Pardon me while I take a break from all the eating to let you know about a fun and worthwhile animal adventure I had over this long holiday weekend. I drove out to the city of Acton (just outside of Palmdale off of the 14 freeway) to visit the Animal Acres farmed animal sanctuary. They work to promote compassionate living through farmed animal rescue and refuge efforts, public education and outreach, and advocacy projects to prevent cruelty to farmed animals. You may have seen them recently featured on Morgan Spurlock’s TV show, “30 Days” (the episode featured an avid meat eater & hunter living with a vegan family in Los Angeles for a month).
They give tours every Sunday. The later tour doesn’t start until 1pm (the earlier one is at 11) and I had just enough time to make it, having just decided to go there on the spur of the moment. I called first to make sure they were open, which happily they were, so then I loaded up the CD player with some tunes and hopped on the freeway. Driving like a speed demon on a wide open holiday-weekend highway, I made it there in less than 40 minutes.
I was greeted at the front entrance by the friendly dogs who seem to have their run of the place. I spent a fair amount of time playing fetch-the-plastic-donut with Duke, the dog in back.
The tour is set up to to allow you to meet and play with the animals while being educated about the rescue services they provide here. It is assumed that visitors know very little about factory farming animal abuses, so the information is presented in easy to digest bite sized pieces, while getting the important issues across. They don’t ram anything down your throat and there is only a three minute video at the beginning that shows a few seconds of graphic scenes. Mostly the tour lets you get to know the animals while you hear their stories and learn about the awful sorts of things they have been rescued from. Children are welcome on the tours, so nothing too nasty is shown or talked about.
We were all told at the beginning that everyone here would be treated equally, meaning no one was going to be judge for what they do or don’t eat. As our tour guide explained, “not everyone is there yet”. Coming to a place like this to see these animals and learn about this stuff first hand is a big step. There’s no way that someone who eats animal flesh or dairy could come to this place and not stop to consider their dietary choices in a way they maybe never had before. I liked that they weren’t trying to bully people into being vegetarians, they were instead taking the approach of showing people the real effects of what not being one means to other living beings as well as the world around us.
Our lovely tour guide and her helpful assistant.
Mary had a little goat…
Mama and babies.
The tour is very kid friendly. Get it? Kid?
I crack myself up sometimes.
Mr. Ed, a Brahman bull, weighs over one ton. He is so beautiful and so massive. This gorgeous animal was destined to become someones next few thousand hamburgers and has suffered intense abuse, especially to his face and neck area. While he is not naturally aggressive (even though he has not been neutered), he cannot be approached other than by the trained staff because he is very sensitive about anyone coming near his face. I would be too.
He’s showing off for us here!
These two shy cuties had to be coaxed to come out and say hello.
Ah, reward at last!
Emu! They were so cute and smiley but we were told they are badasses too.
Can’t get too close.
These two geese are husband & wife and they’re together at all times.
They are really loud, which comes in handy in the evenings to alert of marauding coyotes.
Rescued factory farm chickens.
It’s no secret that the highlight of the tour that many come to Animal Acres excited about is getting to spend time with the pigs. Of course all the animals here are cute and friendly… but really it just doesn’t get much better than hanging out in a pigsty with a bunch of happy, lazy pigs!
As you can see, this sow above was ginormous. They are breed that way to produce as much “pork” as possible, and would normally be slaughtered before reaching this massive size. Their bodies just do not stop growing, and regardless of what they are fed they’re genetically bred to put on two or more pounds per day. This poor girl can hardly stand up on her own, not to mention the fact that her small legs can just barely support her ridiculously unnatural size. Monstrosities like this are a direct result of ignorant thinking, especially the sort of self-centered philosophies of those who tell me crap like, “I could never be a vegetarian because I’d just die without bacon”. Well, say hello to the reality of your bacon… in all of it’s diseased, suffering and moribund glory.
I’m not big into pounding this stuff into people and I’ve said time and again that I’m here really just to talk about food, not to preach. But it’s hard to not get upset and on a soapbox about it when you see things like this… and that’s part of the problem, as most people never see it because they choose to ignore the harsh reality of the widescale suffering caused by their food choices. Fortunately this gargantuan pig and her buddies got lucky (if you can call being trapped inside of that body “lucky”) and are now living in a safe place. How people can choose to ignore what’s being done to these living creatures and consider it a necessary sacrifice in the name of their fickle appetites is way beyond me. No really… without bacon… you’re not going to die. In fact, you just might live a little bit longer and cause a little less suffering along the way.
“Hello, and thank you for not eating us!”
Did you know that pigs love to have their bellies rubbed as much as your cats and dogs do? It’s true, they roll over for it with glee and can’t get enough!
Check out that sweetie above giving herself a dainty little bath… talk about maximum cuteness! I had such a great time visiting Animal Acres, and especially hanging out with the pigs. They are such friendly and playful animals… I know I tend to anthromorphosize animals a bit much, but it’s hard to look at that sweet face in the bathtub and not see that she’s smiling and enjoying herself. The overwhelming sense I got from all of these animals was that they were so very grateful to be there, to be alive and not in pain. If they could talk I have no doubt that the first words out of most of their mouths would simply be: Thank you.
For those in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, I highly recommend a visit to Animal Acres (or if you happen to be in northern California or New York, check out Farm Sanctuary). They’ve got a great team of volunteers doing some very important work and they could really use all the support they can get. The tour is only $5 per person, kids under 3 get in free. You can of course donate more… they could sure use it. They also offer “adoptions” where you pay to sponsor an animal of your choice. Adopting a turkey around Thanksgiving time is a great option, though all the animals can be adopted at any time during the year. No they don’t send you a pig or a turkey to keep at home silly. Your adoption donation helps to sponsor the animal throughout the year, providing them food and care. They’ll even send you a nice portrait of your new buddy to proudly display on your fridge!
One bit of advice I’d give you is to wear clothes you don’t mind getting very dirty, and prepare to leave there covered in filth. For some reason I seemed to get more messy than any of the others in our small group, but I took it as a direct compliment from the animals that I was their primary target to slime! First I got the whole front of my shirt covered in cow buggers (I think she was trying to give me a kiss but missed!), and then I got most of the rest of myself covered in mud while wrastlin’ around with the pigs in their hovel. Well, I’m telling myself it was just mud… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it (though the stench I brought home with me tells a different story all together). Wear closed toed shoes that you don’t mind treading around on poo in, and bring an eager desire to be surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of a real farm for the afternoon. You’ll be smelling like a goat by the time you leave!
Animal Acres offers all sorts activities including the tours, cooking lessons, special events and so much more that is beyond the scope of what I can cover in this post. They’re having a big star-studded gala this weekend (Daryl Hannah, I freakin’ love you) in order to raise some much needed funds. I’m rather envious of those who will get to attend. I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about what they do, and you’ll also be able to read the individual stories about some of the animals I’ve introduced you to. Next time you find yourself looking for something fun to do on a Sunday morning, head on over to Animal Acres and put some of that fun to good use. The animals will most certainly be glad you stopped by.Animal Acres, farm, pigs