The Happy Herd Animal Sanctuary

Over Christmas, I was very determined to keep up with my minimalism/no plastic/zero waste efforts. I made everyone make lists of exactly what they wanted, and kept a list for myself of exactly what I wanted, and gave strict instructions to either not buy me anything or to stick to the list! Thus (un)reasonably so, I was exasperated when Mike told me he went off list – I’d already written down everything I wanted, what else could there be?

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On Christmas Day, we traded our gifts. I opened mine to find a gorgeous, new iPad (not on my list – mostly because I would never dream of asking for such a nice gift… plus I’d stolen Mike’s ancient iPad a month after we’d met and been calling it myPad ever since). Flabbergasted and undeservingly, I opened the second part of his gift, which with a funny card and calendar of farm animals showed he’d made a donation to a farm animal sanctuary near Vancouver and a promise to visit the animals in the spring. I still can’t believe how perfect that guy is.

Mid-April we headed to Vancouver for a long weekend – we brought the dogs which is always my favorite way to travel. These photos are from our visit to the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary, the most incredible place run by Diane and Stephen Wiltshire who dedicated their retirement to care for abused or at risk farm animals. Together with their crew of volunteers, they care for goats, chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, hens, ducks, cats, a couple of dogs and a donkey. The love and respect they have at Happy Herd for animals is overwhelming – both can talk to you at length about each animal’s personality and quirks, the situations where each animal came from, funny stories, interspecies friendships, and which goat to watch out for. Hearing about how their life changing switch to veganism spurred a dedication to protect and advocate for all lives was incredibly moving. I don’t often meet people as passionate about animals, getting to experience the farm sanctuary and speak with Diane and Stephen was a breath of fresh air – a reminder that doing something is better than doing nothing and that there are more people every day fighting against the cruelty, suffering and abuse that is the norm in our society. Every animal is an individual, a living being, with a special and distinct personality and will to live - almost all of us agree on this when they're placed right in front of us - so why do we deny it when they're abused and killed out of of sight? We don’t have the right to remove life from anyone who wants to live, especially at a time when not eating animal products is literally the easiest it's ever been. I would challenge anyone reading to take the time to do some reflection, to visit a farm sanctuary, to watch James Aspey or Gary Yourofsky or Dr. Michael Greger, Earthlings, Cowspiracy, What the Health, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Live and Let Live, Speciesism, Food Inc, Food Matters, Hungry For Change, PlantPure Nation, The Ghosts in Our Machine, and most importantly, to listen to yourself and stop living in conflict with values you already have and make the compassionate choice to remove animals from your plates. Most people I know are animal lovers, and when I talk with them, there's a cognitive dissonance that lets them ignore their personal disgust, sadness and guilt and replace it with apathy and bad excuses. If this is you, you're not helping - grow a pair and raise your middle finger up to the fucked up system we have. Eating plant based foods is good for you, good for the environment and good for the animals - there are no excuses not to. This movement is growing every day, I'm absolutely sure the future is vegan and in 20, 50, 100 years we'll look back at the barbarism of animal slavery and wonder what the fuck was wrong with us.

When I grow up (I'm 29...) I want to be able to teach my children about compassion and love, about respect and kindness, about science and biology and nature and psychology and environment, about personal responsibility, about conviction, about justice, about doing for others and about humility.  Like the quote we all know, you can easily judge the character of a person by how they treat those who can do nothing for them. It doesn't matter how cool, how rich, how smart or how talented you think you are, how you treat others ultimately tells all - integrity is everything. Get in on the ground floor. 

You can learn/donate/read/meet the Happy Herd here. They post the funniest videos on their instagram of what their crew gets up to, who's been added and some heart melting photos of when the animals were babies. Also - while goats, sheep and cows have the #1 spot in my heart as farm animals, this trip introduced me to an animal I hadn't previously spent much time around - turkeys. Larry and Mo's preposterous showboating and attention begging was so over the top you couldn't help but laugh at them. I'd never heard the soft thumping sound they make and they followed us with their feathers out everywhere we went. They were the biggest surprise for me and probably a new love - they followed us to the gate when we left and I hope one day I'll have rescue turkeys of my own that are as affectionate and hilarious as these two.