I’m spending thanksgiving alone in Ohio this year, so I’ve had some time to reflect. Thanksgiving is such a beautiful tradition of appreication, family, and delicious food. It breaks my heart to know that some people in this world can’t afford a thanksgiving meal or can’t be with their families on this day. For that reason I’ve started making a point of donating a thanksgiving meal to the hungry every year. But just as heartwrenching is the knowledge that at the center of most thanksgiving tables lies the body of an individual who suffered a life of continual discomfort, pain, and misery just so we can eat her at in the course of one meal. It strikes me as a contradiction to the spirit of Thanksgiving that we take the lives of others in order to celebrate our own, especially when it is possible to have healthful and delicious meals without doing so.
Having a turkey at Thanksgiving is a tradition that we’ve all grown up with, and that we’ve all participated in for a long time, but that few people really think about. We look upon some behaviors and traditions of the past (such as slavery, the treatment of women, the persecution of jews, etc.) with disgust, and wish that people had stopped participating in them. But it is important to notice that injustice is not a thing of the past–it is very much a part of our present day society. We are participants in some of the most intense, widespread, systematic and socially sanctioned suffering ever inflicted by humans on this planet, and that is the production and slaughter of animals for food. It is a horror hidden behind closed doors, and one that will not end until we stop supporting it.
I hope that you take a moment this thanksgiving to reflect, to open your heart to the feelings of others, and to embrace the sense of compassion that I know lies within all of us.
Sanctuary noun 1. A place of refuge. 2. A shelter from danger or hardship.
Finding sanctuary is not something most Americans think about regularly–the lucky ones of us don’t need to at all. Some of us have found it already, and some are still searching. But for the majority of animals on this earth, farm animals, the idea of sanctuary–a place of shelter, protection, and safety, is but a distant dream.
Farm Sanctuaries are some of the most beautiful places in the world. They rescue animals who lived lives as machines in factories, and were in line to die as products being manufactured. Sanctuaries open their doors to animals who have lived through a more horrific hell than any one of us could begin to imagine, and provide them with peace and freedom from the incessant suffering and pain, both mental and physical, that had plagued their prior lives. Farm Sanctuaries are a glimmer of hope in an ice cold world.
I was given the opportunity to visit Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY this past summer for their annual Hoe Down event, and the animals I met there touched my heart in a way I never knew any creature could. It was my first time meeting a cow, and I nearly lost my breath at their patient, gentle characters. The saying “gentle giant” took on a new meaning, for never before had I experience a creature (or person) as gentle, nor as big, as those cows.
And to think, animals in factory farms don’t even have enough room to turn around.
I was so moved my experience with these incredible animals that our society treats as commodities that I wanted to share my experience. As the president of the Case Animal Rights & Ethics Society (CARES) at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, I came back to school this year ready to organize a sanctuary trip for students. I found a closer Sanctuary in Ravenna, Ohio, called Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, and planned a trip there.
The trip was fantastic. We took a 15 person Case van down to Ravenna and got to spend the afternoon with a farm full of incredibly friendly, not to mention playful, eager and nuzzley farm animals. Here’s a little taste of the trip:
These gentle horses were rescued from slaughter. Horses that can no longer be slaughtered in the US are auctioned off and instead shipped to Mexico for slaughter. The whole process, from auction to transport to slaughter, is incredibly traumatic for the horses. What a sad way to treat a spent horse that not only trusts you, but often would do anything for you.
The event was a huge success, and everyone that came had a fantastic and enlightening experience. Yearly trips to the Sanctuary will definitely become a CARES tradition. To all you readers, if you have never been to a Farm Sanctuary, I cannot recommend it enough. I guarantee it will change your life, as it did mine.