Imagine you have just been born. You open your eyes to see your mother. A mother you have just met, but already love so immensely. You know she loves you too. You can feel it. You can feel how much she would give, what she would do, to protect you. 

Now imagine a strange man appears, and takes you from her. Away from comfort, away from safety, away from your family. Now imagine he drowns you. Or perhaps he slits your throat. Or maybe, he leaves you on a garbage pile where you will die a slow and terrifying death. 

That's extreme. 

But that life wasn't yours. Instead you stayed with your mother. For six weeks you bonded to her. When she disappeared, at least you had your siblings. They became your friends, your reason for joy. Then when you are just six months old, you're put in a large box. The box is cold, dark, it reeks. The scent of ammonia and feces is so potent, it makes your eyes water and your sensitive nose burn. There is no food here. There is no water here. You bump around, bashing into the others. It's scary. You want out. When the doors finally open, you are prodded down a ramp where you can smell the fresh blood. You hear screams, screams of fear and screams of pain. You don't want to move forward, but there is no choice. You must. You walk inside, and you never walk out. You die in there. 

That's extreme. 

But that isn't your life. Instead you had a beautiful beginning. You were born to a strong and powerful mother. You lived in a spacious meadow with your mother and other mothers and their babies. You frolicked, you played, you loved. Then you became older. The meadow soon became a box. There was nothing to do. No where to go. No one to speak with. Just four dark walls, with one opening out. Food was the only joy. Running was the only release. Wow did you run. You ran, and ran, and ran. Then one day you didn't run fast enough. The box became a ring, where you were sold like an object, to the highest bidder. You were sold for your body, your flesh, your "meat". You were loaded onto a truck, where you stayed for 36 hours without food or water, until you arrived at your destination. It would be your final one. You entered a box for the last time, where the barrel of a gun pointed at your head. It shot you dead. 

That's extreme. 

Imagine for just one moment, you were not born a human. Would you trade places with a horse, a pig, a cow, or a even a dog? 

Would you trade places if it meant relinquishing ever decision, every want and every need you had to the hands of another? 

Would you feel comfortable being treated as an object? Having your thoughts, feelings, and needs deemed unimportant or disposable? 

Could you do it? 

Every day, billions of animals are living these lives. Every day, billions of animals are living through situations far worse than that above. 

Why? In order to achieve what the western world has deemed a "healthy and sustainable" diet. 

That's extreme.

And yet, the only time these words seem to be uttered when discussing the human diet, is when discussing someone who is plant based. 

Perhaps it has been said to you, perhaps you have been to the one to say it.  I know that was once my way of thought. Before I realized what was actually extreme...  

Veganism is based on the principles of compassion, respect, and peace. It is about accepting that your life does not give you the power to end another's, and that you are responsible for your your own body and no one else's. 

Today, 45% of the earths land is being used for livestock. This does not include wildlife or humans. This is the pigs, cows, horses, chickens, ducks and other animals that are being raised for the purpose of being eaten by humans. 

Today is World Vegan Day. A day about sharing the world with all of its inhabitants. A day of equality, peace, and love. Love for ourselves, the animals, the environment, and our planet. 

While our western world is geared towards a diet heavy in dairy and meat products, there is a movement that is growing. Slowly making its voice heard among the public, what once was a small community has progressively grown into a powerful and impactful community that is slowly changing our world. That movement is Veganism. 

So please, the next time you pick up a fork, lift a spoon, or hold a knife with an animal product on the end of it, ask yourself. Would I be willing to trade my life for theirs? If only for a day? 

If you answered yes - that's extreme.

Thanks For Living

Thanksgiving. A beautiful holiday, modernized to celebrate our thankfulness. Thankfulness for our families, our friends, our homes, our careers. A holiday that is fundamentally at its core, about appreciating life.

Yet on this holiday, so many of us blindly close our eyes to the hypocrisy that is the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. A meal intended to represent peace, appreciation and a celebration of life is centered around an animal who wasn't given a chance at living.

I could write a speech. I could tell you exactly what was morally, ethically and sociably wrong with consuming a turkey, no older than a baby, as a way to give thanks for the essence of life. In fact, I wrote that speech. However before publishing that post last night I realized one thing. That wasn't my approach.

As dedicated and fiercely committed to my beliefs on animal welfare as I am, I have learned the blunt approach can be more detrimental than impactful. Through experience I learned that people are more receptive to listening when their personal way of life is not being challenged. Therefore I have adapted my approach at activism by allowing my animals to speak for themselves.

When someone sees Olivia in her sweater to stay warm on a chilly morning, or meets Billy for the first time and hears his wide array of grunts, a connection is made. Suddenly the bacon on the plate has a face. It was someone, he was someone. The disassociation between living animals and the dead being strung up in slaughterhouses are stitched together. By showing the personalities, individuality and pure love for life all animals express, humans realize their food had feelings, and that makes it much more difficult to eat.

