one of the best days of my life
It was January of 2016 when I first heard of Skylands Animal Sanctuary in Wantage, NJ and visiting has been on my bucket list ever since. This past weekend, Joe and I had the opportunity to take a tour of the sanctuary given by the Founder, Mike, who's one of my heroes. You can only imagine how excited I was as he began to tell his story and the stories of all of the rescued animals that he treats as children. Founded in January 2015, the 232 acre property is now home to animals he personally rescued including cows, goats, pigs, chickens, even a bull and more.
I first learned of the sanctuary on the news. There was a story last year of a cow (now named Freddie) who escaped a slaughter house in Jamaica, Queens and was found running the streets wildly. When I saw he was captured and brought back to be killed, I was devastated and actually in tears on my living room couch feeling completely helpless. The poor cow knew what was about to happen to him (as they all do). Within a few hours, the news story shifted, focusing on a man who drove from NJ to Queens to try to rescue him. By the time the man got to the slaughter house, it was closed for the day so he slept in his truck outside until it opened in the morning. Being a self-proclaimed "good negotiator," he was able to convince the workers to hand over the cow even though the meat was already paid for. That man was Mike and that cow has lived freely at Skylands Animal Sanctuary ever since. Here's the news story.
Now you can see why I call this man one of my heroes. I've been following his story and the animals of the sanctuary every since on Facebook. Most recently, Mike drove to Texas immediately after the hurricane to rescue farm animals including a bull now named Babe who was found drowning by flood waters. When I tell you this is the most selfless, compassionate person I know, I mean it.
Upon meeting Mike, he was exactly as I expected. His passion for the animals came through in each story he told and while he spoke to and encouraged veganism (yay!), but he wasn't an asshole about it (you know what I mean). He started by telling us facts about the corrupt food industry in America (something I've written about several times) like how female cows are artificially impregnated over and over again by farmers so they can produce milk.
Think about it... in order for a cow to produce milk, it's body needs to recognize pregnancy to prepare for her baby... it's breast milk. After birth, female babies are taken from the mother and artificially impregnated asap so they too, can start the cycle and the males are typically killed. Worse yet, the milk that's being produced to feed the baby is feeding us, humans, and not the baby that needs it. Why on Earth are we drinking milk from another species? We're the only species that drinks the milk of another and the only species who still consumes dairy as adults. Check out my post on The Truth About Dairy Consumption to learn more.
Throughout the tour, Mike left us with a lot to think about. (Joe wasn't even interested in eating buffalo wings with his friends later that night). As a vegan myself, I first gave up meat, fish and dairy for health reasons, but after learning more about the industry through these documentaries and my health coaching school, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I can say that my main reason for the lifestyle choice is my compassion for animals. Here's a personal post on that explaining it all. Worth the read.
My day at the Skylands Animal Sanctuary with Mike was more than fulfiling. It was wonderful to meet such a compassionate person who's doing what he can to help those who don't have a voice.