I am so grateful for the day I experienced at Shelter Farm Sanctuary in Arcadia, Florida. I was moved by the intelligence, social connections and love on display between the animals and with us. Here I will share my experience visiting the animal sanctuary and further appreciation for their lives.
A couple months ago Lauren Nolan and I were discussing how we could help animals in need. Lauren had volunteered at an animal sanctuary previously and I had not. Every time she shared her experiences from her visit I could see the impact it had on her and I wanted to experience that myself. I moved to a plant-based lifestyle five and a half years ago for overall health and athletic performance reasons but quickly learned about the incredible cruelty, fear, and slaughter animals endure for human consumption and was astonished I didn’t know the details of this previously. Now I live a plant-based lifestyle as much for animal rights as my own health and athletic performance gains.
When Lauren and I were searching for options one of my good friends, Audrey Dingeman, and owner of my favorite plant-based restaurant, Golden Dinosaurs, shared how she supports Shelter Farm Sanctuary and is on the board. She offered to set up a visit for us and we took her up on that in a heartbeat. This morning the three of us headed south to Arcadia and were greeted by Jenni Presley, co-founder of the sanctuary with husband Mike and son, Finn.
Jenni guided us through the sanctuary sharing stories how they acquired the animals and what they do on a daily basis to care for them. Some of the stories made me want to cry and others made me feel angry with what they had to endure. Some pigs were used as testing grounds for dog fighting while others were saved from a factory farm. Another pig, Henry, was in such a bad state from malnutrition he went blind and deaf while his pen mate, Pete, didn’t have a lower jaw. We heard additional stories like this for other animals on the farm….again making me want to shed a tear and/or be outraged. How can humans treat a sentient being with such disregard of life?
I really liked the dynamic of one of the goats named, Oreo. The look in his eyes as he approached was priceless. Near the end he was searching for a back or temple rub as he would pass by. For some reason he wouldn’t eat a carrot I was offering so into the pig pen it went and was gobbled up immediately. He probably didn’t want my dirty hands touching his food…
Near the back of the farm resided their cows. We weren’t able to get close as they were far away shading themselves from the hot Florida afternoon sun.
We observed the animals being fed, interacting with each other doing their daily activities and near the end we were thoroughly entertained by the two pigs saved from factory farm slaughter. Oni and Samsara ran around the pen like playful dogs, squealing with joy, and then giving us a good nudge to ensure they received a back or belly rub. They were adorable!
What an amazing home for these fortunate animals. Couple notes about pigs via the book, 72 Reasons to Be Vegan:
- Only 3% of pigs ever see the outdoors
- 97% of animals used as food are slaughtered at factory farms
- Pigs are smarter than a three-year-old child
- They are constantly chatting with each other using over 20 different noises/sounds that all have meaning for other pigs to understand
- They can run and have fun…check out our brief video of Oni and Samsara…
As we were getting ready to leave we inquired how we could further help. Jenni indicated she always has volunteer opportunities on Sundays from 11:00-2:00 and we can check out more information on volunteering and donating on the website. Jenni and Mike both have full time jobs in addition to running the farm. The sacrifices they make to care for these animals is simply amazing.
Lauren and I will return to help for sure. Jenni shared some of the future expansion plans so there is much work to be done. If you want to connect with animals and support a great cause I highly recommend you look into their sanctuary. It will change you and impact the lives of these beautiful and innocent animals.
I love this quote direct from their website homepage – “We believe in every being’s right to exist freely, to feel love, and to love in return. Donations are our major means for providing compassionate care and safe shelter to animals who otherwise would have lived unnaturally short lives full of pain and fear.”
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