Author Archives: veggiebunny

Farm Animal Care Conference 2013

IMG_0314

It’s been a long time, but I’ve finally found time to update my much missed blog. The reason for such a huge gap in updates in June is because my  summer was brimming with events, and the events did not stop. Camping, birthdays, a trip to Vancouver (and Seattle, where I had the worlds best vegan donut, Homer Simpson drool), a cruise to Bermuda. All of these things were so fun, and I was glad to go, but I’m happy that autumn is almost here and I can find some peace of mind at home with my rabbits.

My sporadic journeys ended two weekends ago with one final trip: Watkins Glen, New York, for the Farm Animal Care Conference at Farm Sanctuary. I was looking forward to this conference all summer and I can say I am still grinning from the wonderful weekend I had at this event. If I could go again, I would. But once was certainly enough, and the event is well worth your time if you have any interest in learning about farm animal care.

This two day conference is an introduction to those interested in learning what it takes to run a sanctuary, or have any interest in opening a sanctuary. It’s also of interest  to those who just want to know, who want to learn, who want to be more involved maybe at their local sanctuary where they volunteer. Just being behind the scenes to listen to the animals stories, what they endured, and what kind of present medical problems they have because of their treatment, was eye opening and educational.

And there is nothing wrong with just knowing about farm animals and their needs, because as a vegan its important to just know.  While not as in-depth as I envisioned the conference being, we were given 1-2 hours with each species to go over all information, ask questions, and just have a more in-depth look at the state of the animals, signs from their previous traumatic incidences. It was a reminder to me what insanely disgusting, saddening things they endure.

Susie Coston talking about turkey care

Susie Coston talking about turkey care

My own personal interest in originally going to the conference was to someday run a small sanctuary. At first I thought that yes, this is something I definitely want to do. I thought that someday I could work hard and maybe give refuge to a handful of animals at my future home – not a huge operation like Woodstock or Farm Sanctuary, but small, and manageable. Attending this conference helped me realize that this is not a calling to take lightly – its hard, hard work. It requires time, money, energy, even the smallest of animals can be a workload depending on their health and needs. Farm animals, especially those rescued from the industry, are absolutely fragile – mentally, physically, and they are bred in ways that make them incapable of defending themselves, and they are subject to dozens of sicknesses and diseases. Something as simple as their hooves need to be trimmed but they can no longer naturally run them down (same with the tusks of a  pig). They need guidance and protection, and unless you’re able to supply them with the care you’d give someone like your dog, then you should refrain from considering having a farm animal rescue.

Are my visions changed? A little. I still want to help, someday I want to, but I realize the conference gave me the tools I need to make an educated decision, one good for me and for the animals, and skills that help me to be a better vegan and volunteer. Steve and I took a realistic step back and thought about what we are capable of – but one thing this conference made us realize is we really, really have a strong inclination towards the well-being of rabbits.

During the rabbit session we found ourselves blurting out information we knew, answering peoples questions, educating other attendees on rabbits. Farm Sanctuary intends to phase out rabbits because they have an outdoor barn for rabbits and found rabbits don’t do well outdoors (this is mostly true), and Susie Coston (farm operations director) said there is a real need for rabbit rescues. This is absolutely true – while all farm animals suffer equally, I cannot think of an animal more abused than a rabbit – there is an industry for rabbit meat, for fur, for pets/entertainment, and experimentation and medical/cosmetic testing. Rabbits are abused in multiple industries and are seen as disposable, as unintelligent, as plain and happy to just sit in a box or hutch all day. I think if we began some kind of effort, it would absolutely begin with rabbits. It’s something we both agree and feel so strongly about.

But as I said I learned so much, I feel fortunate to have such advice before jumping in. Some major themes and points I found especially important, which I’d like to share:

  • Have the ability to say no. Many sanctuaries fail because they cannot say no and take on too many animals at a time. It’s hard to say no to all animals that need a new home, but if you do not have the energy, time, staff, resources, to take care of a lot of animals, then you are going to burn out and fail. You should focus on making sure the quality of life is good for the animals you do have, rather than have too many and end up giving them a life that is just as neglectful as their previous life.
  • From the beginning, put your absolute best effort in to every possible facet of your sanctuary. Research everything and buy only the best of the things you need: safe heaters, safe medical equipment, the correct kind of barn for each animals, the correct fencing for each species. Don’t do something because its easy, do it because its right, and you will prevent mess-ups later down the road.
  • Prepare from the beginning for pests. Build a barn that will prevent a rat population from building up (concrete floor, rat wire in the walls).
  • Try to find a local vet who you can work with who has knowledge about farm animals, and build a relationship with them based on respect and trust.
  • However in some cases, a vet may not always be right – sometimes if they suggest an animal should be put down, it may not always be for the right reasons. Its important to also use your judgement about if the medical condition can possibly be treated and not just solved by simply putting an animal down.
  • Know your state’s laws and what is required. Some animals like chickens require testing for avian flu. Crossing state lines need to be cleared, and animals that come in sick should be quarantined until they have a clean bill of health.  Have an extra barn or space for quarantined animals, and wear the proper equipment.
  • When caring for an animal, it isn’t worth it to worry or scare them. If they absolutely do not want to be handled or touched because of fear, its safer to let them be. It’s also better for their mental health, because you do not want to make them sick with  fear and worry.

