Our 6th annual Walk for Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary is on September 29th–less than a week!–so I thought I would share a story about my visit to their northern California shelter in Orland.
A year and a half ago, over spring break, my friend Sigrid and I decided to take a road trip to Farm Sanctuary. I was so excited to go that I didn’t really do much planning. We just jumped in the car and kind of made things up as we went along. The weather did not cooperate with us for the majority of the trip and as we traveled down the Oregon coast and into California, there were times when the rain came down so hard that I swore I would never complain about the rain in Vancouver again! We were even forced to buy chains for my car in order to get over the pass from Oregon into the town of Weed, California.
The weather hadn’t dampened our excitement, however, and we continued on a few miles past Orland to the beautiful college town of Chico where we settled in and prepared for our visit to the sanctuary!
When we went to the website, however, we discovered that there were no tours until the following weekend and we weren’t going to be there that long! Hmmm, I guess a little planning might have been helpful…so I phoned and when I told the woman that we had driven all the way from Vancouver she said that of course we could come and visit the sanctuary; we just wouldn’t be able to go beyond the fences when visiting the animals. That was fine with us–we were just glad we hadn’t driven the whole way for nothing!!
We woke up the next morning to the worst rain we had seen so far. Our Vancouver rain gear wasn’t going to do it so we stopped at an army surplus store in Orland and got geared up. We could barely see the road through the rain and the windshield wipers as we drove down the highway towards our destination, but we could make out that the surrounding rolling hills were beautiful. And then, all of a sudden, the rain stopped. A huge rainbow appeared in the distance. And there is was: the entrance to Farm Sanctuary, understated and unassuming. If you didn’t know what it was, you could easily drive right by and miss it.
We went into the office where we were warmly greeted and given a wonderful surprise. A group of students from Berkeley were coming down for a tour and we were welcome to join it. That meant that we would be able to hear the animals’ stories and get up close and personal with them!! We couldn’t believe our luck – between the weather and the tour, clearly our visit was meant to be!
The tour was awesome! While I had met “farm animals” before in my life, meeting these animals was different. I felt truly honoured – like meeting someone famous. These were the animals who represented everything I believe in. It was a profound experience.
We stayed all day and took it all in, meeting goats, sheep, ducks, turkeys, chickens, pigs, and calves. The last resident we met was Hank. Hank had lived at Farm Sanctuary since he was a tiny calf. He was taken from his mother, a dairy cow, shortly after birth, and was taken to auction. Being the male offspring of a dairy cow meant that Hank was pretty much worthless, and no one bought him. (Male calves born to the dairy industry are generally raised as veal, sold for pennies at auction, or simply thrown away.) Most likely he would have been left for dead had a kind individual not decided to rescue him and bring him to Farm Sanctuary. When I met Hank he was 13 years old and suffering from arthritis, so he lived another elderly bull as well as some goats and sheep. I was thrilled that he posed for a photo with me! Just a couple of weeks ago I learned that Hank had recently passed away. I was sad to hear it but consoled myself with the hope that Hank’s poor mother knows that he lived most of his life in peace with people who loved and respected him.
So there it was, somewhere over the rainbow, Farm Sanctuary, more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. I’m proud to be walking this Sunday for such a great cause and I’ll have a special place in my heart for all the little Hanks out there, believing that soon all of them will be able to live out their lives in peace.
Hank and me at Farm Sanctuary, March 2010
Liberation BC is proud to support Farm Sanctuary by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals. Won’t you join us?