It’s difficult to put into words the emotions and feelings I felt on Sunday at the grand opening of Farm Sanctuary SA in Franschhoek. The first registered farm animal sanctuary in South Africa is a very special place and good vibes ooze out of every little wooden plank and straw hay bale.
Last year, I kinda participated in manifesting a move away from the farmlands I grew up in and around. Driving behind animals on their way to slaughter, hearing the screams (and smelling the smells) of the factory farmed pigs next door and seeing hundreds of dairy cows with massive udders limping down the road to the milking shed every single day, twice a day, broke my heart. I was operating on a level of extreme sensitivity and each day was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Moving to the Cape has afforded me a greater measure of daily peace. Although we are technically living in the Stellenbosch farmlands, I’m more likely to be stuck behind a tractor and trailer carrying grapes, than a livestock truck carrying cows and pigs. This has been good for my soul I think, and my heart has healed. Living away from the frontline of animal agriculture has made me a more peaceful and understanding vegan. But it has also made me a shy one. I’ve found myself lately asking hosts to try and not mention that I’m vegan at dinner parties, or avoiding answering any comments or questions from people regarding my lifestyle choices. I’ve been a little embarrassed to be honest; afraid of offending people or appearing judgemental, and most of all, horribly conscious of my choices being an inconvenience to others.
The truth is, I guess, that being away from farm animals and no longer interacting with them every day, has made me disconnect from their plight. And that’s ok. Perhaps it’s where I needed to be this last year. It’s how I’ve healed and it has brought a measure of peace to my life. But yesterday, when I walked beneath the impressive entrance and up the driveway to Farm Sanctuary SA’s beautiful new timber barn, it all came rushing back to me. Rubbing Baloo the rescue calf’s big ears, seeing the resident rescue pigs snuggled up in the hay of their big, comfy stall and watching Romeo, the newborn rescue dairy calf, desperately searching for his mother’s udder and suckling at my fingers, took me straight back to my life in the Midlands; to my orphan calf, Marmite, to weaner calves being sent to feedlots, to pigs staring at me through the slats of transport trucks, to live goats tied down to the top of cars, to newborn males calves abandoned on the side of the road, and to chickens stuffed on top of one another like inanimate objects in plastic crates. My visit to Farm Sanctuary SA took me right back to why I’m vegan. It’s not to offend, it’s not to inconvenience, it’s not to be trendy, or to be healthy or thin (lol – shout out to the fat vegans), it’s for the animals. First and foremost. It always was for them, and it will always be for them. Because whilst I may be embarrassing to some, or maybe “a little too extreme” for others and perhaps a bit tiresome to everyone, what I most certainly am, is a being with a voice. And I will use it. Every day. And I thank Joanne and the team at Farm Sanctuary SA for reminding me of this. I’ve signed up to volunteer at the sanctuary once a week and I can’t wait to get down and dirty with the very reasons for my lifestyle change.
So what can you expect as a visitor to Farm Sanctuary SA? Think green fields, inspiring art sculptures and displays, a beautifully designed barn (with a loft where you can even sleep over), roomy pens for the piggies and calves, a big field and hatch for the chickens, a farm stall filled with yummy vegan treats and organic produce, a cafè serving the most delicious vurgers (choose between a quinoa or beetroot patty), and of course, the opportunity to enjoy delightful pig belly rubs and cow kisses. The Garden of Vegan Cafè and the sanctuary is open to the public on weekends and public holidays, but you can also visit the animals on weekdays by appointment. There’s ample opportunity to help (which you will want to do straight away, believe me) by offering to volunteer or through donations of cash or food. The passion for animals of founder and director, Joanne Lefson, can be seen and felt in every little detail – from the architecture of the building to the clever and inspiring copy of the pamphlets and volunteer forms. I fell in love instantly, and I know you will do too! So give the Farm Sanctuary a visit as soon as you can and show your support for the people actively seeking to make a difference to the lives of so many special beings.
PS: Did I mention there is a pig who can paint at this sanctuary? I kid not! Rescued from factory farming, Pigcasso has become something of a legend in the town of Franschhoek for her love of painting! Her original works (signed by her cute snout) are for sale at the Garden of Vegan farmstall and all proceeds go to the sanctuary for the rescue and keep of farm animals. Apparently she will be in Cape Town CBD today, so if you’re in the area, go say hi and meet this incredibly intelligent little soul. I think she is going to be a very famous little piggy soon.
Farm Sanctuary SA is located at the end of Dirkie Uys street in Franschhoek – simply turn right at the T junction onto the Elandskloof Private Road and then you will see the magnificent barn 100m up on your left. For map and directions click here. If you would like to make donations, click here.