And there just more, just so much more. But that’s why I highly recommend attending this conference if it interests you.

IMG_1106

There is just so much to say about the conference, what was learned and what was said. Luckily the group provided a very thick packet of all the information that was given. And by the end I had made many friends which, all who are passionate and I’m sure will do great things one day.  Overall I would recommend this conference in a heart beat. If you want to see an in-depth look at some things we saw and experienced, click below for more.

Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

In Loving Dedication to Oswald

Oswald1

This is Oswald. Her story is a long one, and one that led to a huge surprise in my life, and a lot of lessons learned about rabbits and rabbit care. She left us last week. The pain is still there, and I still tear up when I think about her. But I need to write about this, because I want to remember her, and want to give her a proper goodbye.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Sanctuary Spotlight at Your Daily Vegan

YDV Logo

YDV Logo courtesy and property of YourDailyVegan.com

If you aren’t already familiar with them, Your Daily Vegan is an amazing, in-depth, hard-working vegan news source site that focuses less on recipes and lifestyle, and more on news and discussions which relate to veganism as a whole. From health advice to think-pieces to profiles on animals and their biology (they seriously do a wonderful job writing posts dedicated to informing the public on animals, especially ones less romanticized), Your Daily Vegan does its best to be a source of information for the vegan who never wants to stop learning.  We like to think our veganism ends with the absolution of all animal products, but we never, ever stop learning, and never should.

And I am beyond happy to be announcing on my little blog here that I will be contributing to this fantastic group as a writer for the Sanctuary Spotlight section. The Sanctuary Spotlight section of Your Daily Vegan focuses on anything and everything sanctuary related, from profiles on sanctuary owners and resident animals, to news items about recent acquisitions of residents, to events and more. This is a personally fulfilling opportunity that happened to me, and one that means a lot.

I have a really, really big interest in sanctuaries, and over time I hope to visit as many as possible. But more importantly, when I cannot physically visit, the next best thing to do is to just let other vegans, even non-vegans, know that there are hard-working, extremely dedicated sanctuaries just within driving distance. Ones that need help, volunteers, support, and donations.  These places provide homes for animals that are the victims of a system we deplore, and they need our help. We can make our activism count by actually taking action and helping these animals.

You can read my introduction post here, where I briefly go over my own personal journey towards being vegan, and, eventually, my connection to sanctuaries and how important they are are in bridging one’s perceptions of animals as individuals.  Keep an eye out on Your Daily Vegan, not just for my posts, but in general, because the woman running the site is so damn good at what she does, and has the passion which drives the site to be the quality it is. And all the writers as well, who write really thought provoking articles that push the conversations we should be having as vegans.

And I promise to give my own little blog some loving, too.  I have some words I want to share about recent bunny-related events in my life for a separate post that I am working on now. For now, however, I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way and I continue to feel really fortunate and moved.

For The Animals Sanctuary, Blairstown, NJ

IMG_2190

For Earth Week I wanted to write a post focusing on the importance of volunteering for different groups. Whether you are interested in cleaning up, recycling programs, helping others to accessible food, or animal sanctuaries, all subjects lead back to the health and well being of this planet. Not to get too crazy hippie on you, but I do think the amount of action we take, the energy and love we put into something, in turn creates a positive force. Whether we benefit personally from it, you can’t predict. But if your actions lead to happier people, to a healthier Earth,  I think everyone benefits. These small efforts build upon one another, and they can only be done when you engage directly with them.

One area which always needs help is at your local animal sanctuary. The people who run these animal sanctuaries are extremely passionate people who are brave for taking on the task of giving multiple rescued animals a permanent home, but they aren’t superhuman. Most times, they need the volunteer power to help keep the sanctuary functioning. By helping, you do good for the sanctuary keeper, the animals, yourself, and help to maintain the ideal that is respecting animals as ends in themselves.

One sanctuary not too far from me is For The Animals Sanctuary, a small scale operation hidden on a curvy road in the northern New Jersey town of Blairstown. It is run by Debbie Kowalski, who may very well be an actual superhero for founding the sanctuary, and running it by herself as she works a full time nursing job. With help from dedicated volunteers, they have rescued many animals. Some current residents include thirteen goats, five cows, four pigs, and a few chickens, all on just 8 acres of land. The space is small but used well. It’s lovely to see the animals graze together in a large stretch of land down the hill from her home. All of them are friendly, and really beautiful to look at.

