It's no secret that I'm vegan primarily for animal rights reasons. I went vegan in 2005 after a short period of vegetarianism and I've never looked back. I've always loved animals, from the rabbit my parents finally let me get after years of begging, to the sheep that lived in the fields near where I grew up, I wanted to hug them all. I made the connection between the animals we see grazing in fields and the food on my plate at quite a young age but but my mum wouldn't let me go veggie and, as a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere with no idea where to even buy food, I just kept eating what was put on my plate. No lamb though, I just couldn't deal. Farmed animal sanctuaries like Friend, located near Tonbridge in Kent, are important for so many reasons. Firstly they're a refuge for the animals that make it out of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Without sanctuaries these animals would have nowhere to go aside from the slaughterhouse.
Friend are currently caring for over 100 animals including cows, pigs, sheep, goats, cats, ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys. It's a really fun place to visit. One of the goats was so friendly, whenever I spotted him he was making friends with another group of visitors! As well as believing that farm sanctuaries are essential for the animals that live there I also see farm sanctuaries as an essential education tool.
This is where the non vegans in our lives can meet the animals that appear on their plates. For some people looking into the eyes of a cow or realising how smart pigs really are will make the difference between them choosing meat or the veg option next time they're at a restaurant or wandering the aisles of their local supermarket. Maybe they'll even go vegan too!
Farm sanctuaries are also a great place for vegans to visit and to meet with like-minded people. Getting to spend time with the animals that we see as sentient beings rather than food is also pretty special and I loved stroking the cows and making friends with the pigs that roam free at the sanctuary. Friend run volunteer days three times a month so as well as hanging out with the animals you can help them, and the people running the shelter, by scooping poop, building new shelters, cutting the grass, erecting fences, painting, and whatever else needs doing on the day. Groups of volunteers come down from London to help and I'm excited to be joining them this coming Saturday.
During the open day I was lucky enough to be able to go on a tour of the sanctuary and I left feeling inspired about the future of the animal rights movement. Intersecting oppressions were mentioned, they spoke of plans to help homeless people and refugees as well as animals, and they discussed how the animals at the sanctuary could live in a way that is less representative of the methods used in traditional farming. If the day wasn't already amazing enough Friend were also selling delicious baked goods to help raise money for the sanctuary. I ate a delicious chocolate cupcake topped with melted chocolate, almonds, and a strawberry as well as an amazing slice of lemon drizzle cake - all to help the animals! If you'd like to support the team at Friend sanctuary and the amazing work that they do then you can make a donation, buy something from their Amazon wishlist, or spread the word about the sanctuary by sharing this post on social media. See you soon friends!