A Short Modern History of Veganism . . . or . . . Winning the fight for the animals, one veggie burger at a time

When I first became a vegetarian for ethical reasons, in 1982, I was a walking freak show. Firstly, I was the only veggie I knew at the time. I’d met several other people who’d dabbled in it, but both of them returned to the way of the carnivore, and I meandered on alone until my daughter joined me nine years later after vomiting up yet another meal of pork provided by a relative. Secondly, it wasn’t easy to find “safe” food, especially while at other people’s homes or in restaurants (people seemed to delight in sneaking meat and dairy into my meals . . . like, why? Really?) Thirdly, if one more person asked me where I got my protein from . . . OMG . . . please, PLEASE make it stop! I couldn’t tell anyone when I’d morphed into eating a vegan diet because, well . . . it was too . . . time consuming.

Thirty-seven years later, I haven’t yet died the gruesome death predicted for me decades ago, mostly by friends and family who quickly grew bored with my choice, even though I never spoke about it unless asked. I also packed my own food wherever I went and brought enough to share, because, dammit, everyone always wanted some as I’m a freakin’ amazing veggie cook.

But that’s not what this blog is about. At all. Actually, I want to discuss the remarkable progress we’ve made, as well as the fact that no matter how far ethical vegans and animal rights activists have come (some are both, some are not, but they are not mutually exclusive) we will never finish the job if we don’t stop wasting our energy beating the crap out of each other and instead put all our efforts into progress for the animals and for the planet. Because . . . again . . . mutually exclusive movements, they are not.

My husband and I have a farm animal sanctuary named Locket’s Meadow. Most people take that at face value, while others, no matter how many animals we have rescued (so many hundreds . . . and if you count the worms I move out of the road when I walk the dogs after a rain, thousands, maybe MILLIONS as I NEVER leave a worm to die) will argue to their last breath that we SUCK and they don’t consider us a “vegan” rescue because we train horses to be ridden if their health and disposition are amenable to it. Also, people like us aren’t demanding immediate change to turn Earth into a perfect vegan utopia of a world because, truth-be-told, we deal in reality. And . . . whatever. My feelings aren’t hurt by their judgment. The world is what it currently is and we do the best we can with what we have. We can’t waste time on semantics when the immediate situation is so dire. However, we’ve been in this animal-lover/rescue/sanctuary business a lot longer than most, and we see change that we never would have believed. Think about these developments . . .

Vegan Burgers. Thirty-seven years ago, there were no veggie burgers except those we made from scratch with lentils. Now they are everywhere, all brands and kinds. I’m confused by the vegans who argue against the plant-based Impossible Whopper; in 1982 we never dreamed of such an amazing thing! We would order a burger, hold the meat, add extra condiments and pickles, and be happy that Burger King was good like that. If Burger King sells a million Impossible Burgers, how many cows DID NOT get eaten? I’d like someone to calculate that, because I call that major progress. Add to that the many other fast-food establishments that are jumping on board with fake meats and . . . wow! We are kicking ass! Would I rather all meat be “fake” meat? Hell, yes! But we now have a clearer path to that end than ever before.

Tofu. Yes . . . tofu. Do you know if you said the word “tofu” in 1982 people would snicker, if not burst out laughing at the most preposterous “food” on earth? It went like this . . . “Snicker, snicker . . . You’re a vegetarian? Snicker . . . what do you eat, tofuuuuu? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!” Seriously. Tofu was a legitimate joke food. But two years earlier, in 1980, a newly vegetarian friend (who quickly lapsed) had handed me a booklet about how to cook tofu, and while I had politely taken it, I later passed it around as a “joke” book, much like some do with the Watchtower when it’s dropped off by proselytizing Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like really, you were gonna win me over with TOFU? Hahahahahaha! And the lion will lie down peaceably with the lamb HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! And now I buy my tofu at Walmart, where they regularly run out because TONS of people eat it, and if I say the word in public, NOBODY laughs. That’s serious progress! And if I can go from laughing at tofu in 1980 to eating it in 1982, well crap, anything is possible!

