It was a sunny Saturday in September and a small portion of the Connecticut Vegan Lady Gang headed up to Woodstock Sanctuary, in New York, to volunteer for the day. Myself, as well as 8 other members traveled from various parts of CT to the beautiful farm sanctuary, to see how we could help out.
Kitted out in scruffy clothes, wellies and a ready-to-go attitude, we were set to work in the pig barn. Our job for the day was to clear out all the dirty hay, load it onto a truck and then replace that hay with some nice, new fresh stuff. We were careful not to disrupt the sleeping piggies too much and pretty sure they were so busy relaxing, they barely noticed we were there. The job itself was a lot more strenuous than it probably sounds but we powered through and got it done in a pretty timely fashion, I think, so I guess we’re not quite as protein deficient as we thought!
There’s no denying it was hard work and my whole body was aching (I don’t work out much, ok!?) but once we saw those adorable pigs strolling back into that barn, wading through the hay and rolling around, it was worth every second. Just seeing how happy these animals are and knowing they will live the rest of their lives free of harm, with so many dedicated people ensuring their comfort, is enough to melt anyone’s heart. I am sure I can speak for all the volunteers involved, both in this trip and all the other volunteers offering their time to farm sanctuaries around the world, it is an honor to do even a small amount to help make the lives of these rescued individuals better.
After we’d finished the pig barn, we got the chance to hang out with the pigs for a while. Who knew pigs enjoyed belly rubs so much!? Our ‘boss’ for the day, Todd, sat with us and told us the circumstances each of the pigs had been rescued from; he told us all about the sanctuary and a bit about how he, himself, had ended up at Woodstock. Not a moment went by throughout the entire day where Todd didn’t have his tiny shadow by his side in the form of his adorable dog, Lyle; Possibly the chillest pup I have ever met. He quietly followed Todd wherever he went, dozed nearby whilst we were working and most importantly, he cuddled with us. A lot. He’s SO fluffy.
We were lucky enough to be taken on a mini tour of the sanctuary. We spent time with some of the turkeys, gave some friendly cows a good scratch behind the ears and got to hang out with the goats for a while. It is such an amazing feeling to be up close and personal with these animals and it can be rather emotional at times when you think about where they could have ended up, had it not been for Woodstock. It breaks my heart to think of the billions of animals who weren’t lucky enough to be saved. I mentioned the hard work we put in that day, that left my body aching, but that doesn’t even come close to the pain and the suffering these animals could have gone through. It doesn’t even come close to the pain and suffering billions of animals are still going through each and every day, throughout all the industries profiting from animal abuse. Dotted around the sanctuary, they have informational boards about the various industries suffered by farm animals. They have an actual pig gestation crate and a veal crate so visitors can see just how small and restricting they are; They have explanation boards on the dairy industry, the meat industry, wool, fur, eggs and more. So not only do Woodstock do an amazing job for the animals they save, they also make education a high priority for their visitors to learn about the animals who are not so fortunate.
If you don’t live near New York, take a look online to see if there is an animal sanctuary near you. It is such a lovely experience to see these animals happily living out their lives. Donating your time to volunteer for a day is not only helpful to the sanctuary but from a selfish point of view, it is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done! It almost feels like a way of beginning to make amends with these wonderful creatures, for all those years I wasn’t vegan. Spending time with these animals is so much fun but unlike regular zoos, these animals aren’t being exploited for profit; it’s a win-win! So take the family, take your friends and offer a helping hand whilst getting to know all the different personalities living it up at your nearest sanctuary.
I thought I would also take this opportunity to rave about the importance of groups like the Connecticut Vegan Lady Gang. I’ll be honest, when I first became vegan I didn’t even think to look into these kind of groups; I had no idea they even existed. I started looking around on Facebook for some local vegan businesses or restaurants I could try out and stumbled upon a group for Connecticut Vegans. Through this group, I then was introduced to more of a social group for CT vegans where I started learning about all kinds of vegan businesses and events I could go to. What struck me the most was the overwhelming feeling of joy I had in just knowing there were other vegans near me! It can be a pretty lonely world when you first go vegan, so knowing there are people close by with as much passion for animals as me is amazing. Then a few months ago, inspired by the original Philadelphia Vegan Lady Gang, the Connecticut quarter was born. i was invited into the group and after months of various conversations and friend requests from other members, the Woodstock sanctuary outing was the first time I had met other members of the group in person and honestly, at times it felt like I had known them for years. Everyone was so welcoming, supportive and friendly! Not only did we give something back to the animals that day, but we were reminded there are in fact other people out there who want to check out the local vegan restaurants, raise awareness for the animals and generally just spend time with others who have a passion for animals. For lunch, we organized a vegan pot luck so we all brought along a dish, as well as snacks and drinks to share and it was pretty phenomenal. So if you’re ever feeling like you’re just a one person army in a non vegan world, have a look to see if there’s a local vegan group around and if not, consider setting one up! There might be people feeling just like you, right around the corner.
Activism events are also a great way to spread the word on the plight of animals and meet like minded people. There are many forms of activism, so I would definitely look into it. I was nervous about it at first, as I wanted to help so badly but was put off by the fact I am an introverted person and don’t find it very easy to communicate with people. Anonymous for the Voiceless Cube of Truth events are perfect for me. You can make a difference, open people’s eyes and you always have the option of either performing outreach if you feel confident enough or being a part of the cube itself and not having to interact with anyone. There are Anonymous groups all over the world so check out their website to find one near you! In addition, there are always various protests going on you could get involved with; bearing witness and vigils through the Animal Save Movement is a great place to start when finding local groups & events. I can’t stress enough how uplifting it can be to be a part of something. First and foremost, these events are raising awareness of the plight of animals, but they can also do a lot on a more personal level. Since I started taking part in Cubes and since the Animal Rights March in New York, I feel so much more incensed to get out there and make a difference for the animals which I think is making me a much more effective activist. Of course, if getting out and about isn’t something you’re able to do, do what I did and start a blog! You never know who you might meet along the way