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2017 at VINE Sanctuary

VINE Sanctuary will be closing out 2017 with the greatest number of nonhuman animals ever in residence, having organized a greater variety of educational events than ever before. Here are some highlights of the year…

Sanctuary Happenings

We will close out the year with more than 600 animals in residence at the sanctuary, as follows:

•    39 cows, 12 sheep, 4 goats and 3 alpacas, and 1 pig plus 8 barn cats and 2 guardian dogs for a total of 69 mammals.
•    347 chickens, 93 pigeons, 40 ducks, 28 doves, 9 geese, 6 emus, 5 turkeys, 3 guineafowl, and 2 peafowl plus 3 parakeets and 2 parrots for a total of 538 birds sleeping in our coops and aviaries.
•    Dozens of rewilded ducks and scores of rewilded pigeons nesting on sanctuary property and breakfasting with us most mornings.

hillmix

New arrivals included Earhart the emu and Valkerie the pig, both of whom had suffered malnutrition and inadequate housing before being abandoned altogether by a person who had considered them to be pets. We also welcomed scores of debeaked hens who had been discarded by a factory-like “free range” egg facility where their only glimpse of a wider world came through a narrow window. As always, roosters rejected by keepers of backyard hens arrived alone or in pairs throughout the year and a large group of survivors of the Kaporos ritual arrived in the fall.

Notable happenings among the nonhuman members of our community included numerous instances of cross-species friendship and care-taking. Elderly dairy survivor Autumn discovered that she loves goats and became their most dedicated groomer and protector. The tiny rooster called Pago struck up a friendship with a goat called Whisper. Not satisfied with charming every human visitor to the sanctuary, Domino the alpaca made it his business to win over Valkerie the pig, who doesn’t like being touched by anyone else but allows Domino to rub his face all over her — we’ve even seen him scratching her back with his teeth!

Other happenings were less delightful. Several members of the “Mix Mob” of goats and sheep continue to require treatment for intractable case of foot rot with which they arrived. The ewe called Karma needed two operations to repair a congenital hernia. Domino had to be rushed to the vet — in the cab of the pickup truck! — due to bizarre symptoms that turned out to be due to a parasite. Maddox fell and hurt his leg. They all will be OK, but we said a sad farewell to several beloved elder community members (see In Memoriam below) over the course of the year. Altogether, our veterinary costs look like they will add up to be nearly double those of a usual year.

We always try to make things a little better every year, and this year was no exception to the rule. Infrastructure improvements this year included a new floor and hand-built hospital cages for the avian infirmary in the part of the sanctuary we call the valley, new ramps for most coops, new gates for two yards, and a one-of-a-kind emu hut built entirely from scrap wood and salvaged pallets. We wrote a new chapter in the never-ending saga of the solar-powered pump that serves the back pasture. And we implemented the beginning of what will be a multi-year process of improving the soil in several worn-out foraging areas for chickens.

help

It takes a community to run a sanctuary. Our on-site team of paid and unpaid staff were aided in these efforts by a steady stream of volunteers who came to meet the animals while lending their labor to their care. Rather than putting our non-human community members on display or subjecting them to the kinds of violations of dignity encountered at a petting zoo, we invite people who want to visit the sanctuary to truly become part of our community. In 2017, we held five volunteer days open to the general public and also hosted numerous special volunteer days for campus and community groups. Between those events, the new children’s program described below, and our usual practice of offering personal tours to activists and scholars who already have done substantial work for nonhuman animals, more people visited the sanctuary in 2017 than in any previous year.

Education and Advocacy

We launched our Pasture Pals drop-in program for children this summer. VINE staff worked with two local teachers, consulting with people ranging from local parents and librarians to nationally recognized experts in humane education, to design a curriculum that is both consistent with VINE values and responsive to local needs. Each Pasture Pals session includes a lesson on a topic such as friendship, animal emotions, or respect across differences followed by an activity in which the children actually help sanctuary residents, thereby learning that care for animals is something you do rather than just something you feel. Since participants are accompanied by parents or guardians, adults learn the lessons too.

Our new brochure asks “Does Eating the Rainbow Make You Gay?” explores the connections between LGBTQ and animal oppression and liberation. In addition to distributing this new publication at our own events and at VegFests throughout New England, we have made it available for other organizations to use.

In addition to our quarterly vegan potlucks, we promoted veganism locally by many creative means this year. For example, we held an Art Exhibit for Animals during the monthly gallery crawl at a nearby town. People who dropped in to look at the art encounters a delicious array of vegan snacks, along with artwork and literature promoting respect for animals. We also staged  vegan bake sales at numerous co-ops and grocery stores throughout our region, passing out literature while demonstrating the sweetness of veganism.

Altogether this year, VINE Sanctuary organized or participated in 40 events, including not only our greatest number of on-site and local events but also our greatest variety of events.

Community Building

Now, more than ever, those of us who want to live in a more just and peaceful world must begin to build that world in our own backyards. Acknowledging that responsibility, we stepped up our local educational programming in 2017, promoting peace and justice more generally while also promoting veganism.

For example, in May, we staged a film showing of the documentary 13th at our local public library. After the film, attendees munched on an array of vegan snacks while discussing racism and the prison industrial complex. So far as we know, this was the only antiracist event in our town this year.

Similarly, in June, our Rainbow Vegan Potluck was the only Pride Month event in our area. We felt proud ourselves, as an LGBTQ-led organization, to offer local LGBTQ folks and their friends and family an event at which to celebrate Pride Month while also discovering the deliciousness of “eating the rainbow.”

