cows: 5-7 years
Veal calves: 4 months (don’t forget the veal industry is inextricably linked with the dairy industry. What else can we do with the male calves?) Drink milk? Condem a calf. 😦

Natural lifespan: 7 years
Killed for food:
Broiler chickens: 5 weeks
Layer hens: 2 years 

Male chicks hatched as byproducts of egg industry: 1 day

Natural lifespan: 10-12 years
Killed for food: 3-6 months

Farm Sanctuary or any other farm animal sanctuary is a great place to take people and your children who want to connect with the animals that might be on their plate and to find out more about factory farming. I love the work they do. Working with politicians to try to introduce laws to help animals. Their promotion of a vegan diet for our health, the environemnt and of course the animals. Their events like Thanksgiving FOR the Turkeys, the documentaries they have made like the heartwrenching Peaceable Kingdom and their incredible rescues. The animals are wonderful ambassadors for their species and highly recommend a visit. I am not sure of an exhaustive list of sanctuaries on the internet, but this list is a good start. or just google sanctuary and your local area. If you want (or you want your child) to connect with animals, consider visiting a farmed animal sanctuary.Petting zoos and zoos generally are not great places to do this as they are exploiting animals not helping them. Most sanctuaries have open days or will do a private tour for a donation. Unlike a zoo, this is one excursion that could change your life and that of your child’s for the better. Who doesn’t want to have a child whose heart is full of compassion and love for all beings? 

Jack with one of the goats.

Jack and I with a wolf dog ambassador. ****

Petting the Wolf Dog ****

Aww.. So cute..

Such a content pig.

I love this picture!

Jack with one of the lovely pigs.

Letting him sniff me before I go in for a belly scratch.

With the hens!

With Yugo

We also were lucky enough to bump in to the manager of another sanctuary in California called Lockwood Arc and sanctuary for wolves and wolf dogs. Fantastic work they are doing helping war veterans to rehabilitate with help from the beautiful animals from Lockwood.


What a Welcome! US Trip Day 1

We have been in the US now for just over 48 hours and we have had a mind-blowingly fantastic time already. We had heard that Americans could be incredibly generous and hospitable, and so far we are pleased to say that it is totally true!

Those that know us well will know that we really were worried that we mightn’t get across the border. When Seb was younger he was busted for working illegally as a dishwasherer as an 18 year old and was told he wouldn’t be able to come back. We thought the statute of limitations had probably past but we were not really able to relax until he got through. Happily, he got through without any questions. They had plenty of questions for me. This woman from Australia, living in `Indonesia, but not working in the oil industry. Not having lived in Australia since 2002, having met significant in other when in Morroco. We sounded like we’d spent most of our adult lives stuffing around the world which wouldn’t have been an inaccurate description, but hey. I found the whole thing quite funny as I always feel very humbled and excited when someone is interested in me and there was this guy who I didn’t know asking me lots of questions about my life. The irony of it is of course that he really wasn’t that interested in me. Still we got though and that was the main thing.

We made it!

He got through!

Once we were though, we met our friends Heather and Simon in Blaine in a gas station. H and S, our friends from Vancouver were travelling down as far as Seattle with us. We often travel with them, but this time, Heather and Simon were expecting their second child so a long trip wasn’t doable. Our first proper stop was in a small town called Arlington where we were meeting Elisa. Elisa and I had never met before, but we’d become friends on Facebook having conversed on a message board a couple of years ago. Elisa has just started her own awesome blog called Free Heel Vegan which combines her passion for animal rights and her love of skiing and mountain biking. I have always found vegans to be incredibly generous and hospitable to others when travelling. Elisa treated us to an excellent tempeh Reuben sandwich at Shire Café (What?? A near vegan café in a small agricultural town in northern Washington State? YES!!!!!! SCORE!!!), a batch of amazing Lazy Samoa cookies, a guide to veg restaurants in Seattle and Portland and best of all a  guided visit to New Moon Goat Sanctuary, a place she volunteers at on a weekly basis.