So this Thanksgiving, rather than telling you not to eat that Turkey, I ask just one thing. Know your food.

Most of us have been to an orchard. We've picked apples, or berries or pumpkins in the fall. We've visited farmers markets and seen the wide array of vegetables and fruits, all harvested from the earth. But have you ever visited a turkey farm? Have you ever walked through a paddock looking for the plumpest Turkey that would be the juiciest on your plate? Have you ever met a turkey?

The answer to those questions is most likely no. Why? Because while our society accepts the practice of raising animals for slaughter, we have not accepted the act of death itself. The truth is, if most people were exposed to the animal they were about to eat before it was killed, they wouldn't allow that animal to meet the knife.

Did you know that Turkeys are highly sociable animals? The stigma that they are dumb simply does not fit. When turkeys are allowed to live a natural life they spend their days tending to their young, roosting high in trees, playing with their best friends (yes, they form deeply attached friendships!) and scavenging for food. Turkey's are naturally curious animals and travel in groups of family and friends. Turkeys are even known to enjoy music and cluck along to their favourite songs. Turkeys have a natural life span of ten years, however the ones raised for human consumption are killed before they reach just six months of age.

For those that are already living a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, thank you. Continue spreading the true message of veganism - love. Eating a plant based diet is not about giving up what you love, it is about protecting what you love.

For those who still aren't ready to pass up the Turkey this year, I still believe in you. Your time will come, the connection will be made. You are not a heartless person, you are not incapable of change. You are just not ready. When you open your heart to include every earthling on this planet you will understand, and you may question why it took you so long.

This thanksgiving, regardless of what your plate looks like, I encourage you to spread an act of kindness to the animals. Kindness is kindness, however small or grand the gesture may be. Simply show your thankfulness for being human in a world where animals are viewed as less than beings. Give something back to the earth for all the lives taken from it.

To Eat Like A Pig

A question we often hear is what do the pigs eat?

There is many a joke to that question, such as, what won't they eat!? But in reality, I could give you that list - and it would be as long and demanding as Beyonce's rider.

Pigs, like many animals in the world, are omnivores. However unlike the stereotypical omnivore, pigs will not hunt for their prey and do not eat meat from birds, bovines or other swines. Rather, pigs are known for rooting in the soil for grub, worms and insects. Due to their nutritional requirements and size, this accounts for a very small part of their diet. Largely, pigs stick to a vegan friendly lifestyle - which is what we maintain at the sanctuary.

There are several viable options of food to choose from when shopping for your potbelly pig, however such as choosing food for yourself, each pig's dietary preferences are unique to the individual and can change depending on the day, weather and their mood. I have heard success from many people who feed potbelly pig formulated pellets, others who feed an equine grain called Step 4: Rocky Mountain Crunch, and others who feed a human equivalent diet. I personally have tried out all of the options with Buddy and Billy before deciding on their current meal plan.

So what does a typical day's menu look like for our pigs? Let's take a look at their food selections from today... (Don't worry, baby Olivia eats a little less than the boys!)

Bistro de Piglet

Breakfast - to be served between 8am and 9am

1/2 cup of raisin bran
1 cup of Step 4 grain
1/2 a bartlet pear
1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut almond milk

Lunch - to be served between 12pm and 1pm

1/4 head of romaine lettuce
1/2 cup of baby spinach
1/2 cup of fresh kale
1/2 an avocado
Handful of garlic croutons
Handful of unsalted peanuts

Snack Time - to be served between 3pm and 4pm

Snack ball filled with a mixture of rolled and cracked oats, shared among them and...

1/2 a red apple, sliced
Topped with crunchy peanut butter

Dinner - to be served between 7pm and 8pm

1/2 cup of multigrain Cheerios
1 cup of Step 4 grain
1/2 a banana
1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce

So there you have it! Surprisingly, their meals are not so different from many people's choices (aside from the grain that is). We give our pigs as much independence as possible, which includes changing up their menu routinely to avoid boredom, switching foods if one develops a dislike and accommodating their preferences such as warm oatmeal for breakfast on a cold rainy morning.

The payout of watching them enjoy their food is amazing. The way they sift through their bowls, picking out their favourite parts to eat first - and leaving their least favourite (most often the veggies!) for last. Their enthusiastic open mouthed chomping as they revel in the flavours. The pure joy they experience from food is unapologetic, grateful bliss. I wish I could attack my meals with the same excitement and vigour as the pigs do. They never apologize for feeling everything in the now, and appreciating even the smallest of life's offerings.

So the next time someone tells you that you eat like a pig - I'd say you Thank You! (But maybe, close your mouth when you chew.)