Blake began the year in a bad way. A survivor of dairying who is among the eldest female cows at the sanctuary, Blake went down and couldn’t get back up —a potential death sentence for cows— on one of the most frigid early days of 2015.
We were all so worried, but we knew what to do. Twice a day, Cheryl used a sling attached to our big tractor to lift Blake onto her feet and then help to support her weight, so that her leg muscles would remain functional and her digestion would not shut down. This, in combination with medications prescribed by the veterinarian, saved her life.
Weeks went by. Gradually, Blake regained strength. We cheered her on when she first stood on her own after being lifted. We cried with joyous relief on the morning she managed to get up all by herself. Another round of cheering commenced when she walked unassisted and grew louder the first day that she walked out of the barn and into the pasture. We knew it would be many more weeks before Blake regained the weight she’d lost during her infirmity, but it seemed safe to hope that she would make a full recovery. That felt like a miracle.
Something must have shifted within Blake during her weeks inside the barn, during which she received so much hands-on care. She’d always been friendly to but not particularly interested in people. After her recovery, she became much more interested in people.
Blake began actively seeking out contact with sanctuary staff, volunteers, and even visitors. She often licks people enthusiastically — a kind of care-taking that cows extend to each other.
Like Blake, VINE encountered arduous challenges in 2015 but ended our 15th anniversary year ever more ready to extend care to others…
As we approach year-end, 570 animals live at the sanctuary — the highest number ever! — and we expect more birds (twelve ducks and nine roosters) to arrive before New Year’s Day, bringing the total number of sanctuary residents to just under 600, including 41 cows, hundreds of chickens, 57 ducks, and smaller numbers of sheep, geese, turkeys, doves, guineafowl, and emus… not to mention one exceptional pig:
Notable new arrivals of 2015 included dairy survivors Maizey and Daisy , whose hi-jinx have considerably livened up the front pasture; ewes Scarlette and Josephine , who came to us after being used as “therapy animals” and were unused to freedom within open spaces; 30 survivors of Kaporos , who have distinguished themselves as a particularly lively bunch; and 20 year-old ox Scotty, who used to pull a plow but now enjoys bird-watching in the company of his main squeeze, Maizey.
As usual, this year, we repeatedly answered the call when asked to offer refuge to roosters threatened with slaughter by people keeping hens for eggs. Roosters arrived singly, in pairs, and in one particularly colorful set of nine feather-footed rapscallions. More than 90 roosters now live at VINE Sanctuary. We managed, too, to persuade several backyard bird keepers to surrender their hens and/or vow to never again purchase chicks for that purpose.
We were short-staffed for much of the year and also encountered a series of expensive emergencies, such as as a broken tractor axle that cost more than $3,000 to fix. Nonetheless, we managed not only to care for an expanded sanctuary population but also to make improvements. We added automatic waterers for the back pasture troughs, a battery array for our solar-powered pump, and a new gate system for the back barn.
Our biggest improvement this year to dig a new duck pond and build a new duck coop. This significantly improved the welfare of the ducks at the sanctuary, most of whom now participate in all-day beach parties every day. This also increased the number of ducks to whom we are able to offer refuge. As a bonus, the new pond has proved popular with wild ducks in the area. Paying for this project turned out to be more challenging than we’d anticipated, but the evident joy of the ducks makes all of that work worthwhile.
That project was part of our multi-year plan to enhance bird health and happiness at the sanctuary. Other improvements in that realm this year included a new dovecote attached to the up-the-hill pigeon aviary, a rebuilt coop (including better nesting boxes) within the down-the-hill pigeon aviary, better weather-proofing for the indoor-outdoor exercise areas attached to two chicken coops, and a brand new avian infirmary built into the front pasture barn.
Education & Advocacy
In the more than 30 events VINE organized, sponsored, or participated in this year, we maintained our emphases on intersectionality and learning from animals. We tabled not only at vegfests in our region but also at social justice events around the country. Bringing the message of veganism into new venues, we organized workshops on topics like “Decolonizing Your Diet” and “Queering Animal Liberation” at major antiracist, gender studies, and social justice conferences.
At numerous colleges and universities, our cofounder pattrice jones lectured on intersectionality and effective activist strategies, often at events jointly sponsored by animal rights and social justice or environmental organizations. At animal-oriented events, such as various vegan festivals and the national animal rights conference, we taught animal advocates how to think more ecologically, stressing not only the social and economic circumstances in which animal exploitation occurs but also the importance of listening to and learning from the nonhuman animals for whom we advocate.
In publications, on social media, and in blog posts such as pattrice’s recent peacock-inspired essay, we seized every opportunity to share with others what we have learned from living in community with nonhuman animals at the sanctuary.
People learned from animals on site at the sanctuary too. While still respecting the privacy of sanctuary residents, we offered more on-site events than ever before. Numerous campus and community groups came for volunteer work days that each included a sanctuary tour and discussions with sanctuary staff.
We also organized two “volunteer party” days during which anybody could come to see the sanctuary, spend some hours in the company of sanctuary residents while working to maintain the sanctuary, and then enjoy vegan snacks with sanctuary staff. If you live in New England, be sure to follow us on Facebook so that you don’t miss the next party!
Some of our educational programs, most notably VINE Press, were delayed by our on-site struggles this year. Now that we again fully staffed, we look forward to getting that and other projects back on track in 2016!
None of our achievements of 2015 would have been possible without the support of our extended community of donors and volunteers. Thank YOU for your contributions this year, whether they were in the form of donations, labor, or simply spreading the word about VINE on social media.
Like every other sanctuary, we count on end-of-year donations to keep everybody warm and well-fed through the hard winter months. To wish the animals at VINE “Healthy Holidays,” click the rainbow cow to make an online donation or send a check to:
158 Massey Road
Springfield, VT 05156