Non-dairy milk. Thirty-something years ago, I used to drive two and a half hours to the Brattleboro Coop in Vermont to pick up cases of parmalat soymilk. While I was there I also stocked up on organic granola, in case you didn’t think soymilk made me crunchy granola enough. Go look in the refrigerated case at any supermarket today . . . soymilk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, coconut milk and every combination of the aforementioned. (Oh yeah, and dairy milk . . . whatever . . . there’s less of it being sold every single day) But wait . . . there’s more! This time of year we can even get vegan EGGNOG!!! Holy Cow (and I don’t say that lightly as I happen to think cows are pretty-darned sacred,) vegan life is getting pretty damned good!

NON-DAIRY CHEESE! And not the waxy, non-melting garbage they tried to pass off on us in the early 2000s. This stuff is the real deal, and it pairs well with chocolate, wines and PIZZA! Way back in the olden days we had to order our pizza with no cheese and then pay extra for veggie toppings as nobody would make substitutions. As if broccoli costs as much as cheese . . . sheesh! Vegans aren’t stupid, we know you were all raking us over the hot coals piled in the interiors of your brick ovens . . . laughing at us (Tofu! Hahahahahaha!) And yet, we persisted . . . and because of that, we now have dozens and dozens of varieties of non-dairy cheeses (those of you who say you would be vegan except you would miss the cheese . . . it’s a COP OUT! You can now have your cheese and EAT IT TOO! Thank you Universe, you are so very kind . . .)

Volume! Numbers! Visibility! Look around you. You know a vegan or two. You know a few more vegetarians, as well. You even know a handful of pescatarians (those that are “vegetarian” but eat fish.) You know people who participate in meatless Mondays. You even know people who aren’t vegetarians but who actually EAT TOFU ANYWAYS!!! Bill Clinton, famous for his forays into McDonald’s, IS VEGAN! In 1982, I was all alone, and here’s what’s even weirder by today’s standards . . . I assumed I would be all alone forever, going to restaurants and eating a side salad with vinegar and oil and a baked potato with no butter as my main meal for the rest of my days. Today, I actually have a choice of vegan restaurants should I find the time to get off the sanctuary and eat out! Hallelujah!

Is life perfect? Hell, no. It won’t be perfect until no animals suffer in factory farms, in slaughterhouses, in dog-fighting rings . . . as long as hens languish in battery cages, sows in gestation and farrowing crates, calves in veal crates, and oh, dear Goddess of the Universes, fur animals in their tiny, little hell-holes awaiting a terrifying and excruciating end . . . I could fill pages, but that’s not for today . . . today’s blog is not about what we haven’t yet accomplished, but rather, about how we are on our way, and the momentum is OURS and if all the varying factions of our movements would stop wasting time denigrating all of the other factions, would take those billions of hours of playing Negative Nellie keyboard warrior and instead focus on encouraging positive change, we could make progress that is pervasive, permanent and life-saving for animals and our struggling planet (details for another blog, but if you can’t take the suspense, Google “diet to save the planet.”) Being positive is just a suggestion, really . . . because few people actually care about my opinion, and plenty others think name-calling is the most effective way to sway opinion . . . but think about if every effort made for animals was progressive instead of negative . . . I swoon while merely contemplating the possibility . . .

Because real change is really possible.

And how do I know that, you ask? How’s this . . . I can’t remember the last time someone asked me from whence do I get my protein. 🙂

I mean, come on people! WE’VE GOT THIS!!!

Kathleen Schurman and her husband David are owned by the animals of Locket’s Meadow. They spend their days catering to about 150 of them , while trying to make a living in their spare time as their endeavor is mostly self-funded. While they are cool with being vegan, they prefer the more all-encompassing term of “compassionist” because it includes all living beings . . . even HUMANS!

The Paradox of Domesticated Animals

or . . . Thinking outside the Happy Meal box

There are days when I kinda wish I couldn’t hear the animals. How simple life would be . . . so little responsibility . . . and then I head outside and spend some time with my “babies,” and I know why I was put here as the oddity that I am; I’m here to speak for the animals, who are desperately misunderstood. One group of humans believes animals should live in a separate universe, untouched by humans; another believes they are here for our use, either food or pleasure or something to gamble on . . . whatever . . . but these people exist completely free of any concern about how animals feel as they are here for our exploitation and somewhere in the Bible it says so (not!) And so on and so forth . . .

