Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Yet more babies arrive at Poplar Spring…

I swear, this has been the spring of many babies at Poplar Spring! I asked Dave today if it has been an unusual year, in that sense, because I don’t remember this many babies arriving last year. I gather that there have been some more than usual, but in general there are babies arriving year round. And that’s true enough of this past year as well – Emily, the blind calf, arrived about a year ago. Newman, arriving as a six-month old goat, came sometime this past fall. And there was Hermie, the itty bitty chick rescued from a reptile show in September or October, and then the five baby chicks that came in early November, I think. In December or January it was Petey and Otis, two baby pigs rescued from an abuse situation, and then more recently it was Sally, the flying nun, and the two baby lambs (Billy and Butch) and their momma (Betty). So it has been pretty continuous.

Today there were four babies! Two more baby goats, four days old, and two baby pigs, who had never even seen straw until just a few days ago.

Sadly there was some awful news today as well. Sally died this past week, primarily due to the negligence of the vet clinic. It is hard to comprehend, really, that the sweet little goat that was so full of life and happily performing acrobatic feats off of the pigs just two weeks ago has died. I can remember how she felt as I carried her two weeks ago from the pig yard to her stall in the goat yard for her nap.

She’d wormed her way into all of our heart, as babies have a tendency to do. As hard as it is when any of the animals die, there is something comforting in being able to say “they had a good life at PS, and had a chance to be comfortable in their last years” when the animal is older. Sally was only a few months old, and her death is the kind where you can only say “it shouldn’t have happened.” She’s not the first who has been lost to the negligence of the vets – you can imagine the struggle any sanctuary has finding vets who will treat “farm animals” with the same consideration and competence we demand of those who treat our cats and dogs and other pampered pets. Terry and Dave actually had taken Sally to a vet that is 3.5 hours away, because they can only trust the local vets for certain procedures, and even then they aren’t always happy with the service they get. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

We need some animal rights people to become large animal and bird vets and live near the various sanctuaries so that the sanctuaries can depend on qualified people who understand just how seriously the sanctuaries take the health of their residents. I know that all sanctuaries deal with this issue.

Spending time at the sanctuaries tends to drive the cycle of life home. For every moment spent in grief over the loss of one, there are moments of joy over the saving of others. Today was especially bittersweet, with the new baby goats.

leo at ps

Leo, just four days old today, arrived this past week with his brother. They seem quite big for just being four days old! You can see their extreme youth in their unsteady balance, and in their focus on nursing from whatever they can find that seems vaguely nipple-ish. Fingers are popular, but they’ll make do with jackets and noses as well.

lenny at ps

Lenny is the bigger and bolder of the two, though they were both very friendly and had no hesitation in approaching new humans and demanding food of them. They’re an “alpine breed” and their story is very interesting, as it highlights the misconception of the “friendly family farm.”

It starts with a woman who went to a small family farm that sells goat cheese. I can fill in the blanks and make some guesses – she probably believed that small family farms were “better”, perhaps she believed in buying locally, and in any case she made the effort to go to the source to buy her goat cheese.

What she found there horrified her enough that she purchased six one day old babies, to save them from being sent to the market for slaughter. The woman running the farm with her husband was more than happy to sell these babies for $15 each, since she’d likely get from $1 to $5 at market, and selling them for a greater price at a younger age both maximized this woman’s profits and minimized her expenses.

When she picked up the baby goats, instead of the goat cheese, she witnessed a baby being born. The goats are bred spaced throughout the year so that there is never a downtime when there are no goats lactating. And so the babies are born year round. This woman watched the baby being born, after which the husband scooped up the baby and dumped it in a manure bucket and carted it off. As if it was waste. Which, to them, it is. Their money comes from the cheese, the babies are simply a by-product of a process they need to make happen in order for the goats to produce milk. The babies aren’t allowed to nurse at all because, as the husband told the woman-rescuer, it would cut into their profits.


So the woman who now had her eyes opened wider than she could comfortably bear about the dairy industry, having witnessed the horrors on a family farm first hand, came home with six day old baby goats, and quickly realized it was more than she could handle on her own. And that is how Leo and Lenny came to Poplar Spring this week.

Since this post is already incredibly long, I’ll just keep going!

