A Meetup at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

Touring Peaceful Prairie; Roscoe the turkey (center)

Last Sunday, I participated in a group tour at the nearest farmed animal sanctuary, Peaceful Prairie, about an hour’s drive east of Denver.  Both we and the animals were fortunate to have a warm, clear day to enjoy each other.

The first thing we noticed as we approached the property was a herd of llamas.  I’d never seen that many, about fifteen, in one place.  Then we drove through the gate and up to the house.  Peaceful Prairie’s founders and directors, Chris and Michele Alley-Grubb, welcomed us. Continue reading “A Meetup at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary”

Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals

Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs, edited and published by No Voice Unheard.  2010.

This spacious, clear, compassionate book about rescued farmed animals offers three experiences you may not get from actually visiting a sanctuary where these animals are kept: a chance to look them in the eyes for an extended period of time, to see examples of every animal Americans commonly eat, and to visit them even in the midst of a city. The large photographs allow you extended closeup eye-to-eye contact, whereas if face-to-face the animal might be farther away, would move about, perhaps turn away.  And most sanctuaries would have most but possibly not all of these: chickens, turkeys, pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, ducks, geese, and rabbits. Plus, unlike a rare visit to a sanctuary, by opening the book you can see the animals again anytime and anywhere you want.

Among the sanctuaries and authors featured is Colorado’s own Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, with written contributions from Michele and Chris Alley-Grubb and Joanna Lucas, all of Peaceful Prairie. The short essays on the animals’ behavior are thoughtful and sensitive, but to me the main reason to pick up this book is its photographs: to see, really see, these living animals that remain invisible to most people who encounter them only after they’ve been slaughtered, dismembered and served up on a plate. No other book I know is as effective in allowing the reader to make that connection.

Good News About “The Story of Chickens”: Public Slaughter Cancelled

Two weeks ago I blogged in this space about “The Story of Chickens,” a project sponsored by the Spencer Art Museum at the University of Kansas (KU).  This so-called “art” exhibit called for the display of five chickens in a moveable coop at several locations in Lawrence, Kansas; the chickens were then to be slaughtered in public and served at a community potluck.   I am happy to write today that the project has been substantially altered because local animal cruelty law does not permit slaughter within Lawrence city limits. No chickens will be displayed or slaughtered; the project has been reduced to the display of an empty coop and a concluding dinner.  For details, see the news release from United Poultry Concerns and yesterday’s article in the Kansas City Star. Continue reading “Good News About “The Story of Chickens”: Public Slaughter Cancelled”

Violence Is Not Art: An Open Letter to the Spencer Art Museum

Today I sent the following letter to my alma mater, the University of Kansas, in protest of an upcoming exhibit at the university’s Spencer Art Museum called “The Story of Chickens.”  This project will encourage townspeople to get to know and care about five chickens over a period of time, then the chickens will be slaughtered in public and served at a potluck. Continue reading “Violence Is Not Art: An Open Letter to the Spencer Art Museum”

Afterword on the FPA Ordinance

Anyone who follows Denver news knows by now that the Denver City Council passed the Food-Producing Animals ordinance last Monday evening by a vote of 7-3, with 3 members not voting.  While many of us are sad that their decision means hatcheries will be killing more male chicks, more chickens will either be killed by predators or dumped at animal shelters, male offspring born to dairy goats will be disposed of somehow, and slaughter may occur in our urban backyards, there are still a couple of bright spots in this otherwise gloomy picture. Continue reading “Afterword on the FPA Ordinance”

Backyards into Barnyards Is A Bad Idea–Denver’s Proposed Food-Producing Animals Ordinance

A draft of a measure known as the Food-Producing Animals Ordinance is making its way toward a vote by the Denver City Council (a date has not been set yet for the vote.). The measure is intended to replace the current permit system for Denver residents wishing to keep small livestock animals.  The permit system provides for a city inspection to be sure the site is appropriate, requires neighbors to be notified when someone wants to raise these animals, and charges a fee for the privilege.  The proposed ordinance eliminates these safeguards, allowing any resident to keep up to 8 hens (no roosters) and two dwarf goats (no adult males) without any notification or inspection. We urge defeat of the ordinance–backyards into barnyards is a bad idea. Continue reading “Backyards into Barnyards Is A Bad Idea–Denver’s Proposed Food-Producing Animals Ordinance”

The Ten Trusts

The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do to Care for the Animals We Love, by Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff.  Harper San Francisco, 2003.

Goodall, along with co‑author Bekoff, begins by relating true stories of clever and caring animal behavior, such as extrasensory (to us) perception, astounding migration over great distances, and saving the lives of humans or individuals of other species.  She follows this up with a review of issues relating to animal cruelty: medical research and student dissection, circuses and zoos, fur, meat‑eating, poaching and deliberate habitat destruction, and much more.  The authors’ tone is friendly, not designed to overwhelm with too much detail of abuse, and filled with encouragement that whatever kindness‑‑no matter how small‑‑an individual can do for an animal matters.  Even giving up meat for one day a week makes a difference. Continue reading “The Ten Trusts”

An Unexpected Meeting

I set out on a road trip recently from Denver to Albuquerque.  Still hopelessly in love with the American West–even though I have spent my entire adult life close to the Rocky Mountains–I reveled in the spacious vistas and open skies of the high plains and Front Range.  The interstate highway south of Raton, New Mexico, follows the route of the legendary Santa Fe Trail.

I reflected on a new book I’d read recently, Empire of the Summer Moon, by S. C. Gwynne, about the Comanches and the Western frontier. A cycle of violence, which included torture as well as murder and plunder, went on all across the Americas for centuries before Europeans arrived, and for centuries after, before it culminated in the genocide of the native American tribes.  Another genocide–of the American bison–was carried out at the same time.  In just a few years, many millions of these gentle creatures were shot for their fashionable hides, their flesh left to rot.  It was the largest human-caused near-extermination of a warm-blooded animal in the history of the planet.

And what’s happening now?  Well, we don’t have intertribal raiding and killing going on across our land.  We don’t have bounty hunters shooting millions of animals for their skins.  But is it better?  Now we have billions of animals bred and raised to be killed, and an all-out human assault on the planet’s ability even to sustain life at all.  This was getting depressing to think about, until something unexpected happened. Continue reading “An Unexpected Meeting”