Keeping cool

Most of the animals at the sanctuary are very heat sensitive. We don't blame them, not when the temperature gauge exceeds the 100 F mark (we're heat sensitive too!)

Some of the species are particularly unhappy in the hot sun. The larger pigs, for example, lack most of the sweat glands that help keep us humans a little cooler. Instead, they have to mitigate the heat by wallowing in water, getting mud caked on them (protects from sun burn and flies) and hide out in cool spots. Even when they do find a shady area, staff often rubs them down with a large dish-sized ice cube. Fans in the largest barn are on all day to help with air flow as well.

Chickens and turkeys have an awesome misting system that my camera said no to photographing. We also put out large bowls of water for the birds to soak their feet. Sometimes there are little squabbles over who gets the best soaking spot. And sometimes, the birds have to vie for mister space with human visitors - on today's tour, all the humans were hogging the misters for themselves!! It was 101 F so I couldn't blame them too much.

Rabbits are another heat sensitive species and they get frozen water bottles and frozen tiles to lay upon. The rabbits at the sanctuary really don't like water, so we cannot spray them down like we would for the pigs.

The cattle, goats and sheep handle the heat a lot better. I'm looking out at Howie and Sadie right now, both standing in the sun, chewing their cud and not at all bothered by the 100+ degree weather. I certainly don't want to be directly in the sun right now!

If you live in hot areas, please keep cool. Drink a lot of water, stay in the shade and minimize your exposure to the sun. Wear sunscreen - some of our pinkest pigs do, so you know it's awesome stuff (our pigs are totally stylish, cool creatures).

Vegan chocolate cupcakes

I am a firm believer cupcakes have the power to heal. Especially these cupcakes. These were made in honor of my mom's birthday and were also eaten in honor of my mom's birthday. Yes to the cupcakes, people!

The recipe is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and hopefully Isa will not strike us dead for reprinting the cake and frosting recipe. But once you make these cupcakes, YOU WILL BUY HER BOOK and be happy.

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
  2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).
  3. Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1/4 cups Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread
1/4 cups All-Vegetable Shortening
1/2 cups Natural Unsweetened Cocoa
2 1/2 cups Organic Powdered Sugar
3 tablespoons Chocolate Soymilk
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1. Mix together the margarine and shortening until mixed.
2. Add in the cocoa powder and mix thoroughly.
3. Add the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments, followed by the soymilk (1 tbsp at a time)
4. Add the vanilla extract
5. Cream until smooth and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.

EAT IT and take a pretty picture:

Vegan chocolate cupcakes

The end.

In the now

Losing an animal at the sanctuary is always hard, always sad. It's easy to get bogged down in the memory, the past that gets foggier by the minute. We get told or it is suggested that the toughest part of sanctuary work is the euthanasia. It isn't. These animals have wonderful lives, are given optimal treatment, are loved and respected. Freedom to roam and pick where they want to sleep, who they want to hang out with are all theirs for the taking.

The bitter pill is the other animals, the true reasons why Animal Place continues to educate and operate. In this country, there are ten billion reasons. They have no names, only numbers (and sometimes not even that). For them, life is absence, longing, want, frustration, horror and fear. It is painful and cruel. They live in the large sheds of Foster Farms. Their hooves stamp upon the dry lots of Harris Ranch. They push and shove in the battery cages of Gemperle Farms. They cry for their babies in the crates of Smithfield.

Flo and all the animals at the sanctuary are ambassadors. They are the messengers telling us we do not need their flesh, milk or eggs to survive; that they are feeling, intelligent beings - not so much unlike ourselves.

In Memory: Flo

Once there was a goat, a special creature who you wanted to curl up with and share all your secrets. She had forgiven humans for milking her and for sending her babies off to slaughter. In her heart, there was a giant ball of compassion, of wanting to share and receive kindness.

Her name was Flo.

There are animals who touch your heart, who leave you with the certain knowledge that these other species are not moons circling us but are their own planets, in their own orbits, making their own way in the world. They do not just touch you, they grab at everyone and anyone within their sphere. People meet them and laugh at their friendliness, find comfort in their gentle presence and realize how much emotion and intelligence lurks behind those all-knowing eyes.

That was Flo.

She touched us all, from the staff who whispered words of love in her soft ears to the visitors who pushed and shoved to scratch her back, to bask in her presence. The other goats looked up to her for years, their queen, their leader who knew where the star thistle lay, where the best meadows for grazing sat waiting, just waiting for the goats to arrive.

Flo grew old.

The years were kind to Flo; she aged with grace and integrity. Her body did not. It fought against her spirit and hurt Flo with cancer and failing kidneys. We watched and waited. We held on and cried and leaned against her, wishing it all away, wishing her to get better. She did not fight or hold on, she did not rage against the world with all its injustices and coldness and cruelties. She leaned back and sighed, waited for us to massage her, for us to stop our senseless tears. Her body sent mixed messages, telling her one day she was fine and the next four days, she was not. She grew nauseous and tired, trembled with effort to get up, looked longingly at her herd as they winded their way up hills and foraged. Everything was an effort, a struggle. And yet we watched, because in her eyes we still saw life and hope and Flo. We made her comfortable, gave her things to ease the pain, fed her whatever food she could stomach.

