Saturday, September 20, 2008

On Petting Zoos and Game Farms - New Arrivals to the farm

Amber Donkey: Oh did we have some excitement around here this last week! The barn was a swarm of activity when we unexpectedly became a refuge to 8 pygmy goats and 6 hair sheep. Now I had never seen either of these species before, although we do have goats and sheep here, these guys were different. And boy were they scared. It took all of us horses at least 2 days to reassure them that they were safe with us. We felt so sorry for them as their lives were turned upside down. Their family had gotten separated and split up and they were sad, scared, and in shock. But we told them all about the farm here and what we do. Just as things were quieting down a bit, someone came and took 3 of the goats. We know not all of them will stay here but we also told them that even if they leave, they would be going to safe places. The sheep can't stay here as they are known to jump fences and we are on a highway here that would be very deadly if they jumped a fence. But our folks will be sure they all stay together and go to a very nice place.

Then on Monday a miracle occurred. All of us were so excited. One of the little goats gave birth to the teeny tiniest little goat baby I had ever seen. It was about the size of our barn cats here. Unbelievable. For now, the goats have been moved to the smaller barn where they can be safe and have a pasture all to their own. Plus, they have two other donkeys looking after them so I know for sure all will be fine. The reason these guys were suddenly homeless is a very sad story indeed. One I had never heard of before. And this old donkey has heard about a lot of things. We'll let Dawn take it from here.

From Dawn:

Last week we became sanctuary to 8 pygmy goats and 6 hair sheep all of whom were headed from auction to the meat truck. Each one of these animals was sent to auction by a game farm/petting zoo. So many of us have fond memories as children of being taken to a petting zoo or game farm and being able to see and touch all the cute animals, many of them babies. Maybe some of you still take your children and grandchildren to such places. For sure, not all of them are bad. However, most people have no clue that a great majority of these tourist attractions exist not for the welfare of the animals but for our entertainment and for the profit of those who run them. By far, the biggest attractions are the baby animals. To have baby animals in abundance, many of these places over breed or allow indiscriminate breeding so that they are assured a nice supply of cute cuddly young ones when the crowds arrive to greet them each summer. Have you ever wondered though what happens to these babies? You can go back the next year and lo and behold there are all those cute babies again. But few stop to wonder where the babies from last year went. What most people do not know is that many of these petting zoos and game farms liquidate their “assets” each fall after Labor Day and when the crowds are gone. Now these same babies that you all loved and touched, and fed in some cases, are no longer an asset but a liability for the winter. Off they go to auction where they are largely sold for meat or for canned hunts.

For those of you who are not familiar with canned hunts, these are places where animals, mostly exotic types that have been hand raised at game farms and the like, are set loose in a completely fenced in area and then shot by people who pay to come and shoot them. Like a petting zoo only with guns. But instead of getting their heads petted, they get to be mounted on someone’s wall as a trophy. Canned hunts are legal in many states. And they love to buy the liquidated assets of game farms and zoos from auctions because they are generally extremely tame.

The sheep and goats that have found sanctuary with us will be assured that they will not end up in the meat truck or in the hands of the canned hunt people. A group of animal lovers and rescues bought up those hand raised animals that were certain to go for meat from the auction and they are being placed in homes by various sanctuaries and rescue groups. Spring Farm only took in a few. Just to be clear, there were over 40 pygmy goats and over 40 hair sheep that were just among some of the animals that were liquidated that day by one game farm at this one auction. There was even a baby camel, a couple of tortoises, 35 pot bellied pigs and many more, all from the same game farm. Many of the goats and sheep are pregnant. So many more lives were being auctioned off at the end of this tourist season than we will know. We will be placing the herd of sheep all together soon at another facility where they will be safe. Some of the goats have been placed and some will stay here with us. Some of the goats were ill so we are giving them time to settle in, to be sure they are healthy, and to see who is pregnant and who may not be. But just this week, one of the goats delivered an amazingly cute little kid. At less than one week old, she is out bouncing around with the other 5 remaining adults and learning about life. Born on a full moon, we named her Luna. She is feisty, determined, and very smart. And she hopefully will never have to feel the sting of betrayal of being born to get to know, love, and trust people, only to then be discarded with the trash at the end of a tourist season. She will know she is not a commodity but that she is a treasured being for her entire life and not just for when she is a cute youngster.

Our intention is to keep some of the goats to use in our humane education programs and to just let them be goats. I just wish though that the same tourists that spent their summer feeding and petting these adorable beings could have seen the look of terror and confusion in the pens at the auction, waiting for their uncertain fate, and being separated from their friends and families. And if you think they don’t care about those connections, if you think that they don’t understand where they are being sent off to and understand what the kill pens are, then I wish you could have seen it for yourselves. The look of fear and terror, the screams to each other as they were divided up and separated, and then their gradually learning trust that they have found safety again. Little Luna only knows that the sun feels good, people are friendly, and that Life is waiting for her to explore. She has the complete innocence and trust of all newborn beings. It is up to us now never to betray that.

When animals are used for our entertainment, it is up to us to be sure how their lives are being spent and what happens to them when the doors close for the season and the show is over. Are they just a seasonal commodity, bred to make a few bucks while people gather to see their beauty, only then to be discarded as a worthless liability? Or, are they truly loved, honored, and cared for, even when times are tough and the doors are closed? It is up to all of us as “consumers” to find out the answers to these questions before we promote them with our dollars. There are probably not many of you who would get a baby animal for your child or grandchild just so they can see it be young and vibrant and then send it off to a meat auction when fall comes, yet that is what we all unknowingly promote and condone when we financially support these operations. Ask questions. Life is too precious to waste. Ask Luna.

1 comment:

Maryaprl said...

Welcome to little Luna!!!! May you have a happy, healthy and wonderful life. I know that the goats and sheep will all have loving homes thanks to Spring Farm. Thank you for the wonderful work that you all do!!!

Thank you also for educating me on petting zoos and game farms. I had never thought about what may happen to these animals after the zoo closes for the season. I don't think I've ever been to a petting zoo but I know many family members and friends that have. I will pass this information on.