Mork and Mindy are the two piglets who arrived this week. They actually came from the same vet clinic that killed Sally, for a bit of irony. They were used, essentially, for vet students to learn procedures on. Most years what happens is that the piglets, bought at market, are used for this purpose, and then sold for slaughter. And yes, this is a vet school doing that, which I find chilling. This year they brought the two piglets to Poplar Spring instead. Mork and Mindy lived their entire lives on concrete, in cages, except when they were being prodded, bled, and having tubes inserted into them. They were driven down, a 3.5 hour ride, in cages with no bedding. When they arrived at PS, it was the first time they’d ever seen straw. Can you imagine? Clearly they are loving their new home already, though they’re still quite frightened.

mork and mindy at ps

They’ll be rolling over for belly rubs before long, I have no doubt. Mork is on the left, having buried his face in the hay. Mindy is the cutie on the right.

Billy, Butch and Betty are mingling with the rest of the sheep and the goats now that they’re clear of all parasites. Many of the sheep are a bit frightened of them, but with the babies as ambassadors it won’t be long before they are all comfortable with the new trio. Billy is the white lamb, Butch the brown lamb (though technically they’d call it “black”!) and Betty is their mom.

betty, billy, and butch at ps

I realized as I watched them today that I have never had the chance to see babies grow up with their mom at PS. And indeed, it is an unusual event to have the moms arrive with the babies. There was one cow years ago who arrived pregnant, and so there is a mother-son pair of cows, but Stewart was grown long before I ever visited PS. It will be interesting to watch Billy and Butch grow up under the watchful gaze of their momma in a community of fellow sheep.


14 responses to “Yet more babies arrive at Poplar Spring…

  1. Becci March 30, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Very useful story about the goat’s milk. I think people forget sometimes that the motivations behind that industry is the same as that of the industry that takes cow’s milk.

  2. Lenn March 30, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Even though I don’t comment, I appreciate your blog and the information on it. Are you able to tell us more about Sally’s condition and what the vet clinic did? The issue of sanctuaries not being able to find caring vets is something I hadn’t realized, though I know vets in general are no saints. They’re just the retail arm of the pharmaceutical companies. But at least some, like mine, try to do the best job they can with the information they have.

  3. Deb March 30, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Becci – it is true, any industry that is in the business of producing milk for human consumption is going to have forced procreation and the discarding of the babies at its core. I think that goat milk and goat cheese isn’t on most people’s radars, but at this one family farm there were 300 goats. 300 or more babies born every year, most of them living a month at most, and the only thing distinguishing the family farm from factory farm is the scope of the operation.

    Lenn – thanks for commenting. 🙂

    The vet’s office overfed Sally, and overfed her the wrong things. Goats and sheep can die of bloat, and they get this from things that we humans wouldn’t think of as dangerous. Bread, corn, any grains in a significant amount can kill them, as it essentially ferments in their gut, causing bloat, which ends up being deadly when it is serious enough. I’ve heard horror stories of visitors to a sanctuary feeding goats loaves and loaves of bread, and most of those goats were dead within a couple days. So, a note to everyone: NEVER feed anything to anyone at a sanctuary or anywhere else unless you have it approved by the people who run the sanctuary.

    That’s what happened to Sally at the vet’s office, deadly overfeeding. The night nurses apparently weren’t educated on the care of the animals they were responsible for, and they fed her and fed her, and fed her things that caused the bloat.

    I’m sure it wasn’t malicious on their part, but that doesn’t change things.

    If you think about who large animal vets typically have as customers, it starts to make more sense that people who run sanctuaries have to fight and fight to get good treatment for the chickens and pigs and goats and cows who are NOT going to be sent to slaughter at a young age, or at any age. Most large animal vets (other than for horses) don’t even know anything about the conditions these animals will face in their old age – they simply will never see such conditions outside of a sanctuary. And they have to become a bit cold, since farmers will call a vet only for the more “valuable” animals on their farm, and even then they don’t want to pay sizable vet bills because it will cut into their profits. And that’s always the bottom line for them.

    Unfortunately the large animal vets end up appearing pretty warped when viewed through the standards we judge the vets we take our pets to. A local vet ignored the sanctuaries very precise instructions on a neutering, and instead wrapped the testicles in rubber bands. That’s what the farmers do, after all. They wait for the testicles to rot and fall off. The pain these animals face is unimaginable, and of course the mortality rate is fairly high. After 30 years in the business, dealing with farmers, can we expect these large animal vets to care any more than the farmers themselves?