But then it was time.

We were not ready. We never are. This time, she leaned against us. She pushed and made her presence known. When the sedative took effect, she sighed, a release and lay down as if just to rest, to sit awhile. She laid back against us and there was no flailing, no rejection, just her and us together. And then she was gone, it was that quick and fleeting. Once alive, suffering in this world, now not. Just us.

She is buried on the property where she can once again become part of the grassy fields, of this place she called home, a place that, for now, feels a little colder, a little wider and emptier without her alive in it.

We will miss her so much. We are so grateful to have known her and we hope that, for those of you who met her, you are grateful too. She was a special, precious, wonderful friend.

Wool is not as natural as you might think

More than 10,000 years ago, the ancestor of domestic sheep did not have wool. Not in the traditional sense, anyways. The mouflon sheep at your right is considered the ancestor of "wool" sheep. Their hair/wool is soft and sheds annually in the spring and summer. The soay sheep (below left) is another example of a wild sheep with the most natural of wool, the kind that doesn't just keep growing.

People could still spin the fiber, it just needed to be collected instead of shorn and there wasn't a lot of it to use. So thus the domestication process began.

It's amazing how so very different domestic sheep are from their wild ancestors. Most breeds have long, wooly tails - wild sheep do not. Sheep tails' are generally docked, sometimes leaving the animals with absolutely no rear-end protection. Wild sheep have hair or shedding wool - domestic sheep, if left unshorn, would die from exhaustion or heat stroke within a couple of years or be burdened with 50+ lbs of extra wool. We took perfectly adaptable creatures and selectively bred for traits that are useless in nature and, even more tragic, deadly for the animals without our intervention. How arrogant of us to make these animals so reliant on humans that, if left to their own devices, would probably become weighed down by wool and die within a few years (months if in arid, desert climates).

The sheep at the sanctuary are a variety of different breeds. Some have reaAidenlly thick wool that you cringe looking at (imagine wearing an extra 20 lbs!) others have less wool to worry about. They are all sheared annually to prevent heat stroke and overgrowth of the wool. We do not tail dock or dehorn the sheep, either. None of the tailed sheep have had problems with blowfly or pooping, either. Trying to keep them as natural as possible is, unfortunately, impossible so we strive to keep them comfortable and happy instead.

So the next time you go shopping, give some thought to what you purchase. Wool is not natural for the sheep, it's uncomfortable and can be deadly. Animals are tail-docked and some have their rear-flaps cut off without pain relief in a process called mulesing. Many are often dehorned and castrated without pain relief. Try other natural alternatives, like cotton or hemp.

Photo Credits: / CC BY-ND 2.0

Benign predators?

Last week, a veterinarian was out to look at one of the goats. While she was here, we got to talking about end-of-life situations. The goat in question, Flo, is elderly with renal failure. She has weeks, maybe months left. While we try to gauge how content and comfortable she is by her behaviors, we are left in the dark to how she truly feels.

The vet made a comment that really struck me as strange. The vet called us benign predators because, when it comes down to it, we decide when an animal lives or dies.

At first, I almost agreed. Yes, we are these bipedal creatures wielding a lot of power. Right or not, we do decide when pain and suffering exceeds quality of life. We end their lives.

But then I rebelled against the argument. Majorly. Yes, humans act like predators. Our species slaughters and consumes 50 billion animals worldwide annually. In the United States, humans slaughter 10 billion land animals at a rate of 320 animals per second. It would be hard to argue that humans act like natural predators, with their large farms, mechanized operations, captive bolt guns, and large processing facilities. Most humans certainly do not hunt other species, instead preferring plastic-wrapped body parts to the whole body. And there is hardly anything benign about any predator.

Coming back to what sanctuaries do when it is time to end the life of a beloved animal. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, predatory about it. Obviously, we do not eat the sanctuary resident (eating prey is a big part of being a predator, no duh). No instinct drives us, like a predator, to chase and kill. Every decision to euthanize is agonizing. I mean, agonizing. There are quality of life discussions, meetings on deciding pain-level and overall happiness of the animal. It is not easy, there is no spur of the moment decision to destroy the life of any cow or chicken. Nothing is fun or exciting or exhilarating about euthanasia. It is a heart-breaking decision that, while at its core ends an animal's life, is never made because we want to end that life, because we somehow need their flesh to survive.

So while I agree that sanctuary animals are not truly free, I just cannot fathom calling our relationship with these animals as predator-prey like. Sanctuary residents receive medical care that wild animals do not. Their pastures are large but fenced. When they are hungry, they get extra food, no animal starves at the sanctuary. There are many benefits to being cared for as much as there are drawbacks. We do our best to find that balance between providing the "freest" life possible while also making sure the animals are safe and healthy (meaning they sometimes endure trips to the vet or isolation, neither they enjoy). Certainly we do insert human restrictions and concerns into their unique worlds, and maybe an argument can be made that that in of itself is unfair and wrong, but if given a choice of a kill floor and a sanctuary pasture, my guess is that those 50 billion slaughtered animals would have chosen a sanctuary, even if it meant a hoof trim now and then.