Our fall equinox potluck focused on the “Three Sisters” of Native American agriculture. As with 13th and the Pride Month potluck, our extensive press release for this event was printed in its entirety by local newspapers, so that even people who did not attend were able to learn that the cultivation of corn, beans, and squash — rather than the exploitation of cows for their milk — is the true traditional agriculture of our region.

Movement Building

Social change of any kind is just that: social. No person or organization can bring about substantial and sustainable change alone. Nonhuman animals need us to develop strong and inclusive vegan and animal advocacy organizations that cooperatively pursue a diversity of tactics in pursuit of shared aims. As an animal sanctuary founded by experienced social justice activists, we have always been aware of our obligation to help strengthen the vegan and animal advocacy movements. This is so important to us that it is in our mission statement.

conference

This year, we made a substantial contribution to the farmed animal sanctuary movement by organizing a conference in conjunction with Wesleyan Animal Studies. At that landmark event, entitled Sanctuary: Reflecting on Refuge, representatives of more than 20 farmed animal sanctuaries came together with scholars from nearly as many colleges and universities for a weekend of reflection and discussion of both philosophical and practical questions. We know that both scholars and sanctuaries will be carrying ideas from that weekend into their work for years to come, and we also know that sanctuary folks appreciated the rare opportunity to commune with each other about the most difficult aspects of our work.

Also this year, as always, our cofounder pattrice jones offered lectures, workshops, and private consultations to both campus and community organizations, with the aim of enhancing movement vivacity always in mind. For example, following her Earth Day lecture at Stonehill College, pattrice helped environmental, animal, and antiracist activists think through  ways that they might work together on problems of mutual concern. At an Effective Activism workshop attended by both campus and community activists in New Jersey, pattrice offered a method of strategic analysis along with tips on creative problem-solving and mutually productive collaboration.

We also see our blog, newsletters, and social media feeds as ways to contribute to the movement, not least by modeling what we mean when we talk about an intersectional approach to animal advocacy. From “shout outs” to  organizations doing admirable work to a much-needed intervention into sexual harassment and assault within vegan and animal advocacy, we have used our platforms generously and productively throughout the year.

In Memoriam

As we were organizing the Sanctuary: Reflecting on Refuge conference at Wesleyan, the topic that sanctuaries most often suggested for inclusion was death. Every year at every sanctuary, some animals die. This is always hard on everybody. (Here are our tips on dealing with grief.) This was a particularly hard year for us, as we said goodbye to several especially beloved community members.

IMG_20170326_100638Blake
Blake the cow was already at least ten years old when she arrived at the sanctuary in early 2012 after being seized by authorities due to starvation. She was the leader of a group of four survivors of that horror, and we were impressed by the care she extended to her friends while she was still so weak herself. Blake initially was indifferent to people, spending all of her time with cows, but she became more interested in us after getting hands-on care during a health scare. Blake became more and more interested in people the more people she met, liking to taste as well as be petted by sanctuary visitors. If you were lucky enough to meet her, then you will know why we all grieved

TrufflesNoseTruffles
Truffles the pig came to VINE because she loved birds. We weren’t set up for pigs, but we couldn’t say no to the beloved friend of a group of chickens and guineafowl we had agreed to take in from an informal sanctuary that had lost its land. We were so glad we did! Truffles immediately established herself as a standout personality at the sanctuary, demanding belly rubs when she wasn’t playing practical jokes. We also considered her a member of our bird care team, due to her generous interactions with the hens and turkeys who climbed on her and ate from her bowl. Fiercely protective of them, Truffles turned her pen into a refuge within a refuge, where birds could find respite from the hustle and bustle of the barn. Since Truffles was already elderly when she arrived at the sanctuary, we always knew she would not be long with us. Still, we were as sad as the birds when she died of the kidney disease that is common among pigs of her breed.

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 8.41.20 PMPeeper
The tiny and charismatic hen called Peeper arrived at the sanctuary as a chick and spent several years “ruling the roost” in her coop despite her diminutive size. She also regularly visited the staff kitchen in order to exercise first dibs on any scraps set aside for the chickens. Beloved by all sanctuary staff due to her bold ways, Peeper leaves an outsized gap behind.

 

20616540_10155808580551494_801468261_oWilly
Saved from becoming slaughtered for Thanksgiving last year, Willy the turkey appointed himself to be the sanctuary tour guide this year. He played a vital role in the launch of Pasture Pals, due to his fondness for children. As do so many birds bred to be unnaturally heavy, Willy died suddenly of a heart attack. We will never forget him, and neither will all of the people he greeted during his days at the sanctuary.

 

vitoVito
A dairy industry escapee, Vito arrived at VINE with his best friend Clancy as one of the first cows to move in after we expanded to begin offering refuge to bovines. Low-key and loving, Vito played an essential role in the bovine community here at the sanctuary. At his gravesite, so many cows came to say goodbye that we had to wait until after dark to return his body to the earth.

 

Looking Ahead to 2018

We don’t want to jinx ourselves by announcing anything too soon, but we can say a few of the things we are planning for next year. For sure we will be expanding our Pasture Pals program, and we also intend to publish our lesson plans so that they may be adapted for use by other sanctuaries. We’re also laying the groundwork for a year-round youth program, but we’re not quite ready to share any details about that yet. We know that we will be working with the local public library to stage more events like the film showing we did this year, and we also plan to do even more for Pride Month next year. Of course, we will continue to offer refuge to as many animals as we are able to accommodate, and of course we will extend both respect and care to everyone in our on-site community. Further afield… no, we won’t tell you yet. Stay tuned!

Join Us!

Please join us in honoring those we have lost this year while looking ahead with hope (despite everything) by making an end-of-year donation to VINE Sanctuary today. Give right now via PayPal or send your check to VINE Sanctuary, 158 Massey Road, Springfield VT05156. VINE is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, so your donation will be tax deductible!

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