My Volunteer Journal: Episode 44 – Animal Farm…oops sorry…Animal Acres Farm Sanctuary

img_0380I love vegans and respect them 100%. I really do. Not only do they take the brunt of the criticisms lobbed at us vegetarians, but they are also the ultimate humanitarians – not wanting to harm or take advantage of any creature. Vegans don’t partake in any animal products so honey, wool, dairy and eggs are off limits as well as meat, fish, fur and leather. Environmentally, it’s a pretty sound diet and health wise, well, I’ve never seen an over weight vegan.

To demonstrate my vegan love I decided to dedicate 1 day of volunteering to Animal Acres Farm Sanctuary located about 50 miles outside of Los Angeles. Before you start laughing at terms such as “farm animal sanctuary” may I direct you to some handy videos which shed light on the treatment of farmed animals: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3. Animal Acres also recently came to the rescue of 45 animals being held in what amounted to a back yard slaughterhouse. The proprietor of said establishment was butchering animals and feeding the unsold parts back to the other animals, which were malnourished and starving. Cruel and unsanitary? Yes, but my question is – Who in their right mind goes to a back yard slaughterhouse? Really.

I arrived at Animal Acres around 10:30 a.m. after getting somewhat lost in the desert. The first thing I noticed was that the farm didn’t smell like a dirty animal or a barn. The lack of smell should have clued me into what I would be doing the rest of the day.

img_0383Richard, who signed me in, put me to work raking up goat droppings - hurray. The goats were sorry to see their droppings disappear and helped me by eating the leaves that got raked up with the dropping and then created more poop. Poop became the theme of the day as myself and three other female volunteers were moved from project to project all involving poop collection. I had seen the clean up duties coming a mile away so did not pester my friends to come along with me on this journey. The three women I was thrown together with consisted of a non-vegan regular volunteer and two friends she had persuaded to join her. As the day progressed and the piles of manure did not abate I began to wonder what the regular volunteer had said to her friends. How do you ask someone to volunteer with you when you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you will be shoveling sh@$# all day?

“Hey remember that time we went to the Dresden…”

“Yes…”

“Well, this is nothing like that, but we will be shoveling shit all morning.”

“You’ve said enough. Sign me up.”

img_0381Whether duped into participating or not the girls were really nice and helped me get some cool pictures. Note the one at the top of the page where I demonstrate my amazement at the size of the sanctuary’s pigs. I did not know that domestic pigs could make it to 350 lbs. and then I wondered if they should. Don’t get me wrong I don’t eat meat and never want to eat meat. If I don’t have the conscious or heart to kill something myself then I’m not asking someone else to do it for me. But pigs aren’t wild anymore, we bred that out of them, so unless we are using them as gigantic composters - aren’t they taking up valuable space? It’s just an ethical question that I didn’t expect to ask myself during the activity. However, when “Jumper,” the cute runt of the pig group, decided to help me by jumping on my half full trash can, spilling the contents, I thought dirty inhumane thoughts about bacon. He did look cute on the can though – see pic. Okay, I could never hurt him...

Our tenuous relationship to domestic animals was brought up again when I noticed the sheep had clear sheer marks across their backs. I asked one of the staff if they had sheered them because I didn’t think vegans would do that as it disturbed the animal. “Oh yeah. We have to or he wouldn’t be able to move or see.” Then I asked what they did with the wool because... hey... it’s wool. “We threw it out. We wouldn’t want to use it and take advantage of him. Anyway it was dirty.” Being an avid knitter who usually avoids wool because of the ethical problems with it I mourned the loss of this humanely harvested wool, and wondered if throwing it away wasn’t the biggest waste EVER! Veganism is the Communism of diets - in theory it’s ideal, in practice, however, it’s a bitch.

In this world there are more areas of gray than black or white. I do believe, however, that the vegans are closer to being right than the meat lover. I’m going to lean on the side of caution and try everyday to be a better vegetarian more in line with the ideals of my vegan brothers.

img_0377The reward of the days work was getting to play with the animals. Those who don’t think animals have as much feeling, thought, or intelligence as humans clearly haven’t spent enough time with them. I leave you with quotes from some fairly intelligent people.

To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man. - Mahatma Gandhi

Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. - Albert Einstein

I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men. - Leonardo Da Vinci

P.S. Volunteer friends from Animal Acres – I promised you my vegan bread recipe in this post. However, I talked about poop too much and now that sounds unsavory so I will post it in the Bake Sale post to come in a week or so.