So here's your chance to make a choice. You can choose to be a part of a system that relegates animals to bits and pieces or you can choose to abstain from that cycle of cruelty. Being a predator in the wild is what it is, there is nothing glamorous, benign or endearing about it - it's about life and death for both hunter and hunted. Eating meat, drinking milk and eating eggs is not the same; we don't need them to survive nor do we need to be part of such a violent system of oppression. Going vegan fits perfectly with our biological system and our behavioral desire to be kind, compassionate creatures.

The sanctuary denizens are not alone and a small GV update

Yesterday, while out getting an awesome picture of Patty, I heard quite the ground squirrel ruckus and immediately gazed upwards to see what was what. About a 100' away from me, a juvenile hawk sat in a tree, trying to figure out the best way to hunt ground squirrels. I'm pretty sure the hawk is a Cooper's hawk (you ornithologists can tell me if I'm wrong).

Cooper's Hawk

Whatever he* is, he's beautiful. He was learning how to hunt on his own and, admittedly, it was hard not to cheer for the little colony of ground squirrels. None of us at the sanctuary enjoy the "seedier" side of the natural world. The hawk has to eat, of course.

Amazingly, even though the hawk could take out a full-grown white leghorn hen (who are the size of some of the adult ground squirrels), he showed an absolute disinterest in even flying over the chicken enclosure. I imagine part of that is there are a lot of ground squirrels, I mean A LOT. Both the chickens and ground squirrels also post sentries to monitor both the sky and ground for predators, so both species are on high alert.

The sanctuary residents do share the property with wildlife. Coyotes, bobcat, rattlesnakes, ground squirrels, a kajillion species of birds, mountain lion, deer, wild turkeys - all of them make their appearance from time to time. Fence lines mean nothing to them.

In all the years the sanctuary has been here, very few animals have been lost due to predation. It is a very real risk. Always and forever. We bring to this property species' who have a long history of being killed by other species. Everything we do, we try to mitigate those risks. For the most sensitive species, like the rabbits and poultry, we make sure their enclosures are extra secure, surrounded by predator-proof fencing with overhangs and rollerbars. Fences are dug down into the ground and the chickens/turkeys are always locked up at night (bunnies are in a 1,000 square foot enclosure). Young animals are never introduced until they are large enough to defend themselves.

We will maintain our high level of predator protection when we move all the animals to Grass Valley....which is one of the reasons it is taking a little longer than expected for the move. The fencing is vital in making sure the chickens and rabbits are safe and that all the other species have enough room to roam without going so far as to be really isolated. So we're taking it slow. I'm sure you appreciate that. I know the chickens and turkeys do. :)

*Or she, no offense intended. :)

Patty can too take a good picture

Last Friday, I claimed Patty did not take a good picture. She said "Liar!" but in a really nice way, because she is a really nice pig.

Today, I caught her in the mud-hole taking a little bath. And well, the picture did not turn out as bad as I thought. I mean, she's got a giant rock protruding from her nose and her eyes are closed but still! So here is Patty in all her glory:

Patty wallow

By the way, Patty is feeling a lot better. Her limp is completely gone. Maybe she pulled a muscle, like we all do sometimes, and was off for a couple days. Just long enough to make us worry!

A lesson on friendship

You're not supposed to have favorites, I know. Every animal at the sanctuary holds a special place in my heart, but (you knew it was coming) there are specific animals who I really adore. Patty is one. I'm so embarrassed to admit this, but I don't have any great photos of Patty. She's a black and white sow who is just not very photogenic. I've tried different lighting, different angles, different lenses, different everything and yet her pigmentation thwarts me at every turn. Her big floppy ears cover beautifully small eyes, making it all the more difficult.

But this isn't about how hard it is to photograph Patty.

This is about how a couple of days ago Patty woke up with an awful limp. I heard the animal care staff talking about her on the radio and immediately left my desk to check her out. Patty is a belted hampshire and, as such, has been bred to produce a lot of weight in a short amount of time ("meat" pigs are killed at six months old). Even though the pigs at the sanctuary are trim, their legs and hooves find it difficult to support 700-900 lbs of pig awesomeness.

When I saw Patty move, it was difficult. She had to fling her entire head up in the air to counterbalance the severe limp in her left leg. I crouched low and grunted loud, then softly in the friendly, almost airy way pigs do. And she responded, widening her mouth and making these precious breathy exhalations. Even amidst what was obviously a painful event, she was happy to see me. As we talked, another pig, Susie, sashayed up and paused by Patty, grunting her greeting.

I began to move slowly away from Patty to try and guide her up to the barn and a stall. She followed, uncomfortable. And then Susie became concerned. You could see her look at Patty and take it in, see her tense and relax and then she stood right in front of Patty, not letting her by. In my silly human way, I tried explaining to Susie that Patty needed to get to the barn to lie down. Susie was having none of that. She waited thirty seconds, then slowly moved forward, giving Patty another 10 feet to move forward. Then she would come up behind Patty and nudge her ever so gently ahead. After Patty moved another 15 feet, Susie raced ahead and forced Patty to stop. They repeated that until they were about 20 feet from the barn. The whole time Susie alternated between encouraging grunts to these odd, screechy cries of concern.