All animals are not created equal, and please don’t blow a gasket until I explain. Then . . . whatever . . . do what you must . . . (short break here to let a pig out the side door . . .)

OK, I’m back . . .

Wild animals are wild animals. Leave them alone. Give them enormous tracks of land (10 times what they have now, even though it means taking it away from the cattle!) and walk away. Their job is to keep their own balance and the balance of the planet and they’re damn good at it. If we gave them the opportunity and the space, they would save this planet from us, and then we should thank them by giving back even more land. OK, that rant is over.

Domesticated animals are an entirely different story. Humans created these animals and chose which qualities they should have. It’s interesting how we’ve bred animals to reflect the human qualities that we desire from them, such as courage, protectiveness, companionability.  In doing so, we removed most of their wild instincts (except, of course, for cats, who if they had opposable thumbs, would rule the world.) We intentionally left most of these animals without the ability to take care of themselves in the wild. In fact, they are almost completely vulnerable in the wild. We made them totally dependent upon us for food, protection, care . . . everything.

(BTW – someone recently told me that God’s plan for bull calves was that they do what bulls do, which is breed and then get slaughtered and eaten – it’s against His will to castrate, dehorn, or anything else aside from killing them and eating them. GOD HAS NO WILL AS FAR AS BULL CALVES ARE CONCERNED AS HE/SHE DIDN’T CREATE THEM – WE DID!!!!)

And so, if they are vulnerable and dependent upon adult humans for their survival (a cat just walked over and slapped me – again, cats are excluded) what should domesticated animals resemble to us?

How about . . . children? (I just heard your head explode all the way out here on the farm. . . sorry . . .) Let me ‘splain . . .

I have been told by a lot of extremist animal rights activists that farm animals should not be trained or even handled. They should be left to themselves to graze and romp and do what wild animals do. Nobody wants to hear about how they can’t– it’s dangerous to them and dangerous to humans. I even have an example for you! It is the venerable anomaly called THE PIG.

I love pigs – in fact, my favorite animal friend of all time was one named Ozzie Osboar. They are brilliant, beautiful, emotional, loyal and capable of tremendous love. However, if you go to the southern states, pigs that have escaped from farms have created their own huge herds. They grow to extreme sizes and therefore have no wild predators to keep their population in check. They raid properties and dumps for food and cause quite a bit of damage, and they have been known to attack and kill humans. They do so to feed and nurture their families, whom they love with a vengeance. Oh, and that old adage “strong as a bull” should be “strong as a pig.” Because of this, there are people who spend their days down south hunting and killing pigs. Why? Because they are a domesticated animal gone wild. And worse, they thrive in the wild to the detriment of native populations and suburban neighborhoods.

Are pigs dangerous? Well, no. If a pig is raised from a baby and taught manners and respect, he or she is an upstanding citizen and a loyal friend. Our pigs are taught to be gentle, they learn to sit before we give them their food buckets so no one gets slimed or accidentally injured. They come when they are called and they allow us to handle them when they need medication or treatment. They are domesticated animals and they must be taught the rules of behavior, just like children, if you are a decent parent. And then it’s our responsibility to take care of them for the rest of their lives (unlike human children, who, if you are worth your salt as a parent, will go off and do their own thing.)

Now, if pigs are too far off your radar screen, think about dogs. They are domesticated animals who, if they aren’t trained and are allowed to run wild, will gather into dangerous packs. Dogs must be trained, restrained, fenced, and constantly attended to (as well as loved, cuddled and spoiled!) An untrained dog is a dangerous dog, and far too many are destroyed because some humans couldn’t be bothered to properly care for them.

I live in the world of reality, and it’s a harsh place. Despite being regularly told I’m wrong, I know firsthand from my animals what they want, and that’s what I’m going to work with. So far, no one has given me any viable alternatives. What to do with more than 100,000 horses that go to slaughter each year? If I’m not allowed to save and train a few of them them to keep them safe and happy, the only option is death. What about bull calves? Same thing. Nobody can give me a real alternative that works in the reality that is THIS WORLD TODAY which is saturated with the billions of animals we have bred to the detriment of our planet, our health and frankly, our very Spirit, which has become immune to the suffering we have created. HOW IS SLAUGHTER THE ONLY VIABLE ALTERNATIVE EVEN TO PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY LOVE ANIMALS? AAAAAAAAAAAGH! (Yes, folks, that was the sound of my head exploding . . .)

