Although we went vegan, for all animals, it was farm animals that pushed us in this direction. BUT! I had never spent time with farm animals, knew nothing about them really.
Van being a photographer, thought he could put his skills to use in photographing animals, and selling prints with the profits going to the sanctuaries. This is where The Vegan Camera got it's beginning!
We reached out the Sweet Sanctuary, Sarah and Steve welcomed us to meet their rescued residents. First up we met Austin Powers a fun loving goat, that wanted to be part of whatever was going on. Next we met Mamma Bear and the lucky twelve, Mamma Bear was rescued and at the time it turns out she was pregnant with 12 little ones. I remember when Sarah opened up the barn doors, they were so excited that their tails were wagging and they were running around snorting with happiness. Van was on the ground trying to take pictures and they were so curious they kept running up to him to check him and the camera out. Our hearts melted all over.
We also contacted Penny Lane and they had no problem with us coming out to meet and photograph the residents. Meeting pigs, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, llamas, and turkeys; I could barely contain my excitement!
First up I met Steve the sheep, he was pretty quick at letting me know I was new and not quite trusted, he gave me a few head butts and they hurt...so I learned that lesson. Steve did eventually come around and was absolutely fine with us after an hour.
Next I met Charlie, a young cow who I became fast friends with. Charlie followed me around and I think he may have even got in the car to come home with us if we had let him. I gave him so many cuddles and he returned them right back. I was elated, and remember thinking this is why we went vegan. Charlie showed me how much personality he had, and how much he wanted to be loved. We met many other wonderful animals that day, and I was in awe of every single one. Karyn the founder of Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary took the time to discuss the animals rescue stories, and share some info about their habits and personalities. Van took photos while I was on a natural high from meeting so many new friends.
When we got in the car to leave I was on cloud nine and also completely devastated at the same time. I was so grateful to see these fortunate friends living their best life, as Karyn says "Free to just be". But it made me reflect on all of the farm animals, and I mean billions that are being slaughtered on a daily basis. This feeling is still present quite often but always hits home even more when visiting animals in sanctuary.
We have since spent some more time with the our friends at both sanctuaries, although not a lot since the pandemic started. We have participated in events, and we try our best to as much as we can to help out in any way possible. It will never seem like we do enough, especially when we see all of the work that goes into maintaining a sanctuary.
For my 40th birthday, I asked Van to set up a tour with Esther the Wonder Pig, the one who got me started on my journey. Pre-pandemic you could donate and have a private tour with Steve and Derek, and if Esther was up to it, you could meet her too. Van set up a volunteer day instead, claiming to not know the difference, sure...
Anyhow, it was a freezing rainy day that we volunteered, and for my 40th I shovelled shit, a lot of shit! Derek came out and we helped him set up a tarp and some tables for all of the volunteers to gather under to stay dry. I had to give myself a talking to, "Do not lose your cool" when talking to Derek. I really wanted to thank him for everything they do for the animals, and tell him how grateful I am to Esther, but I was too shy and I am a very emotional person so I didn't want to lose it and cry my way through telling him. So if you guys ever read this thank you so darn much!
Derek also gave us a tour of the sanctuary where we got to meet many of their residents, I did not meet Esther that day but it was a wonderful experience nonetheless.
Sarah, Steve, Karyn, Esther's dads, and everyone else out there that is running a rescue and sanctuary have sacrificed a lot to dedicate their lives to saving and caring for animals in need. They work endless hours a day at regular day jobs as well as their sanctuaries. There is no rest or downtime for them, and they are always on call. On top of caring for the residents, they also have to find time to gather support, apply for grants, and funding. They are real life super heroes, saving as many lives as possible. Without their compassion and kindness, so many animals would have lost their lives or been subjected to a life of hell.
If you have the opportunity, please visit a farm sanctuary. Meeting the residents may just give you a different perspective about farm animals, they are not so different from the animals we call pets.
We went vegan for the animals, and as I said we try our best to support them by donating 25% of our proceeds. We would also like to announce that our first partner will be the Sweet Sanctuary. We thank you for everything you do, and hope one day we can do even more!
Thanks for reading,