Patty went to a stall, nestling deep in its comfortable confines. Susie wandered off to rub her head on a post, clearly satisfied with her role. I marveled at how graceful Susie had been in her kindness, her simple stoic pause for Patty to regroup, her gentle prodding forward. Pigs can be incredibly selfish (read when food is around) but they are even more gregarious. They aren't perfect, of course, having bad days and quarreling with their herd-mates. That's all fine and normal. So are these friendships, where one finds comfort in the other.

Patty will be on stall rest for a few days. After some palpation and rotation, staff cannot tell whether Patty is just being tough or, for whatever reason, isn't exhibiting pain responses. If need be, she'll go into the vet next Tuesday with another pig and we'll do everything in our power to help her feel better. It's nice to know she has a caring friend to look after her when we cannot.

Rescue Ranch Manager Position Open

Rescue Ranch Manager Job Description

Organization Description: Animal Place is a sanctuary for farmed animals and an advocacy organization. The 600-acre sanctuary in Grass Valley serves as a permanent safe haven for farmed animals as well as education center. The 60-acre Rescue Ranch facility in Vacaville provides a temporary home for adoptable farmed animals, with a special emphasis on chickens. Rescue Ranch is a project of Animal Place.

Job Title: Rescue Ranch Manager

Job Status: Full-time, live-in

Immediate Supervisor: Kim Sturla, Executive Director

Job Description

Responsible for the oversight of Rescue Ranch adoption and placement program, care of the 60-acre property, management of volunteers, interns and possible animal care staff, and communications with farmers and shelters.

Job Duties

- Assist in the development of farmed animal adoption program

- Maintain and update animal adoption database and partnership farms

- Arrange and coordinate animal rescues

- Supervise placement of animals

- Oversee care of rescued farmed animals and dogs

- Develop a working relationship with commercial farmers

- Supervise and train volunteers, interns and animal care staff

- Conduct volunteer training classes

- Oversee sanctuary maintenance and repair

- Manage inventory and ordering of supplies

Physical Requirements

- Physically fit

- Ability to lift 40 pounds

- Comfortable working in all weather conditions


- Keen interest in animal protection movement and promoting veganism

- Animal care and handling experience, particularly with chickens

- Supervisory experience

- Strong interpersonal communication skills

- Program development experience

- Comfortable living in rural area and working in outside environment

- Competent with computers, database management programs, telephone system

- Self-motivator

- A minimum of two years professional experience in the animal protection field

- Vegetarian, vegan preferred

- Valid California driver’s license

Hours/Days: Five-days-a-week. Flexibility is essential.

Accommodations: Live on sanctuary grounds. Rent and utilities included.

Benefits: Medical Insurance plan; vacation and paid holidays; sick leave

Salary: Negotiable, dependent upon experience.

Start Date: Flexible, possibly January 1, 2010.

How to Apply: Include a resume and cover letter and submit one of two ways:

E-mail: In subject line write Rescue Ranch application

Mail: Animal Place c/o Marji Beach; 3448 Laguna Creek Trail; Vacaville, CA 95688

Faxes cannot be accepted. Please allow 1-2 weeks for processing.

If you have questions, please call (707) 449-4814

Youngsters part with animals they raised

A few weeks ago, a 5-mos old lamb arrived at the sanctuary straight from a FFA program. She looked, well, like a show sheep - all clean and shiny, so very unlike the rough and tumble animals at the sanctuary (who are clean, in their own ways, but not "bleach clean"). Within a few days, Alice (formerly Lambie) transformed into a beautifully dirty, perfectly happy sheep's sheep. She frolicks with the other sheep, decides when and where she wants to eat, and nestles in a bed of straw instead of a concrete floor. Her previous caregiver recently visited and was very happy and pleasantly surprised to see Alice look and act like a sheep.

This time of year is fair time and with fair time, sheep like Alice generally end up at auction. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently did an article called "Youngsters part with animals they raised". Reading the article is a lesson on confusion and out-of-this-world weirdness.

While most people still refer to nonhuman animals as "its", you would be hard-pressed to find a student in the article who called the animal in their care an "it". Even the article's author seems forced to switch from the rather impersonal "it" pronoun to the more intimate "she/he" format. These kids have taken the first step in recognizing the inherent worth in other animals - they are not objects, they are "she/he", animals with personality and interests. Which makes what they do to these animals all the more baffling.

So how do these kids rationalize away their cognitive dissonance?

Here are some quotes:
"You have to remember it's a business"
"I've spent a lot of time with Hobby, but I know that I can't get too attached."
"I think everyone out here gets attached to their animal, but this also is about teaching us how to make good decisions."

There you have it. The selling of life is a business, you can get attached or, if you do get attached, just remember it's about making good decisions.

Seriously? Surely students can learn to make good decisions without betraying, according to what one student called her goat, a "friend"? Most students do not participate in FFA/4-H programs and many somehow manage to make good decisions now and later in life. And FFA/4-H students make poor business decisions now and in the future. FFA/4-H cannot be the model to ensure future good decision makers, especially when the end decision involves killing your "friend".