What’s the ultimate solution? Well, it’s to stop breeding domesticated animals and let that entire experiment in agriculture go away. (BOOM! BANG! POP! Heads exploding everywhere!) But really, people . . . reality check. That won’t happen. And if domesticated animals are here to stay, we need to be responsible about them. Which would require an entire book, and because I have to go out and shovel manure, I can’t write one today.

There is, however, a short moral to this story . . . we have to stop judging domesticated animals in black and white terms, all or nothing. Do they want to be kept in horrific conditions and then be slaughtered for food? Hell no. Do they want to be pushed aside and left to their own devices? Nope – we genetically manipulated them to thrive in a human/animal bond and partnership. THEY ARE HAPPY WITH THAT! I have a pack of dogs at my feet that would be devastated if I sent them outside and told them to go back to nature; it’s just not their scene.

It’s time to forge new ground in the human/animal relationship. We have to start from scratch, consult with our animal friends to understand their needs and desires, and take it from there. It’s a brave, new world, but it’s not as difficult as it may seem . . . I mean, we’ve been doing it on Locket’s Meadow for 19 years.

It’s long past time to start thinking outside of the Happy Meal box and come up with solutions for the real world, to save the planet and to save our souls.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, Poor David, are owned by the critters of Locket’s Meadow where they talk to the animals all day long, and the animals talk back. If you want to know more about Kathleen’s love affair with Ozzie Osboar, read “Ozzie’s Promise”, the third book in the Locket’s Meadow series. You, too, will fall madly in love with a pig.



A Tale of Saints, Sinners and Adorable Baby Cows

I am not a hero. I am not a saint. I’m really just another slightly dumpy, aging Meemaw who is still alive today because I was lucky enough to have the love of a good dog when I was a child. Gretchen, a shepherd mix, came to us when I was almost 11, after about a year of praying daily for a dog of my own so I wouldn’t be lonely anymore. She’d jumped out of the dog warden’s truck when he went to load another dog at the corner of our street, and she raced right to our yard and hid under our camper.
“I finally found you!” she announced when we met. 

I was the outsider, odd-duck in my family and the outcast in my class, bullied every day of my life. I was also unable to speak to most people outside of my family or neighborhood, and my shyness was debilitating. So, when Gretchen chose to sleep on my bed and follow me everywhere, I suddenly had reason to live; I suddenly had worth. When I thought about suicide (often,) my dog always sensed my pain and hunted me down. And then . . . A miracle . . . I’d suddenly feel much, much better. The love of a good dog saved my life. Who am I not to return the favor?

Locket’s Meadow, the animal sanctuary that owns my husband and me, is not about us. It’s about the animals who live here and give it their heart and soul. We are their humble servants, and we are honored to have the job. When we call them “our animals” it’s not out of any sense of ownership, but because they are our family – in the same way as we refer to our children as “ours.” When people come to the farm and meet them, they are amazed by how friendly and loving they are, from horses, to goats, to steers . . . and people always comment that they must be “special” animals.

Here’s the news flash – they aren’t. They are no more special than any other cow, hen, pig or donkey on this planet; the only difference between them and every other farm animal destined for a brutal death is that they were found, rescued and loved. Every other farm animal is just as deserving as every one of ours, and if we had all the money in the world, we would focus on finding a way to save as many of them from abuse, neglect and slaughter as we possibly could. Not because we are so special, but because every one of them is. Just as I was once saved by the love of a good dog, every one of them can be saved by the love of a good human.

This past Sunday we had a group of special needs individuals come to Locket’s Meadow, which we have done for more years than I can remember (I really am an aging Meemaw . . . My memory is toast!) We believe that animals are magical, and magic is meant to be shared. Visits are free, the same very reasonable price as magic and love!

