Rebecca Thompson, Guest House Innkeeper and Adoption Assistant at Animal Place, Lake George, NY
What got me into sanctuary work, are the animals. I started out as an intern at a sanctuary, and thought it would be a three month experience, but it turned out to be a life-changing choice that’s lead to years of work in this field. The combination of advocating for farmed animals, and getting to work alongside them, getting to know them as individuals, is what initially drew me to intern at a sanctuary. And the experience of working with the animals is what lead me to seek a job position at a sanctuary. There is truly nothing more special than spending time with the unique beings that live at sanctuaries. Taking care of a young calf during my animal care internship is what lead me to commit to going vegan for life. Understanding the realities of what is happening in animal agriculture, and being able to connect that back to individuals that I know and love, and knowing my food choices affect other beings just like them … that’s when it really clicked for me.
I have a lot of experience leading tours at sanctuaries, and the transformations that I see in people when they are able to meet the individuals and hear their stories is just incredible. The lived experience of meeting individuals, and understanding their sentience is something you cannot get from reading books, watching videos etc. The lived connection is what makes meeting animals at a sanctuary so powerful. Any ability to hang on to the excuses and notions about “food” animals that society ingrains in us inherently unravel when we are with the individuals that the current animal agriculture affect. Meeting them helps to make the connections that people cannot, or resist to, make otherwise.
There are so many amazing individuals that I have gotten to meet and work with. One animal that comes to mind is a pig named Rose. She was rescued from a severe flooding situation in Iowa, where thousands of pigs died when farmer’s did not let them out of their gestation crates as flood waters were rising. When Rose was rescued, she was found with the bodies of her piglets, who had all died in the flood. She refused to leave them and was repetitively nudging them to wake them up. Even after years at a sanctuary, this repetitive nudging motion is a behavior that Rose would engage when she was stressed or upset. Observing this in Rose was one of the first experiences that I had seeing for myself how affected the animals are by the traumas they endure. The horrifying experiences so many of them go through stay with them, and affect them similarly to how humans experience trauma. Seeing these signs of post traumatic stress in Rose pig, was profound for me, in really beginning to understand the complex intellect and emotions that each non-human individual has.
Going vegan is one of the most impactful and compassionate choices people can make, loving animals and being willing to live a lifestyle that reflects that fully. It’s so important for people to share their stories too, stories of the animals they’ve met, their stories about going vegetarian and vegan. Speaking up and helping people understand that going vegan, standing up for the animals is not extreme. And continuing to learn, always, being willing to open our minds beyond the treatment of animals, and expanding our understanding of how animal rights and other social justice issues are interconnected. Being willing to stand up for what’s right, and refusing to back down.