Feel free to read the article and then make a comment. Be polite and all, but do point out the oddness of referring to animals as "friends" and then sending them to slaughter, the strangeness of "syndicates" who spend inordinate amounts of money to buy one animal, all the incongruities that FFA/4-H is preaching to our nation's children.

The Inquirer also accepts letters to the editor:; keep your comments brief and respectful.

On sows and piglets

Last week, I blogged a bit on the dairy industry and now I'd like to turn to the pig industry.

The first time I met a pig, she was in a farrowing crate inside a temperature controlled room. It was clean and sterile (we had to wear scrubs and boots to enter). There were six sows surrounded by piglets. She could not turn around.

And it was silent. You could have dropped a pin and heard it reverberate off the cement floor.

Sound would fill the room during feeding time, when sows would grunt the "come eat" call. And painful cries would erupt during the piglet processing time, when 2-3 day old babies were unceremoniously castrated, tail docked and ear notched without pain relief. Then the room was deafening.

But usually, it was quiet.

I know that does not sound like a provocative statement, but pigs are talkers. Their world is smells and vocalizations. When I started working at Animal Place, I learned pig talk secretly. I say secretly because the first time you try to grunt like a pig, it's an embarrassing sound and, well, I didn't want to offend my boss who could "talk down" a charging, wild boar. None of the pigs took exception to my fumbling attempts at communication, some even seemed to grunt soft exhalations of encouragement. In those moments, when my ears were filled with the sounds of porcine conversation, my heart ached at how ignorant I had been in that room of silent pigs.

The silence is a sign of an animal defeated, a sow who would normally spend her days talking, speaking, thrilling in the soft sighs of contentment, the growls of anger, and all that it means to be a pig. She would lie in deep-beds of leaves or straw, never choosing hard dirt over soft comfort. When she gave birth, it would be in a nest of her choosing, far from the group, in a safe place of her making. Pigs are normally showy, gregarious animals but birthing is a secret affair, a special time for a sow to be alone with her young. She cannot do that in a crate. And the conversations sows and piglets have! They are wonderful, full of meaning, delightful and perfect. Every touch, every soft grunt, all of it is a lesson on how to be porcine, how to be a pig.

I remember touching one of the sows in those crates. She was red and big with fourteen piglets tussling off to the side. She flinched. I could feel a strange sense of horror deep inside me, but I pushed it down. I rested my hand on her back and, for one brief moment, she leaned into it and then jerked away, as if burned. She could not understand my sudden interest in touching her with gentleness, no pig in the pork industry does.

Anyone who can explain the rightness of a cage has never been in one, never felt the sides of it pushing and denying access to the natural world. They have not felt the frustration of nothingness, of being restricted, of being in a barren, empty world. When her instinct drives her to make a nest for her babies, she cannot. When her preference would be to nurse her piglets in a deep bed of leaves, she cannot. When she wants to run away from the humans who abuse her, she cannot. When she wants to burrow in straw with her sister and brother, she cannot. And when she is desperate to save her piglets, when they are taken forcibly from her at 2-3 weeks of age, when the wrongness of that separation is evident in her tense muscles and strange cries, she can do nothing to stop it. Everything done to her is an attempt at removing her from instinct and desire and what she wants and needs.

We know what happens to her piglets. They too will be stripped of their dignity and of their pigness. Then they will be killed and eaten by a species who does not need meat to survive. She will spend years in that cage, repeatedly artificially inseminated, repeatedly denied access to a nest and the outdoor world, repeatedly abused and repeatedly stripped of her babies.

I don't need meat to survive. You don't either. Pigs need to be allowed to express all that makes them them. And they cannot do that on a farm or in a place that sees them as roasters and production units. Since there are so many alternatives to pork, there isn't any reason to start choosing a compassionate diet now. Do it today, for the millions of sows denied true motherhood and the hundred million piglets turned into pork. We must honor who they are by not reducing them to what our palates desire.

Humane Society of Missouri serving meat to help farm animals

I first heard about this because of Stephanie Ernst's piece, which is a must read.

The Humane Society of Missouri is an animal welfare shelter that places dogs, cats and other animals into new homes. They also run Longmeadow Rescue Ranch, an adoption and placement center for horses and other farmed animals, including cattle and pigs.

On August 22nd, the shelter will be having a fundraising event for Longmeadow Rescue having a Polo match and BBQ. The bizareness is obvious. It seems like a no-brainer that if you are rescuing and saving farmed animals, including horses, that you not fundraise off of the slaughter and exploitation of the same animals you rescue.

What you can do:'s Animal Rights has a petition that you can sign. Please do so. Please note: If you do not want to sign up for a account, please write a letter instead. The goal is 500 and good job, the goal was made. Let's aim even higher - HSMO needs to know that people, especially those in Missouri, care about these arcane, strange policies.

Write a letter to Kathryn Warnick, director of HSMO. Please be polite and respectful, asking that the HSMO stop serving the flesh of farmed animals in order to raise money to rescue farmed animals, including at the upcoming Charity Polo Match.
Send letters to:
Kathryn Warnick
Humane Society of Missouri
1201 Macklind Ave
St. Louis, MO 63110

You can read about our Food for Thought program for ideas on what to include. We have sent a letter, including a copy of our Food for Thought program to HSMO as well.

