A Sanctuary Full of Hope
written by Julia of JFillustrations
photographs by Julia Feliz
About a year ago I was fortunate to visit Farm Sanctuary, California, a place where a very lucky few get to spend the rest of their lives free from harm and on their own terms. The sanctuary takes part in advocacy, rescue, and education relating to the plight of farm animals, which scientific research has found to have highly developed social, emotional, and intellectual capabilities. After a long trip to the sanctuary, we finally came upon a place that could only be described as serene and full of hope.
We were welcomed to the sanctuary by a building named the “People Barn”. The building was full of information, vegan goodies, such as book, clothing, and snacks, and a display of the different types of delicious foods free from animal products that are available in markets state and world-wide. Thanksgiving was also around the corner, so they had turkeys from both California and New York sanctuaries available for sponsorship. We couldn’t pass this up, so we “adopted” our first Thanksgiving turkey – one that we would actually get to meet at the sanctuary that day. We decided this was a tradition we were happy to take part in every year from then on.
We were the only visitors during that fall afternoon, so we were able to enjoy a quiet and personal leisurely walk towards the “Animal Barns”. We first came upon the ducks and male turkeys. We then met the adorable rabbits and the cat that hung out at the rabbit barn. On the opposite side barns was where we encountered the chickens and a large flock of female turkeys that were all too happy to run over and say hello, and as my husband described it, “tell us their individual life story”. Author Amy Hatkoff (The Inner World of Farm Animals) reports that turkeys, chickens, and other birds have well-developed language, each one with a unique voice. My husband’s description turned out to be a fairly accurate one!
Like most Americans, I was raised eating turkey every Thanksgiving and usually on Christmas holiday, I never knew any different. I don’t think I ever even reflected about the turkeys displayed on the table as our eldest family member gave thanks for our meal. Meeting these turkeys for the first time made me reflect upon those times and my previous choices. These turkeys were so full of life. They were incredibly interested in us just as we were interested in them. Some were shy but others were very outgoing and happily wanting to interact with us. They were all unique individuals. Although all the non-human animals we met that day were quite inspiring individuals in their own way, meeting these turkeys was by far my most memorable experience from my time at Farm Sanctuary. The same day we visited, we also got to see some baby turkeys that had been rescued and “dropped off” by someone in the middle of the night. They had just started learning to call, and it was one of the cutest things I have yet to witness.
The pig barn was a very large enclosure that included areas to run around and play as well as sheltered areas, where several pigs laid closely together in a comfortable sleep.
We also met with sheep and some cows that stared at us just as intently as we were looking at them. They all had large areas of the sanctuary to spend their days in. I remember one of the cows that we met that day; she was the largest creature I think I have ever stood next to. I had read about the use of growth hormones and the breeding of unnaturally large farm animals, but I never imagined that cows would ever get as big as this cow was. She was a newly rescued cow, most likely discarded as an unsuitable “product” and holding on to dear life when she was found. From her weakly appearance and slight limp, it was obvious that she was still on the road to recovery.
My trip to Farm Sanctuary, Cali was a wonderful one. It was an opportunity to finally meet some of the most intelligent and amazing non-human farm animals. Most importantly, it was inspiring to see that, out of over 50 billion animals “used” for the food industry every year, a few of them were able to live in safety and peace for the duration of their lives. I am hopeful that one day all farmed non-human animals will be able to experience the same compassionate fate.