Farm animal? Refuge? I thought refuges were just for animals who were sick and hurt.
Well, they are.
To describe factory farming as "unsustainable" is to merely scratch the surface of the many issues surrounding it. Even so, the negative environmental impact alone is enough to convince me that I can find more sustainable ways to meet my nutritional needs that don't cause anywhere close to the same level of pollution, destruction, and torture as factory farms perpetuate.
When we heard about the vision of Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge, their message resonated so strongly with our core values that we had to check it out.
Their hope is to "live in a world where the need for farmed animal rescue, education about the factory farm industry, and promotion of a vegan lifestyle are no longer necessary because the world is vegan and the exploitation of animals for consumption has ended."
From Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge Instagram:
I love this mission for several reasons, but the one that came instantly to me was that you can replace the industry-specific words with almost anything...
This is what I came up with, but give it a go yourself:
"My hope is to live in a world where the need for child slave rescue, education about the slave industry, and promotion of equal rights are no longer necessary because the world is humanitarian, and the exploitation of child and human labor for profit has ended."
The key here is exploitation. Our society is generally blind to these exploitations, all in the name of convenience, consumption, and profit. We live in a society that throws people/things/animals away that we can't 'get' something from. Why do we throw things away we don't like anymore instead of re-purposing or re-homing? Why do we create systems to keep poor people poor and then resent our homeless and needy populations? Why do we tell women there is only one way to look, and that their worth to our society is in direct correlation with their ability to line up with that cruel standard, and then treat women who don't fit into that standard as 'outside', 'other', 'less'?
What is wrong with us?
I know some of you might be thinking I've gone too far with the comparisons, but I really need to make the point that it's important to consider what it means to commodify living things. If we're going to do it, let's be honest about it.
Factory farm chickens never get to meet their mothers, they're quickly sorted by gender at birth, with the females going on to be grown quickly through genetic manipulation and drugs (often dying of shock at a young age because of the tiny spaces they're confined to), and the males going on to either be ground up alive or suffocated, because they're seen as useless and worthless. Their lives are created so that we may take what we want from them, and destroy the leftovers.
So what happens to the farm animals who don't die in captivity before they run out of things to give us? Usually they go to the slaughter, BUT -- and this is a huge BUT-- if they're really lucky, some of them end up at places like this.
The Refuge is a place where animals act as ambassadors for their kind. They teach people about how incredibly intelligent and special they are. Having learned to trust again, they connect with the people who visit them and remind us that we are brothers and sisters as equals in this world.
Factory farms are insulated ecosystems. We never see any animals go in, and when they come out, well, they don't exactly look like the furry farm animals we remember seeing at the state fair when we were kids, so it's easy not to make the connection with the packaged meat and cartons of eggs at the store.
It's also easy not to really even see them as animals, or to see them as different than, say, the chickens we might raise in our backyards, or the cows we see roaming around country farms, and you'd be right. They are different.
Linked is video footage from an undercover investigation by Mercy For Animals - I should warn you that it's very difficult to watch. We work so hard to separate ourselves from animals and to discard empathy in order to extract goods from them, but it's impossible to watch this video, see the pain and suffering these chickens have to endure in order to feed us eggs, and not question whether this is really the way things are supposed to be.
"According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chemical and animal waste runoff from factory farms is responsible for more than 173,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams. Runoff from farmlands is one of the greatest threats to water quality today. Agricultural activities that cause pollution include confined animal facilities, plowing, pesticide spraying, irrigation, fertilizing and harvesting.
Here's a quick info-graphic that Daria created to give you an overview of some other reasons going meat-free will really rock your world. If the soft and fuzzies don't get you, maybe this will:
My concern for farm animal welfare really began to increase when my connection to community strengthened and I began to gain a new understanding about how much of an impact we all have on each other. Community is a huge part of sustainability (we talk about that in previous blog posts like Skillshares For Sustainable Communities and Durham Under Development, among others...) and it extends beyond just our community of people.
You never know when the bug for saving lives, but when it does hit you, there are plenty of resources out there to support you on your journey away from meat.
If you want to learn more about factory farms or the path to veganism, The Refuge provides amazing support. If you have any questions, just email one of their vegan mentors at... PFAR.firstname.lastname@example.org !
In solidarity with farm animals,
Daria & Ryan-Ashley