    We seriously need some compassionate and ethical large animal vets.

  4. Lenn March 31, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you for that detailed info–I knew it would be educational. All things that I didn’t realize. Very good description of large animal vets and why they are the way they are. I think I remember Erik Marcus’s podcast talking about a story about a shortage of large animal vets. The situation you describe was Erik’s theory of the shortage–and it seems to fit well. And what a disgusting (yet not surprising) story about the neutering with rubber bands.

    Over 10 years ago, in my very early, naive days of rescuing, I came across 2 dogs running on the highway, caught them, placed FOUND ads, and got them back home. Turned out the “owner” had used this neutering method on these dogs.

  5. Mary Martin March 31, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I’m devastated to hear about Sally. If there were some kind of program that paid for vet school (I’m still paying off my phd), I’d sign up in a nanosecond. It’s not an inexpensive endeavor. I personally thing people who keep farm animals should be taxed for using them and that money should go to people who want to actually help the animals. Sally’s death was inexcusable. Unless someone is already starving to death and must be fed, if you’re not sure what to feed them you should feed them nothing, as few creatures are going to die from not eating for one day. We learn that in wildlife rescue. Don’t feed anyone anything, and if you know they’re starving to death make damn sure you’re feeding them their natural diet and only give them a teeny bit if you must (before they get to a rehabber).

  6. Mary Martin March 31, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    sorry for the thing/think typo. if i had a dime for every time i did that i’d be able to go to vet school.

  7. Deb March 31, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    @ Lenn – believe me, volunteering at the sanctuary is a continuous learning experience! Terry at PS actually was an agricultural major in college and worked at a small family farm (this was before she was vegan, but this is also why she has said from the very start that family farms are no different than factory farms, other than the scope; she knows from personal experience) and also worked at the zoo…and then once she knew she and Dave were going to start a sanctuary, she spent some time interning at Farm Sanctuary and other places. And still I imagine they learn all the time. There is so much that really isn’t known, so they have to rely on themselves and what they learn to a degree. It is for that reason they have a necropsy done on every resident who dies.

    I am not much of a podcast listener so I haven’t heard the podcast you mentioned.

    I agree about the farmers (and thus vet’s) method of neutering, and how it is horrible but not that surprising. The dogs though! That is a surprise on top of being horrible. :/

    @ Mary – that’s along the lines of what I said to Terry – that we (the movement) need to start funding vet school education for people so they can help sanctuaries. I agree, it just wouldn’t work if they graduated with the mountain of school debt and then tried to support the sanctuaries (unless they were already incredibly wealthy and didn’t need to earn money, etc). Of course that is a huge chunk of change to raise for anyone, and there are plenty of sanctuaries that could use the help.

    Great point about not feeding anyone anything unless you are absolutely certain it can’t harm them and will help them. Sally’s death was definitely inexcusable and it just shouldn’t have happened. We’re all devastated, and it is one of those losses that I think will haunt us all for a long time. There was something incredibly special about her. Not that there isn’t about all of the residents…

  8. Jenny April 2, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Deb, from talking to Cheri at Maple Farm Sanctuary (a former dairy goat farmer turned vegan, now running a sanctuary), it’s my understanding that the goats commonly have two babies at a time, and sometimes even three. So for those 300 goats at that one farm, it’s likely that far more than 300 babies are killed each year. So very tragic, especially when you know how social, loving and wonderful goats are, like Sally. I’m so sorry to hear of her senseless death. I enjoyed reading about her and was hoping I’d get a chance to meet her on my next visit to PS sanctuary.

  9. Deb April 3, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    That’s always my understanding too, for both sheep and goats. In fact, billy and butch, the little lambs, are twins.

  10. Gary April 5, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Horrible what happened to Sally. And profoundly sad. Such a bundle of joy and promises…

    I absolutely agree about the skewed knowledge, as it were, of large animal vets. They mostly fix “property,” “assets,” and “profits,” not individual, precious lives.

  11. Deb April 7, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Gary, she’s definitely a loss that will be felt and mourned for a long time. Even among those who hadn’t had a chance to meet her yet.

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