Adventures with Teese

Chicago SoyDairy makes Teese , vegan cheese as well as nacho sauces. They also make Dandies vegan marshmallows which are so good, they should be illegal. My dream is to have their soft-serve ice cream in my office, like right next to my desk. So far, my boss has not been receptive, but I will keep the hope alive.

Back to the Teese. We heard mixed reviews on the meltability of the cheese, but I do not let mixed reviews deter me from PIZZA. Or nachos. For the pizza, we (being me and my mom) used the mozarella version.

Here is evidence of its shredability:

You may click on me for bigger shredded teese

And evidence of its edibility:

You may click on me for bigger pizza love

The results?
Well, it melted. Sort of. Teese does not just melt melt, at least not in our oven. Others have suggested baking at 500F instead of the 450F that we did. We had to broil, like we've done with Follow Your Heart, to get it melty. The taste was a little buttery, but I like that taste so it didn't bother me. If you let it cool a little bit, then it "coagulates" nicely instead of remaining a soppy mess. We added green and black olives along with some herbs from the garden. In the end, I really liked it as did my mom. Our cheese-eating tester liked it, both the texture and taste.

We also tried the Teese Nacho Cheese sauce. Teese needs to include a simple sentence that says "Directions: Fling stick into saucepan and melt" instead of nutritional data in like five different languages. But in case they don't, you melt the stick of nacho cheese in a sauce pan on medium heat until it's, you know, saucy.

Plus salsa:

Results? Cheese-eating taste tester LOVED it. Awesome. I love it when my chips get all soaked and wilty, topped with a bunch of tasty veggie grounds, salsa, sour supreme, olives, chives and, yes, NACHO TEESE - so I was very happy. I do prefer my nachos with streetchy cheese but that is harder to find. Not everyone likes it when their chips absorb the moisture and flavor of the toppings, to which I respond WHY ARE YOU EATING NACHOS?!? Just kidding, to each their own.

So, our overall opinion is that Teese makes great nacho cheese sauce and their mozarella cheese melts w/ a broiler, making it not much different than Follow Your Heart. I preferred Teese's flavor to FYH and really liked the texture better when cooled a bit.

You can get Teese through online vendors. It's reasonably priced as well.

Calf Cuteness

You Saturday blog-reading folks are in for a real treat, the kind that leaves you content and full of warm, fuzzy feelings. You Monday blog-reading folks won't miss out, either, except you'll see this MONDAY instead of RIGHT NOW. Behold!

That's right, cuteness factor of one kajillion! Summer is on the left and Freedom is on the right, and they are both filling the frame with their "adorability". These two little whipper-snappers are celebrating their two-month-plus-eight-days birthday! You may make a dairy-free cupcake in their honor or chew your cud, though I suggest the former.

On milk and calves

I am struck by how much we, women especially, ignore or are ignorant of how female farmed animals are treated - the manipulation of reproduction, the forced separation of mother and offspring, all the ways we shape, mold, break females to suit our needs.

This never appeared to me more powerfully than the first time I helped a cow give birth. I have no biological children, so I have no point of reference on what it must be like. There is obviously an intimate connection, the sharing of food and life, but there is that line of separation made most obvious when the infant is so rudely introduced to the world. It all seems so uncomfortable, these months of waiting, belly growing, nourishing this other life. But with few exceptions, the day of birth appears, to all involved, a momentous, dramatic event usually ending with all parties exhausted, but content.

Back to the cow. She was in hard labor, stuck with an oversized calf who just did not want to leave. I could not blame the calf too much. I was asked to help pull this unknowingly stubborn baby from the womb. And I did, literally pulling on tiny hooves and perfect calf legs. Out popped a slimy mostly bovine-looking creature. The birth was shocking for me, though I'm certain not nearly as much as for either cow or calf.

And then.

The calf was whisked away. Away from his mother, from his clan, from those nine months of calf certainty that when he was born, he would be born into something, a world with a mother, with milk. Instead he was carted off. Though only moments old, he sensed the wrongness of this separation and attempted to cry, a strangled sound. His exhausted mother struggled to stand, took a deep breath and screamed. It was an ear-piercing bellow. She attempted to follow her calf, to provide what a mother provides - nourishment, grooming, comfort. She was blocked by gates and people, by space and by unyielding greed for what rightfully belonged to her calf, her milk.

Everything we do to a dairy cow is a stripping away of her essence. Her choice in a mate is denied, she is artificially inseminated. Her choice of when to mate is taken from her, she is "synched" to breed with the other cows in the herd. Nearly every single dairy calf is removed from his or her mother the day they are born. She is even denied motherhood. We must add insult to injury by taking control over her milk source, her udder. She is milked on our schedule and bred to produce the amount and type of milk we like. Then, in a cruel twist, we take her milk and use it for ourselves and our children. Milk that nurtures the growth of a frolicksome calf, milk that is given and received on a natural cycle of hunger and satiation, milk that is bovine, not human.

I never gave it much consideration until that heart-wrenching moment of mother lost, child gone. It hit me so hard I could not intentionally drink milk again. As a woman who wants nothing more than to be in control of my own body, of my own decisions and choices, how could I ever deny that to another female? Whether she is bovine or caprine or human, it does not matter. What we take is hers to give and given the choice between feeding an adult human and her own flesh and blood calf, I think the answer is quite obvious.