Some of our guests wanted to ride horses, including a bubbly young lady named Christina. I knew she was nervous because she decided maybe, “we should have some of the boys ride first.” When it was Christina’s turn, we brought Sonora up to the mounting block. Sonora is an old pro who has been working with special needs people for more than 10 years. She knew Christina was nervous, and the pony stood stock-still while she tried to mount. Halfway on, Christina panicked. She froze, said she was going to fall and that she was afraid. Sonora planted her hooves and didn’t move a muscle. We explained that her horse was perfect, and she was very safe, but she began to cry and begged to get off. I took her foot from the stirrup and set it back on the platform, but she wasn’t quite close enough to feel secure, so Sonora (unprompted) very, very slowly and carefully shifted closer to the block so that her belly was pressed up against it and there was no gap for us to worry about. Then off Christina came, all was well, and 10 minutes later she asked to try again. This time she got on, but still wouldn’t let Sonora walk.

Poor Sonora hung her head. No horse had ever tried so hard to help a rider feel safe, and she had failed. We hugged our pony and told her she was perfect, and Christina and one of the other guests took her for a walk around the indoor arena and she perked up again.

I think, if Christina comes for another visit, Sonora may yet convince her to be her riding buddy. Actually, I’m sure of it.

The more love you give, to animals and people, the more love they give back, and the more love you then have to give again. It’s the most beautiful “vicious circle” I’ve ever witnessed.

A little later, our guests wandered over to visit with the calves, Francis, Patrick and Valentine. Everyone falls in love with calves. They are the sweetest, gentlest, loveliest animals on the planet and they pass out hugs and kisses like Shriners tossing candy at a parade. I swear, love love love is their mantra. Are all calves as lovely as ours? Yes . . . That is, if all calves were loved as ours are, they would be as lovely.

The moment I wait for is the one when someone is fawning over Francis or Val, then gazes into a pair of soulful eyes and realizes that, holy crap, if not for having been found and rescued, this angelic being would have been a slab of veal on their dinner plate. And they would much rather be snuggling Francis than eating him.

I don’t say a word . . . I just watch and smile. The animals do their advocacy far more effectively than I ever could.

One of the chaperones on Sunday looked up from cuddling Francis, and with the sappiest, happiest little-boy smile on his face, pronounced, “I’m sold!” Then went right back to loving on his new bestie.

I know a grown man we fell asleep that night with that same little boy smile on his face . . .

Locket’s Meadow is far more than a sanctuary for animals. It’s a sanctuary for people who have lost faith in love, life and humanity. Unlike other rescues, we encourage interaction with our babies (supervised, of course, for the safety of our animals!) and we are awed by all the humans our animals can rescue in a fraction of the time it would take a therapist.

So no, I’m not a hero. Or a saint. I’m a caretaker and a mama and a Meemaw, trying to repay a debt that can’t ever be repaid. I’m madly in love with all my babies, and best of all, they are madly in love with me. And the truth is . . . Every last one of them is a hero, just as every other farm animal would be if they were loved and cared for, and given the same opportunity to interact.

When we have open houses or visiting hours, I hope you visit Locket’s Meadow with an open heart and open mind and prepare yourself to be amazed. Be prepared to be loved, and also be prepared to have our animals love you right back, as well. For free.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, are owned by Locket’s Meadow Rescue and Sanctuary where they are happily enslaved by somewhere in the area of 140 animals. It’s messy, but it’s worth it. 

A Tale of Smart Homo Sapiens and Dumb, Dead Neanderthals

Just because something has always been done the same way, doesn’t mean we should keep doing it. For example, there is evidence that Neanderthals ate the brains of their dead comrades. Well, more than the brains, but the brains are where we will focus for now . . . because there are prions in the brain that can cause the human equivalent of mad cow disease, which is always fatal. There are experts who propose that brain-eating contributed to the fall of the Neanderthal race, but even if you told a Neanderthal to knock it off because it wasn’t good for him/her, what are the chances they would give a flying fart? Because, you know . . . tradition!!!! Neanderthals have always eaten brains! Thank heavens we are so much smarter nowadays and learn from our mistakes. You know, the big boo-boos like WWII, fossil fuels and religious wars . . . things we will make sure never, ever happen again! Phew . . .

Of course, there are the very, very few humans (really, just a small handful, hardly worth mentioning, but what the hell, I have the computer open and I’m typing anyways . . .) who refuse to learn from mistakes, especially those made by their immediate ancestors. There are studies that suggest people who beat their children do so because they were beaten by their own parents, and if they opt to NOT beat their children, it might intimate that Mom and Dad were wrong in their approach to childrearing, and, well, that would be far worse than ensuring healthy human beings emerge from the nest and go forth into the world. I mean, who couldn’t understand that? Hitler is a prime example of a child who was beaten and humiliated by a dictatorial father who then went out into the world and made something of himself despite his early abuse, and the fact that he only had one testicle. No, this is true . . . Google it!!! There’s even a really catchy song about it!