For many vegans, sanctuaries are very special places. As the definition of the word, sanctuaries are a place for animals that have had a really tough time (like most domesticated animals) in life. Those that were terribly neglected or perhaps were spared the slaughterhouse by some incredible stroke of luck, they can spend the rest of their lives just being themselves with nearly all their needs being filled where they can live peacefully until a ripe old age. While the actual number of animals that find themselves in sanctuary is the tiniest fraction of all animals created by us to be violently killed they are still a really important part of the animal rights movement. The animals in sanctuaries serve as ambassadors for their species. They can show the rest of the world what farmed (and killed animals) have the potential to be if they are given the chance. In a world where most people are isolated from where their food comes from, animals in sanctuaries have been known to inspire people to become vegan just by spending some time with these creatures.

Secondly, sanctuaries are really important for animal rights advocates. While many of us spend a great deal of time trying to speak for the animals, the most amount of time we have in contact with animals is when we see their dead corpses all butchered up in the super markets. Not exactly the best way to experience animals. Sanctuaries are a place for animal rights advocates to remember why they are doing this work and feel inspired and hopefully in a world that considers the use and abuse of animals the norm. As there are not many sanctuaries, especially for farm animals in Jakarta, the opportunity to spend some time with the goats at New Moon Goat Sanctuary was very special.

Heather, Stella and the 19 year old kitty.

Seb and one of the residents of New Moon Goat Sanctuary.

Why the long face?

Me and some donkeys.

Just me and some kids.

A devoted woman called Ellen runs the New Moon Goat Sanctuary. Although only about 4 years old, it has been the home for many hundreds of goats.  While some of them will stay forever with Ellen, there are others that are up for adoption (to those who can demonstrate that they will look after them properly). Ellen and Elisa told me that many of the goats end up at her sanctuary because people decide to have a goat to cut their grass, as pets or to take their milk and they are unaware of the commitment that goats take such as trimming their hooves and making sure they are fit and healthy. Some are brought to her from animal welfare officers who confiscate them from neglectful situations. As well as goats there are also donkeys and a couple of horses. One of them, Eclipse is a Premarin horse’s foal. Many people don’t know that the word ‘Premarin’ (a popular Hormone Replacement Drug used by women to alleviate the symptoms of menopause) actually stands for Pregnant Mares’ Urine. In the US, 80,000 female horses are kept in factory farm conditions for up to 20 years (when they are then slaughtered) so as to harvest their urine for the drug. The foals are fattened up and sent to slaughter. It was so lovely to spend time with this gentle soul who by some strange twist of fate ended up at New Moon.

Simon and Stella talk to Eclipse.

This is what goats do given half a chance.

Animal lovers!

Flirty goat!

Heather and Stella both looking adorable!

Bubba and I

Such a peaceful old soul.

All so happy!

Ellen and Elisa showed us around the farm where she introduced us to some of the residents. To observe them playing freely, climbing on top of the numerous toys put out to stimulate them and to listen to stories about their funny quirks and habits of these individuals was so enjoyable and boy, many of them were so friendly approaching us, rubbing their horns against us and just wanting some attention. I took a great deal of joy watching Heather and Simon’s little girl Stella with the animals. I feel there is something honest and pure about a young child connecting with animals. I think she enjoyed them despite being a little bit freaked out by those that wanted to get a bit too close. Ellen looks after all the animals with the help of some volunteers like Elisa. Her commitment to the well-being of these animals is really inspiring. Thank you to Elisa and Ellen for all that you do and for showing us around. We were on a real buzz for hours afterwards.

After our visit, we said goodbye to Ellen and Elisa and headed to Seattle and our hotel. Although there aren’t many vegan restaurants down town, Seb wanted to check out Pizza Pi, a restaurant he’d found out about. It was a car ride to get there, but it didn’t disappoint. An entirely vegan pizza place! The artichoke and spinach salad was amazing. My pizza ‘Sunny Days with a base of sundried tomatoes, basil, olives and this amazing cheesy stuff which seemed to be made out of cashews and nutritional yeast.  Right next door there was a vegan grocery store called Sidecars for Pigs where we bought from Raw Kale Chips for only $6.50! Kale chips are so ridiculously tasty and nutritious and if you have not yet tried them, make them at home NOW!

Delicious Pizza at Pizza Pi

What a fantastic first day in the US. Can day 2 match it?