IMG_2172

Recently, on April 6, For The Animals held a work party, a gathering of volunteers meant to give the animals’ living spaces a good overturning. With as many as 30 people showing up, the work was seen less as work, and more of a time to get to know fellow vegans in the NJ area (though a handful came from NY just for the clean-up!). For a few hours, we lifted heavy wet hay with pitchforks, pushed wheel barrows and tarps down hill, lifted heavy mud from the pig’s living space, while outdoors, enjoying the sun and the feeling of helping this small but wonderful sanctuary out.
In the distance, the animals continued to graze in a large stretch of field, unaware they’d soon come to find their sleeping/eating spaces nice and shiny.

workparty1

Photo courtesy of For The Animals Facebook

After the clean up was done, we shared in a giant potluck. Sadly I have no photos since I was busy eating (!), but everyone brought something amazing. It felt like a vegan buffet – I hadn’t eaten that much good food in a long time. Delicious home-made foods such as tiramisu, kale salads, cashew cheeses, chimcurri tempeh, and Debbie’s awesome pot pie. But what I loved most was meeting new people and trying the kinds of foods they also like, and relaxing after a good 3-4 hours of heavy lifting/cleaning. Following the potluck, we were given a chance to spend time with the resident animals. I had saved veggie scraps throughout the week to give to the animals – and they definitely inhaled everything we  gave them.

workparty2

Photo courtesy of For The Animals Facebook

Theresa Sarzynski, who also helps the sanctuary to operate, was also selling her vegan inspired jewelry, shirts, bumper stickers and buttons. Her work is really awesome, and I was happy to buy some buttons. Hopefully next time I remember to bring enough money to buy something like a necklace!

IMG_2185

As the sun got low in the sky, it was time to go, but it was definitely a full day of meeting wonderful people, wonderful animals, and wonderful experiences. For The Animals is a really moving place to be. I highly recommend visiting them – you have to check their website for visiting days. However, if you like them on Facebook, be sure to check out for future volunteer days and events. On May 25, they will be having fun, kid-friendly Summer Shindig event:

FTAS-Summer-Shindig-2013-smBe sure to come meet the wonderful animal residents here, and enjoy the lovely North Jersey scenery. If you cannot make it, pleasure consider donating to this small scale, but deeply passionate sanctuary. For just $10 a month, you can help them to continue operating. It really is a worthy cause, both for the animals but for the lovely people who run it.

Overall, there are many ways you can approach Earth Day, and Earth Week. For me, its finding the best way to connect to the things on this Earth. And what better way than to help volunteer at a sanctuary? You come to find kind people, gorgeous animals, lovely serene settings, and a fuller, more appreciative love for the things around you every day.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Chickpea Spring 2013 Issue

Photo courtesy of Chickpea Magazine

Photo courtesy of Chickpea Magazine

Happy Spring everyone! Although it’s still been slightly chilly here in New Jersey, the days have turned longer, and the sky has been clearer than usual lately. Spring is definitely finding its way here, slowly, but I definitely see signs!

And as New Jersey itself still thaws, I’m happy to share that an article of mine will be appearing in the Spring 2013 issue of Chickpea Magazine. Chickpea is an independent magazine, run by Cara Livermore and Bob Lawton. It is a gorgeous magazine, with details in everything from the photo designs and lighting, to the hand written text designs. Chickpea is a great magazine not just because of its gorgeous, vintage looking photos either. They are amazing because their aim is to foster a publication for vegans to share their own experiences, like an open forum, which really adds to a sense of community for vegan photographers, writers, and just about anyone artistically inclined. Which is why I reached at the chance to contribute.

My article is written as a travelogue for New Jersey, which in the past year, has become to me a stand out as a place to live as a vegan. With such wonderful things as The Cinnamon Snail food truck, the For The Animals Sanctuary, and a host of great restaurants all over the state, New Jersey is a great little vegan state. It often gets overlooked, its meek and tiny and most people think of NJ as a giant oil refinery, when in fact it has plenty of gorgeous nature landscapes tucked away in all corners of the state, from North, to South, to Central Jersey.  I can definitely say sometimes you ignore something around you for so long, that at some point you open your eyes, look around you, and feel a sudden rebirth in perception, like you’ve breathed in new, fresh air. Photos for my article were taken by Steve, who went on some day trip adventures with me to take these photos in the freezing cold, we we tried to capture New Jersey when its on the cusp of waking up to Spring once more.

You can preview the Spring issue of Chickpea here.  The nature of the magazine is so intricate, I would recommend picking up a print copy to see how beautiful it is, and just to support a hard working group of people working on a great project. Right now the pre-sale price is $16, so be sure to pre-order before it goes back to its retail price. And if you don’t want to order online, they will be sold at Anthropologie stores across the country this month! Chickpea is also carried in some independent book stores across the country, so check their stockist page for more information. Help foster the vegan community by taking a look at this project. Perhaps you’ll want to take a trip to New Jersey sometime because of it!

Tagged , , , ,