Sometimes people do change and it totally freaks everyone out. I remember when my friend Loretta came home from her first year of college and announced she was a vegetarian. She handed out brochures about how to cook with tofu like a Jehova’s Witness presses Watchtowers into the hands of passing infidels. As with the scads of Watchtowers I’d been handed, I dropped the tofu primer into the circular file cabinet, laughed with my mother about how weird some people are, and moved on. I probably stopped to roll a slice of ham up in a piece of Swiss cheese and eat it standing in front of the open fridge door. Tradition!!! Nothing wrong with it, dammit!

Except two years later, in 1982, I watched my father-in-law grind chunks of beef in his electric grinder and saw the blood pouring out alongside the meat and I never ate meat again. For just a moment, I allowed myself to absorb the fact that hamburger came from a living, breathing, feeling animal. An animal whom I would have climbed a wire fence to hug and pet despite impending risk of electrocution or goring. And when I made the announcement, much later and only after much questioning about why I wasn’t eating the roast beef or turkey, and muttered the word “vegetarian” under my breath as I ran for the nearest exit . . . my husband, parents, siblings and extended family were truly sympathetic and understanding. Not one of them called me weird, none of them snuck ground beef into the “special” veggie meal they made for me, and not one of them walked out of my wedding to my second husband because the food was vegetarian (actually, two walked out and a third threatened to, but a cousin kept buying him drinks thereby holding him hostage at the bar.) Tradition, dammit! It’s so much more important than love, empathy, sympathy, or even reason and common sense!

But when I became a vegetarian was a long, long time ago and I’m old now. In 2019, humanity has learned that meat and dairy cause more fatal diseases than cigarette smoking, alcohol and maybe even Coca Cola and Pepsi combined (but don’t quote me on that last one.) We also know that factory farming is responsible for polluting millions of acres of land and endless water sources. We’ve learned that billions of cattle and other overbred livestock roaming the earth emit more greenhouse gases and contribute more to global warming than all of the combined cars on the planet! Even Al Gore finally gave up steak, despite it being damned inconvenient for him. (Thank you, Al!)

And because we are not at all like the stupid Neanderthals who couldn’t break their brain-eating habit (and also, because we are so smart there are absolutely no people left who think Hitler was too cool for school,) we’ve stopped all of that silliness in order to save the planet and be kinder, gentler and way, way SMARTER AND MORE PROACTIVE than our dim-witted ancestors.

Phew! Thank goodness! Because if we hadn’t dramatically changed our ways and stopped all that nonsense, scientists (remember them and when they were held in high esteem? Seems like only a few short years ago . . .) predicted we were staring at the end of life on our planet within a matter of DECADES! Like, my grandchildren would likely not finish out a normal lifespan if we didn’t get our acts together!

Yep, thank goodness those Neanderthals died out and we homo sapiens are so much smarter and more advanced than those dumb, dead brain-eaters.

Because otherwise, you know, we’d be doomed . . .

Kathleen Schurman is owned by Locket’s Animal Rescue and Sanctuary and spends her days shoveling more kinds of manure than can be listed in this brief space. She’s generally far too busy to stay current with current events, so please excuse any gaps in her knowledge of what’s happening in the world today.



Realistically Speaking . . . or . . . let’s talk horse sense

I’m a realist. Maybe it’s the Capricorn in me, perhaps it’s the farmer, or possibly it has to do with how much animal manure I shovel in a day, leaving me unable to deal with “bullshit” of the theoretical kind. For whatever reason, I find myself asking, “What’s the point?” way too often, then cutting directly to the chase, so to speak. Other people can debate merits, ethics, whatever they want, but in the real world of animal rescue, we generally have time to deal with one question – what’s the best thing that can be done for this animal? We take into account health (mental, emotional and physical,) happiness, and potential for their future. We also take into consideration what we need to do to be able to safely handle each animal, which for goats, sheep, and other smaller animals is not so worrisome. For larger animals, such as horses and bulls, well, it’s much more exciting.

