So I’ve been at Animal Place two weeks now and I’m loving it here. (Already dreading when I’ll have to leave). I spend most of my time in the office here working on social media advocacy, doing research and calling and sending emails. The time I get to spend with the animals is my favorite though. Actually meeting them one on one and learning their backstories and seeing how happy and peaceful they are at Animal Place reminds me who I’m fighting for.
It’s also incredibly peaceful here. Animal Sanctuaries are unique in that they’re one of the few safe places on Earth where animals aren’t exploited or treated as means to profit from. When you meet an animal one on one and learn about their personality and likes/dislikes there’s really no difference between “farmed” animals and companion animals.
Wilbur is the sweetest and one of the few big farm pigs we can interact with because he moves slowly due to arthritis and he loves people. Farm pigs are about 800 pounds and so that weight can pose a bit of a threat sometimes so it’s good to be cautious around them. Wilbur lived in a 20×30 dirt pen before coming to Animal Place. Here he’s loved and safe and no one will ever hurt him, but unfortunately Wilbur’s story isn’t unique and so many pigs live in even worse conditions. The numbers are staggering so we try to emphasize that even though people may see Wilbur and his great home that’s not even close to what other pigs have even on the most “humane” or “local” farms.
Wilbur loves his life here and no one should ever have the power to cut it short. We try to bring him treats often. In this picture we fed him sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, and oranges. That is the face of a happy pig!
I’ve interacted with a few of the other farm pigs when we led a tour of the sanctuary. We take visitors in to see the animals and give them some belly rubs. They are usually pretty sleepy since I usually visit in the middle of the day when it’s hot. In their barns they have fans to keep them cool. Here’s Georgina! She was born on a small family farm operating on an apple orchard and petting zoo. Her owners planned to sell her and her two sisters to be killed after they were done with them. How horrifying right? It’s so sad that people don’t see anything wrong with using them for financial gain then killing them. Luckily all three were rescued and have a loving forever home.
One day last week I worked in Animal care helping with feeding, cleaning out barns, and sorting produce and so I got to see the farm pigs during feeding time! It’s quite a sight. They make screaming noises and a loud roar as they all stand behind their gate waiting to be let out. As soon as the gates are opened they all thunder down to the food and not a single drop is left when they’re finished. Even though I started work extra early that day at 7 a.m. I might go in early again just to watch them.
Working in animal care is a great way to really get to know the animals one on one. Starting work so early is not a big deal when you get to see the sanctuary come alive. The animals waking up and the early morning light really makes the “sanctuary” feel so much more real. This is Jeffrey enjoying his breakfast in the goat barn. He was abandoned by his mom at a goat dairy farm but now he’s at Animal Place and we love him all the more.
Coming into Animal Place, my favorite animals were pigs and cows. I just loved them. I knew I was going to love the chickens and turkeys as well, but I’ve been a little surprised by how much I’ve bonded with the birds. They’re sweet, curious, and obviously intelligent. Of course I have some favorites in the bunch but I don’t let the others know. Haha. Molko, pictured above, is a small female turkey and she’s the one I always look for when I go visit the chickens and turkeys. She’ll sit right down for pets and she’ll stay there until you walk away. She’s calm and loving and she likes to be stroked. It actually breaks my heart a little to think of Thanksgiving this year because even though I’m already horrified by the sheer number of birds that suffer for people to “give thanks.” This year will be even harder knowing Molko on a personal level. I know she’s all I will think about that day. She was rescued form a squatter situation and was left behind when they left.
Some of the chickens have special needs due to coming from an industrial setting or because of birth defects. Lilac, pictured above, is blind and so when we feed them we place her right in front of her food. She was rescued from a battery cage in Gilroy, CA. So she’s had a hard life, but I’m so glad she can be shown compassion and love now.
Throughout the sanctuary there are posters with animals that live at the sanctuary and quotes about animal rights. I feel like this is a really great way of gently reminding visitors that the animals here may be safe, but there’s many more that still need us to fight for them and speak up for them. It also allows people to connect the abstract idea of animals to the individuals that are in front of them.
One of my favorite experiences I’ve had was helping lead a tour. Watching people interact with the animals, for some of them it was their first time meeting farm animals, is really special because every single person lit up with a smile when they met the residents. We took them in to see Nicholas, the cow above, and it was really special. They learned a lot about animal agriculture while meeting the animals and so they were reminded of the suffering that goes on if they pay for animal products, but in a non-pushy way. It’s harder for people to tense up or react to the word “vegan” when the animals are right there and they are having a great time with them.
I’m really grateful for this experience and getting to meet the animals I’ve been advocating for the last few years. It’s so peaceful here. Everyone is vegan and incredibly nice and they just understand. There’s nothing better than being surrounded by driven and compassionate people who are striving to make the world a better place. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in this situation/environment again and so I’m trying to take full advantage of it. I’d love to work in a sanctuary setting in the future. I wouldn’t mind spending every single day of my life doing just what I’m doing right now.
Because who wouldn’t want to see this face everyday?