You are in for a treat. This is an article written by my good friend Cindy, who is a vegan and an active advocate for nonhuman animal liberation. She is well read on the subject of our nonhuman animal industries, has attended marches, advocated for puppies in puppy mills, tried to rescue a cat named Jack and lent a hand and her support to Nicole Joncas of Teja’s Animal Refuge. This is the story of her experiences there and her journey to veganism. I invite you to enjoy.
May all beings be happy and free.Anne
In 1995, I met Nicole Joncas, founder of Teja’s Rescue in Alexandria, Ontario, Canada. She was working as a at the Mackay Rehab as a receptionist and I taught at Mackay Centre School in Montreal, QC, Canada . During recess or lunch, I enjoyed listening to her engaging stories about the animals she rescued. The sad “beginnings” had happy endings as they came to live out their previously tortured lives at Nicole’s refuge.
At the time Nicole hadn’t chosen a proper name for her refuge. In 2004, she became formally incorporated and in 2005, Nicole officially registered her rescue as a charitable organization with Charities Directorate. Teja was one of the horses at the refuge and his sponsor donated the money so that Nicole could register the refuge as a charity. Thus the name Teja’s Animal Refuge was chosen.
When I first started helping out at the refuge, I would make the one hour and 15 minute drive from my home to Nicole’s on the occasional weekend or holiday. By 2002, everyone knew that my Sunday routine was to make the drive to Teja’s, work for a few hours to feed and water the animals, clean the place and do whatever else was needed before taking Nicole out to lunch for some respite. It was tough, physical work and I drove home tired but so happy and fulfilled at being able to help in some small way. I got such pleasure from communing with the animals – particularly the pigs – watching their behaviors, seeing their pleasures and sometimes displeasures. I have dozens upon dozens of stories. This is where I learned first-hand that these non-human animals have more in common with us than they have differences.
In 2005-06, my daughter decided to join me on my Sunday drives to Alexandria. I so enjoyed the mother-daughter sharing time. The trip home was always more animated as we talked about our day. I was also selfishly happy to have her help as this lightened the load for me.
Two of the residents who, at the time, called Teja’s home were Brad and Angelina. They were two Canada Geese who had been found in Hudson, QC . Angelina had a broken wing and would never again be able to fly. Brad was her devoted life-mate and protector. He would come running at me like a linebacker – his long neck close to the ground, honking a warning. I would scream, “Brad, stop it!” If I had the hose in my hand, I would lightly spray him with water or walk around with a long pole that had a net on the end to keep him at bay. This would discourage him and he never did bite me. That didn’t stop me from being frightened of him and I’m sure he knew this. He never attacked Nicole! She told me that if he did come near, that I should spread my arms wide and just walk slowly towards him while calming appeasing him with platitudes such as telling him that the was a good boy. I laughed and said this would leave me wide open to a bite! Once my daughter was there, she would always have my back and I hers when it came to Brad and some of the roosters who sometimes tried to use their spurs!
When I first started going to Teja’s, Winston was the only rooster. He was a beautiful, gentle soul and I thought all roosters were like him (much later on, I would find out that this was not the case). The hens adored Winston. He would call them when he found a tasty tidbit (they delighted in strawberries and watermelon). One time, when Winston fell sick, Nicole sent him to the vet to recuperate. He was gone for about 2 weeks. When he returned, the hens were so happy to see him. They missed him! They remembered him! I was amazed and in awe.
My time spent around these beings led me to see that they have their own personalities, their own quirks. They are unique, individual beings who exist for themselves as we exist for ourselves. As a teacher, I’m very careful not to have “favourites” ; however, there are some who will always hold a special place in my heart. I tried to do the same with the non-human animals but the pigs were very dear to me – Roger, Harry Potty, Tumbleweed, Sam the Man, Blossom and Pebbles. They knew my voice and could tell it apart from Nicole’s or someone else’s. Yes, they talked – not just grunts but also modulating the grunts up and down or squealing when they were really excited or upset. They loved getting treats such as aubergine and potatoes. It was a joy to watch them root around and then exhausted, cuddle together for a nap.
The winters on the refuge were particularly tough. The most difficult part was giving water to all the animals, while trying not to let the hose leading from the house freeze. One winter, the snow was particularly deep and I had to find a different path to get to the horse trough that was on the other side of the fence. Every time I took a step, I sank waist high into the snow. Finally, I had to make my way crawling on my belly and elbows, army style, so as to distribute my weight. It didn’t help that Nicole and I were laughing so hard at my awkward movements. I eventually got the task done, but for weeks after (and even years later) we laughed about the image of me crawling on the snow. There was never a dull moment!
In 2009, I moved far, far away and could no longer make my weekly Sunday trips to the refuge. We keep in touch and I visit Nicole at the refuge. It was here at Teja’s and through Nicole that I first became aware that all non-human animals exist for themselves. They don’t exist for us to use them in any manner or form. In fact, because we have the capacity to do so, we need to ensure that we protect them and care for their environments.
I have always been an advocate of animal rights and sensitive to their plight. I stopped supporting and spoke out against zoos, circuses, aquariums, horse riding, rodeos, bull fighting, etc., etc. etc. – any establishment that used animals for entertainment. It wasn’t until I started helping out at the refuge that I realized that the beings I consumed as food are sentient. I knew and worked with vegetarians. My daughter was vegetarian by now and even then, I had not make the connection. I’m saying this because I do understand from my own experiences how disconnected we are from the food we eat and the horrific, daily existence of animals who are raised for our consumption and use.
In October 2002, I attended a life changing presentation by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson at Concordia University. It set me on a path to living first as a vegetarian and then as a vegan. I’m still learning new things. Recently, I learned that when an animal is slaughtered, it has to be rendered unconscious but kept alive to bleed out – this could take a minute to many minutes. They have to bleed to death so that the blood doesn’t flow into the tissue which would make the flesh unpalatable. Exsanguination! Sure, they SAY the animal is first rendered unconscious, but things can and do go horribly wrong under factory farm conditions where animals have to be “processed” quickly and are considered a commodity – not a living, breathing, feeling, caring sentient being.
I learned that in the US alone 1 million animals die every hour, in pain and in fear. In the past, we could claim ignorance. We really didn’t know what was going on in the farming industry and slaughterhouses. The people who spoke out were often dismissed and thought of as wackos, wacko-activists – wacktivists. Today, with technology, social media, a plethora of literature, personal experiences, scientists, doctors, animal advocates and so on, there is no excuse for not knowing. Once we do choose to look and see what we are doing to all manner of sentient beings to satisfy our taste for animals, then we will make the change to a plant-based diet. Once we know that we can live healthy lives without eating any animal products whatsoever, then we will make the change to a plant-based diet.
My hope is that people will open themselves up to hearing that their food choices run the most cruel and horrific industries where sentient beings live and die. We don’t need to eat non-human animals. There are millions of vegans who are proof of this. There are so many excellent books written about the fact that we don’t need to eat non-human animals and their by-products. If people only read one book, then I would recommend that they read The World Peace Diet (2005) by Dr. Will Tuttle.