We’ve had a lot of brouhaha about bull calves lately, for the oddest reason. A woman posted on the farm Facebook page that I am a “cruel bitch” for disbudding and banding (castrating) our bull calves. She said she had been thinking about donating to our sanctuary, but since we did this, we don’t qualify as vegan. Then she dropped a few F bombs and I wish I could say she then went on her merry way, but she clung to the thread for the rest of the day, making sure everyone knew how much she despises us . . . despite the fact (that I happen to know for a fact) that all sanctuaries debud and neuter their bull calves to increase the animals’ quality of life as well as to keep staff and visitors safe.

Which brings me to horses. Of course.

Because even if this particular variety of vegan (and I’m a vegan, I swear I am!) could wrap her arms around the fact that all sanctuaries take care of bull calves (and goats, sheep, etc.) the exact same way we do, they will never recover from how we treat horses (which is exactly how other strictly horse rescues treat them – and BTW, most farm animal sanctuaries don’t even attempt horse rescue because of the level of work, training and extreme expense that must go into them.)

But let’s back up before we cut to the chase. REALITY – there are 9.2 million horses in the USA, alone. An average of about 130,000 U.S. horses are sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico every single year. Many are horses that didn’t make the cut in the big breeding industries producing quarter horses and thoroughbreds. Some are from backyard breeding operations. Most make their way through the auctions and are collected in kill pens, awaiting the hauler who will drive them to their particularly gruesome deaths. However you look at it, reality is that humans breed way too many horses, and the percentage ending up in slaughterhouses is heartbreaking.

Here on Locket’s Meadow, we’ve been rescuing horses from slaughter for 17 years. Several hundred have made their way through our farm and on to adoptive homes, while many have stayed here. In the past two days I have been contacted and asked to take on two different horses as rescues. One is 15 and has leg problems so she can’t be ridden. The other is 22 and retired due to health issues, and the owners can’t afford to pay his board any more. (In many cases like the second one, they can’t afford the board because they already got a new horse that is rideable – few people can afford board for more than one horse.) If either of these horses ends up at auction (we are full and can’t take them,) they will definitely go to slaughter. People bid on sound, trained horses who are easy to handle, and that’s with good reason. An untrained horse is a deadly horse. And a horse that can’t be ridden is usually destined to be a dead horse, long before their natural time.

And so I cut to the chase. Most of the horses on our farm are trained to be ridden, even the dangerous Bad Boy Bobby. Probably half our horses are retired and hang around eating all day. Should anything happen to my husband or me, my equine vet, who also rescues horses, knows what to do. Those who are too old, special needs, or just plain too difficult (Bobby) to be adopted out will be humanely euthanized. Those who are trained to be ridden will be placed in carefully screened adoptive homes. My promise to my horses is that they will never experience the horror of filing through the slaughter pipeline.

In the real world, from which we rescue our babies, horses are sent to auction with little to no regard for the fact that most of them will become meat. The few who will survive the auctions ARE THE ONES CAPABLE OF HOLDING A JOB. If we don’t provide our horses with training, then keep them in shape in our small lesson program, their reality is that if they ever leave the fairy tale that is Locket’s Meadow, they will be shot in the head with a bolt gun (that may or may not stun them,) get hung by a hook through a hind foot, then sent down the slaughter line. After, of course, they’ve watched the same thing happen to the horses in line in front of them.

Our job is to rescue animals and keep them safe. If keeping a horse safe means we train them to be well-mannered and rideable, we will put in the very considerable time and expense to make that happen. Period. We don’t care who judges us or if they donate or not. We care about our babies and their futures, whether they are with us, or elsewhere.

This is the real world for horses, and it’s a horror show. Principles be damned, if we are going to rescue them, we commit to doing the best we can for them. Anything less is buying into a fantasy that doesn’t exist in this world, and turning a blind eye to that reality doesn’t help a save a single horse from a hellish life followed by a hellish death.

Are we ever going to be a “vegan” sanctuary? Nope. Not if we actually care about horses, we won’t. We are realists.

And for that, we make NO apologies.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, are owned by Locket’s Meadow, a farm animal sanctuary, where they literally never have time to ride because they are far too busy keeping up with the volume of manure being produced by their brood of more than 140 animals.