Which is why I implore, beg, demand, ask you to seek out dairy alternatives, to stop being part of this system that exploits what should be a beautiful bond between cow and calf and turns it into profit margins. If not for me or for yourself, then for the cows and calves. Think of Sadie (top picture) who gave birth to seven calves and never nursed one, who was tossed aside when she developed an udder infection, who's only worth was in how much milk she produced, how many calves she dropped and not in her intelligence, beauty, engaging personality or her love for other cows. If not Sadie, then think of Freedom, Summer and Nicholas, the boy dairy calves who's first experience of the world was a coldness, a separation, a movement from a warm, soothing womb to the cruel auctionblock and slaughter. They cannot ask in words to stop drinking milk, but I think they ask with their stories, their clear desire to be a calf in a calf's world, a mother in a mother's world, and not calf, cow, beef, milk, veal in ours.

Livemarket protest in San Francisco Aug 9

The Good Hope Baptist Church is permitting New Longs Live Poultry to sell live chickens, quail and other poultry in its parking lot.

LGBT Compassion is spearheading a campaign against the sale of these live animals, including an upcoming outreach effort this Sunday, August 9th. If you can join, please do so.

From LGBT Compassion's alert on this important issue:

  • Sunday, 9:30am-11:30am at Good Hope Baptist Church,
    551 Nevada Street (at Peralta Ave.), Glen Park area, San Francisco.
    (one block west of the 100 Alemany Blvd. farmers' market lot).
Street parking is easy. It's about 1.25 miles from the Glen Park BART station.

We'll be reaching out to the church's congregation as they arrive, politely asking them to ask the Rev. to stop providing the church's parking lot for animal cruelty activities. Flyers and a few signs will be provided. We won't actually have to witness cruelty, as the vendor is only there during the farmers' market on Saturdays.

It may be a good idea to dress nicely/conservatively, as the church-goers will likely also be dressed. Also, during these live market protests, please don't acknowledge or discuss any issues of culture or ethnicity. That's just an attempt to distract from the real issue of illegal animal cruelty.

If you can attend, please contact Andrew at LGBT Compassion via email.

Rescue Ranch - A Project of Animal Place

People! I cannot even tell you how hard it's been to bite my tongue and restrain my typing fingers from sharing this news with you! It is EPIC news for Animal Place and I'm sure you will all be very excited.

We are keeping the 60-acre Vacaville property!

Let me repeat, in addition to the brand-spanking new 600-acre sanctuary, we are KEEPING our current facility in Vacaville!

An incredibly generous donor made this possible and we couldn't be more thrilled.

You are all now wondering what the heck this Rescue Ranch business is, yes? It will be a farmed animal adoption and placement center. Farmed animals in need of good homes will first come to Rescue Ranch and then be placed. This is NOT a sanctuary, meaning animals will be transient, coming in from rescues and then leaving for permanent placement. Grass Valley will be the primary sanctuary and any animal left unadopted will find a safe haven on the 600-acres in the sierra foothills.

You probably have a kabillion questions and, right now, we can only answer like 10. Here are a few FAQs:

Will you still be moving to Grass Valley?

Yes! Nothing about the move to Grass Valley will change. All of the current residents, from chickens and calves to staff and database, will be moving to Grass Valley. Grass Valley will serve as Animal Place’s office, sanctuary and education center.

What services will Rescue Ranch provide?

Animal Place’s Rescue Ranch will serve as an innovative adoption and placement facility for farmed animals. Animals who arrive at Rescue Ranch will be quarantined, provided veterinary care, rehabilitated and then placed in pre-approved homes.

Will there still be tours in Vacaville?

No, Rescue Ranch will be a holding and care facility for animals prior to adoption. Tours and other onsite events will be hosted at the sanctuary in Grass Valley.

What kind of animals will Rescue Ranch place?

The Ranch will place those farmed animals for whom we can find loving homes. Obviously, some farmed animals, like goats and chickens, may be placed in greater numbers than pigs and cows. Because of their popularity as backyard companion animals, chickens will be the primary species. Additionally, Animal Place has a history of placing thousands of spent hens from previous rescues.

However, we hope to establish a network with farms, shelters and other rescue groups to maximize the options for the thousands of farmed animals who are abused, neglected and abandoned nationwide while promoting the idea that farmed animals can be companion animals.

Whereas, our primary focus will be on the rescue and placement of farmed animals, we may possibly revitalize our dog rescue program.

Will volunteers be needed at Rescue Ranch?

Yes! Our volunteer program will continue at both the Vacaville and Grass Valley sites.

Will there be internship opportunities?

Yes, there will be internship opportunities, including residential internships available.

When will the new sanctuary in Grass Valley be up and running?

We have accomplished a lot in the nine months we have owned the property. The four new barns will be completed by August 10. The last big project we must complete before moving is constructing about 2.5 miles of fencing.

When will Rescue Ranch begin operation?

Rescue Ranch will be begin operation immediately after we move the animals up to the Grass Valley sanctuary – sometime the beginning of 2010.

