The Light in Me Sees the Light in You | Visiting Day at For The Animals Sanctuary in Blairstown, NJ
story and photographs by New Jersey Family Photographer Pamira Bezmen Photography
October, 12, 2014
If you are like me and many others raised in the Western culture, you probably grew up eating meat. It was always "eat your protein", "eat your meat", "drink your milk".
Even when I got hard core into working out and "living healthy", I consumed a lot of dairy and meat for protein.
Now this is not me talking from a higher place, nor am I trying to convert anyone to veganism, but in the past couple of years, I've been having a hard time digesting all that goes on in dairy farms and factory farms to raise the "food" we are so accustomed to consuming out of a package.
A ton of studies and data suggest the harmful health effects of consuming dairy and meat, in addition to many environmental and scientific concerns such as carbon footprint, waste, climate change, soil erosion, greenhouse gases, overgrazed pastures, water shortages, contamination in our water sources, inefficient use of fossil energy, the hundreds of millions of people we could not feed with that grain given to farm animals, etc, etc, etc... the list goes on and on... - on none of which I am an expert - that state that modern society has come to a point of consuming way too much of these "foods", at a very high cost to the earth, other species, and the future of our children.
While talking about poverty and famine, we often forget that a huge portion of usable land in the United States is occupied to grow food for the factory farmed animals, and more than half the grain grown is fed to farm animals.
I don't know about you, but I can't help wonder:
"What if we used all that beautiful bountiful soil to grow healthy, wholesome fruits, veggies, and legumes full of vitamins, minerals, useful phytochemicals, protein, shining in all gorgeous colors of the rainbow, and we fed the people of the world with it - instead of growing a bizillion tons of GMO-corn to feed cows, pigs and chickens, which will cause them to live miserable lives on antibiotics?"
(until they are slaughtered, of course, and then we eat them and ingest the antibiotics that cause super bugs that are impossible to kill)
All that aside, the ethical concern about how these farm animals are treated is probably the most tangible and immediate issue for me. It does not matter so much to me any more whether or not humans are meant to be omnivores and cave-men hunted bison for food, or if cows are bred for human consumption and otherwise would not have existed in the first place, or if we truly need our protein to come from an animal source, blah blah blah, and many other reasons and excuses we may find to continue consuming animals...
The issue is this: If a creature is capable of feeling pain, do I have the right to hurt it?
When I find a dog, do I kick him?
When I find a cat, do I jam her into a cage so tight she can't even turn around or stand up, and have her live there all her life having baby after baby until she is so spent that I cut her and eat her?
When I find a beautiful horse, do I take her baby, kill it (and eat it) and then hook machines to the horse's teets to take her milk while she cries and cries after her stolen baby for weeks?
Why would I do it to a cow, pig, goat or sheep?
And if I don't have the heart (or the stomach) to do any of this, why would I give money to someone else to do it for me?
But because old habits are hard to change, our journey is long. We are eliminating one thing at a time. And trust me, once it's out, we realize we didn't need it so much. We eat almost all organic, unprocessed, wholesome foods, take no medication, and almost never get sick.
Last weekend we went to visit For The Animals Sanctuary in Blairstown, New Jersey.
For The Animals Sanctuary is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to providing a safe haven and life-long veterinary care to rescued farm animals. We drove about an hour from Verona and our baby fell asleep just as we were pulling in. The weather was gorgeous, but we were stuck with a sleeping baby. What to do?
We gave our donations to the very sweet 10 year old girl who greeted us and put kitty cat stamps on our hands :) Later we learned that her name was M.J. and she "volunteered" at the Sanctuary. When I heard this, I wanted to weep in joy and love. This little girl, who is so young, found it in her heart to "volunteer" at a sanctuary.
I asked her what she did as a volunteer. I must be honest, I expected her answer to be about some feel-good small task that did not add up to much. I was doubly impressed when she said "I mostly clean poop."
I wanted to hug and kiss and love this girl, and thank her mama for raising such a wonderful human being. We all have so much to learn from M.J. and her mom!
We laid our baby on a blanket under a tree and enjoyed the scenery for the next hour. She slept in peace in the soft fall breeze while my fiancee and I basked in the sweet sun.
We watched other visitors and volunteers go about. We didn't know anyone but everyone gave us a kind smile, a gentle head nod. It was an unspoken agreement of some sorts. It meant:
"I see the light in you, and I salute the kindness in your heart, from the bottom of my own heart."
We were all there to support this organization and the people who dedicated their lives to helping save animals from torture, sickness, sadness, pain and eventually - unavoidably - a bloody and painful slaughter.
A bit later, we heard the sweet voices of some of our dear friends who were also there for the same purpose. My daughter woke up when she heard her dear friend Leela's cheerful voice, and we spent the rest of our day at the Sanctuary.
We listened to the stories of each of the animals, how they ended up at the Sanctuary, their personalities. I wept a little when Tami, also a volunteer and M.J.'s mom, told me about how Grace the cow ended up at the Sanctuary with her newborn calf after 2 of her previous babies were taken away from her to be slaughtered for veal. - Remember the taste of that Veal Milanese? It's someone's newborn baby! :(
We experienced their individuality as we talked to them, petted them and fed them. The kids ran around in the sun, up and down the hill, rolling in the grass with joy. We shared our food with one another and the animals.
Our Sunday at the Sanctuary was a wonderful experience. There was a deep sense of calm and completeness that came from loving, not killing. The vegan food we shared with friends on the blanket tasted better than any bar-be-que I can imagine. The taste of compassion. The taste of love. The taste of giving up something in order to respect and protect another.
This, I feel, is what I want to teach my child. Love for One. Love for All.
With special and deep thanks to all my vegan friends who have compassionately shown us a better, kinder way of living. With special thanks and gratitude to all people who have dedicated their lives to saving, protecting, and loving animals, and taking on the sometimes impossible challenge of educating a society of the facts and alternatives.
And a very deep and humble Thank You and I'm Sorry to all the animals who have had to suffer and give up their lives to provide us with food.
The light in me sees the light in you. My heart is one with yours. My soul is a sister to yours.