By: Macy Jenks
I joined the animal advocacy club at Cleveland High School in the beginning of the 2015 school year. Just one month earlier, I had become vegetarian after learning about the atrocities that take place on factory farms. I was eager to discuss my newfound knowledge with a group of fellow students who shared similar views. Six months later, I am much more knowledgeable on animal issues; however, up until just recently, I had not been able to make the switch to veganism.
Our club director, HEART’s Portland Program Manager, Claire Howe, organized a trip to Green Acres Farm Sanctuary. I was looking forward to it, but I also did not know what to expect. I wasn’t that excited about scooping poop, which was all I knew going in.
When we got to the sanctuary, we were taken on a tour of the farm by the owner, Tina Crow. There was a huge variety of farm animals from donkeys to roosters, each with plenty of room to roam. It was amazing hearing the different stories of these animals, many of whom had been rescued from factory farms. “Hershey’s” story was the one that touched me the most. He was born on a factory farm, and his mother was a dairy cow. When he was just a calf, Hershey was taken to an auction. A kind woman, who was shocked by the auction process, paid $7.50 for Hershey and took him to Green Acres Farm Sanctuary. If Hershey had not been saved, he would have become veal.
After the tour, we went to grab our tools to clean out some of the animals’ fenced-in areas. We were assigned to the goat pens. There were about eight goats in each enclosure, and all of them had different, adorable personalities. The baby goats were so playful. Two other students and I cleaned out the soiled hay and dumped it into wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow. Then, we raked up the goats’ waste and added it to our wheelbarrow, as well. We replaced the old hay with fresh hay. The goats were ecstatic. They were eating the hay out of our hands! Finally, we treated the goats to some carrots. They were delighted. As we were preparing to return to the city, we were met with an abundance of snacks. Vegan kettle chips, bananas, water bottles, and Green Acre Farm Sanctuary stickers all came home with us.
Before I visited the sanctuary, I did not think volunteering would be very fun, but I had a blast! We got to hang out with the sweetest animals. Afterwards, I was so happy. This experience truly revealed how real factory farms are. Seeing videos or pictures makes it seem far away, but when you are hearing their stories, with the animals right beside you, it is really influential. This experience helped me grow, not only as an animal activist, but as a person.
Coming into this as a vegetarian, I left as a vegan. After hearing Hershey’s story, I wanted nothing to do with milk (and eggs and honey). I am thankful that I got to connect with so many animals. I encourage anyone to volunteer at a farm sanctuary. You will help animals but also help yourself.