Soon we will be introducing a couple of the programs we envision Rescue Ranch - A Project of Animal Place will provide. We are incredibly excited about both Rescue Ranch and the move to a new sanctuary in Grass Valley.

If you have burning questions or just want to yell at us CONGRATULATIONS, give Kim Sturla, executive director, a call at 707 449 4814.

Please welcome....

Looloo, Boris and company! In the past few weeks, we have welcomed five new animals to the sanctuary. Here are a couple of the newest residents!

Looloo is a 9-week old buff orpington with luck on her side. Most likely purchased as a day-old chick, transported through the postal service, at the young age of 2-weeks, she ended up in the jaws of a feral cat!

Someone abandoned her in a neighborhood right near a small colony of feral cats. As she was attacked, her rescuer appeared and saved her from death.

Her rescuers made sure she recovered from her bite wounds, nursing her back to health. With several dogs, a toddler and feral cats to take care of, they felt it better to try and find her a permanent home.

So now she is spending her days at the sanctuary, learning to be a chicken but still loving to leap clumsily ont our laps for some loving.

You can see another photo of her here.

Boris and Company
Several years ago, a teacher decided to release the classroom rabbits out onto school property. The rabbits were not castrated and soon began to reproduce. As people noticed the clearly domestic rabbits, the site became a dumping ground for unwanted bunnies. Not only that but people were allowing their dogs to kill the rabbits and teenagers were shooting the rabbits as well. It was an awful situation.

Rescue groups mobilized to trap, neuter and place the rabbits. We agreed to take a small number of rabbits, including Boris. Introducing rabbits to our current population is stressful for everyone and, with 24 rabbits, we are at our maximum. Boris is doing well with the new group and the remaining rescued bunnies will be introduced after they recover from surgery.

The Omnivore's Delusion

Mark Hawthorne (who's book you should read) posted a link to this article called The Omnivore's Delusion in "The American" which is a publication of the American Enterprise Institute (which you can google to find out more information).

Of course, I was a little excited by the title alone, but I tempered myself with the fact that the author is a farmer so probably wasn't penning a vegan treatise. I would suggest reading the article, it is well-written and thought-provoking.

I won't claim to know anything about non animal-based farming. My educational background is animal science and behavior, not tillage or crop rotation. I could probably research the author's claims on nitrogen further (or you could do it for me), but I really just want to comment on the animal stuff.
It seems that turkeys, at least young ones, are not smart enough to come in out of the rain, and will stand outside in a downpour, with beaks open and eyes skyward, until they drown. One night Niemann lost 4,000 turkeys to drowning, along with his dream, and his farm
Now, I won't flat out state that the author is making this up. I will say that this myth of turkeys drowning in the rain is just that, a falsehood. There isn't much empirical evidence to suggest turkeys drown in the rain. As a survival strategy, it would not be prudent. That is not to say young, impressionable, curious animals who lack group socialization don't do inappropriate things. Most turkey poults are born in incubators and never know the warmth of a mother's wing or the learned knowledge of the world. When they are presented with a new stimulus, such as rain, they may be baffled. Most likely they will run for shelter. At the sanctuary, in its 20 years of existence, we have not seen turkeys, wild or domestic, try to act out Ophelia's last moments, turkey style. It has little to do with intelligence.

Next comes the insult to porcines that, given the chance to act normally in a free-range/non-cage setting, mother sows just cannot help but to crush their piglets and eat them:
Which included lying down on my 4-H project, killing several piglets, and forcing me to clean up the mess when I did my chores before school. The crates protect the piglets from their mothers. Farmers do not cage their hogs because of sadism, but because dead pigs are a drag on the profit margin, and because being crushed by your mother really is an awful way to go. As is being eaten by your mother, which I've seen sows do to newborn pigs as well.

Piglets are crushed no matter the housing. Yes, on average, free-range systems can have a higher piglet mortality rate due to crushing (not always). Let's be fair, - humans bred pigs to be big and have large litters. An average sow weighs between 500-700 lbs and births 13-20 piglets. This is entirely unnatural and increases the risk of crushing. Some sows are sleepers, spending 11 out of a 12 hour period sleeping versus moving around, sleepers do not kill as many piglets. The type of flooring used can increase restlessness and thus increase piglet crushing, no matter the housing system. The 4-H sow mentioned above may have had reacted differently on different flooring or, had she been a snoozer instead of restless, the results might have been different.

Sows rarely eat their newborn pigs. The rate of infanticide is low and is actually higher in caged systems than in free-range systems. Frustration may increase aggression and infanticide. Mothers have been known to kill unhealthy young as well.

Yes, being crushed is an awful way to go. It isn't any worse than what is in store for piglets who survive - they are weaned early (stressful), housed with unknown pigs (stressful and dangerous), confined on concrete, transported through all weather conditions, and then brutally slaughtered. It isn't worse than spending 3-5 years in a cage so small that turning is impossible.

The author is right about one thing; caging sows saves money. It saves on feed since the sow isn't moving around wasting calories. It means more piglets to become fattened for slaughter. It means more animals be confined in one space, saving money on land. The bottom line is always money, money, money. Animal welfare and environmental stewardship becomes less of a priority when profit margins surface.