Life at Poplar Spring. An old farmhouse, 400 acres of rolling farmland, over a hundred rescued farm animals, and two humans, Terry and Dave, who dedicate their lives to the animals who have come to live with them.
I’ve been to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary a few times now; I’ve raked the goat area, scrubbed the chicken barn, filled water bowls, made sure the mouse ladders were in place, scooped the piles in the pig area, helped clean the horse barn, filled water buckets, picked up cow patties and herded chickens. A bunch of volunteers show up on the weekends to help with these everyday chores, and as always when putting in a few hours at a sanctuary, I’m amazed at how much there is to be done. I don’t mind the sore muscles, the cold wet feet (the rain follows me there at least half the time), the unidentified substances on my hands. It is an incredible chance to get to know a few individuals who somehow managed to be saved instead of slaughtered.
Some of the horses were saved from being turned into horse meat after their racing careers were done. Others were saved from abuse. One of the goats, Juniper, was saved from absolute neglect when her previous “owners” moved and left her behind to starve to death. Somehow the brave girl survived about 9 months in a field with barely any shelter, no food, no water. She might never stand up straight again – her tendons are permanently contracted, so her front legs are bowed when she walks. But I’ve never seen such a grin on a goat. Somehow despite being discarded like an unwanted toy instead of a sentient being deserving of life, she loves people. Just like my cat, she’d nudge me gently if I stopped scratching her head. She knew what she wanted and how to ask for it.
When we talk about animal rights, isn’t this exactly what we’re talking about? The right for them to live, to be themselves? That some people think this is a radical idea is absurd. What is radical about acknowledging a sentient being’s desire to live and respecting that desire? It is nothing but selfishness to think that a human’s fleeting pleasure in the taste of flesh trumps another being’s desire to live. We can live without consuming animal products, and therefore we should.
The pigs are a pleasure to see at Poplar Spring. Like cats, they were curious about what we had in the buckets. Like dogs, they would follow us around so we’d scratch behind their ears instead of doing our work. For anyone who has seen Earthlings, who has seen the abuse heaped upon these intelligent, caring animals by the workers in the slaughterhouse, you will understand how bittersweet it is to experience firsthand the simple satisfaction they feel to know we care. It is rewarding to see so many being cared for, living happy lives, and wrenching to think about what a small number these are compared to the billions of animals killed every year to satisfy the selfish palate of humans.
They aren’t its. They are whos.