A tale of animal activism, PTSD and those bullies from our past . . .

358So. You are walking down the street and against your better judgment you cut through a group of people demonstrating for animal rights. You try not to look at the posters of dairy cows and you avert your eyes as the “crazy vegan hippies” approach. You almost make it through the gauntlet of outstretched, color brochures when you hear a person behind you make a snide comment about the tastiness of veal, bacon, leg of lamb, etc. and one of the women demonstrators loses it. Just freakin’ loses it. Goes ballistic on the guy (who really thought he was being original and/or funny despite the BILLIONS of jerks who have used the same stupid line already . . .) with an hysteria usually reserved for being left at the alter. The other demonstrators drag her into their fold and calm her  while the stand-up comic throws out a few more witticisms about the beauty of McDonald’s quarter pounders, and the onlookers disperse, muttering about crazy vegans.

Most of the world will shake their heads and laugh and grumble about over-the-top pesky vegans/environmentalists/tree huggers or whatever. I see them and my heart hurts because most of the time, these are the victims of PTSD, generally from bullying. I would guess that a huge percentage of animal lovers who work on their behalf, especially farm animals, have been bullied during their lives. There are a lot of reasons to believe that, only partly because I am one of them. Here’s why . . .

Empathic people, or empaths, are those who are super sensitive and feel other people’s pain, confusion, anger, etc. I am one of them. If you have this particular gift/curse/double-edged sword in your personality portfolio you are predisposed to being bullied. Why? Because when someone is beating the crap out of you, either emotionally or physically, the pain of that abuse is overwhelmed by your sympathy for the person beating the shit out of you. You know their brother is a heroin addict, their father abuses their mother, a close relative died and left them shattered. Empaths are the perfect walking targets for bullies. We try to rationalize what they are doing, talk it out, and even feel guilty for being the kind of person who causes that kind of behavior to come to the surface in a person. What an empath has trouble doing is fighting back in their own self-defense.

Empaths, by nature, tend to love animals, who are fellow empaths wandering through a terrifying world filled with people who want to hurt them. We are all created of one spirit, humans and animals alike, and empaths know that, feel it deeply. We spend our childhoods studying birds hopping through our yards and worms burrowing into the soil. We spend our adulthoods taking care of robins with broken wings and moving worms out of the street and back onto the nearest lawn. We even take on animal characteristics in self-defense when we are being actively bullied.

When I was in 6th grade, maybe 10-years old, one of my “minor” bullies came up to me as I was leaving the schoolyard to walk the terror-infested mile home.

“Why do you walk so stiff with your back so straight?” he asked.

I didn’t answer. All answers are bully fodder, so I stiffened my back a little more, if possible, and walked quickly and steadily home (don’t run . . . don’t ever run . . . it’s like giving a lion reason to chase and they are always faster that you are . . . running is an invitation for skinned knees and elbows when they tackle you . . .) but even at that young age, he made me think. I did walk with my back straight and stiff, I knew nothing else, and that was in preparation for those who inevitably followed me home, usually in groups of two or three (and occasionally dozens,) taunting me about my ugly hair and taking turns running forward, punching me in the back and pulling the aforementioned offensive hair. Brace yourself and keep walking. Sure, you’re crying. If they couldn’t make you cry, what would the fun be? (BTW, those who don’t cry are hardly targets.) We are a sensitive bunch, we empaths. Anyways, this particular response is a passive self-defense measure that I call “turtling.” You are, in effect, tucking yourself into a hard “turtle” shell, both physically and psychologically. You are learning how to temporarily shut down your emotions and even physical pain in order to survive the current trial, which is getting home without reaching the point of having to “play opossum.” You are laying the groundwork for your future response as to how you address situations in which you are personally attacked, and when triggered, causing PTSD, you immediately turtle, withdraw into your shell and move steadily away from your attacker. If, however, your attacker is so brutal they break through your shell and you reach the point of hysteria, the next logical animal-inspired defense is “playing opossum.”

An empath doesn’t reach the point of playing opossum easily, at first. We see through our attackers. We know their pain. We try to help them understand what they are doing is wrong, that it’s hurting people. They may take your efforts seriously for a few minutes, but in the end, they go for the throat. Why? Because bullies are seldom empaths; their world focuses around their own pain and what they must do to assuage it. Yes, they are a selfish bunch. They don’t know how to release pain from trauma on their own, so they bully until they get the required response from their victim and only then do they have the release they so desperately need – which is your hysteria. If a bully gets you on the ground, sobbing, they are generally satisfied. Sure, they may give you a few more kicks to the kidneys before they move on, but the required emotional release, through you, has been achieved and they can move on. The opossum is playing dead. It’s the bully’s orgasm, and it will hold him/her for a while, until their internal pain builds up again and they have to come back for the next release. In the end, playing opossum is yet another PTSD response to more severe attacks in the distant future; when someone attacks you on the deepest level, you can immediately drop to the floor and opossum, in effect, cutting to the chase, giving your attacker the release they need, and skipping what can be hours of brutalizing. Hey, we do what we must for our survival.

If I have given you the idea that empaths are a bunch of sissies, falling apart at the slightest provocation, you are wrong. We generally only fall apart when it’s time to defend OURSELVES. If you mess with the ones we love, we will go totally ape-shit on you. We know what it’s like to be persecuted, battered both emotionally and physically, and we will do whatever it takes to defend our loved ones, both human and animal. This is why an abused wife will stay with the husband who tortures her, but throws him out on his ass if he beats up her dog. This is why the empath who is the mother of a child who is also a sensitive will completely lose it on the adult who falsely accuses him of something (in my case, I went ballistic on a parish priest who said my son had lied when I knew for shit sure he hadn’t – don’t F*&% with my child, I don’t care who you are – I won’t back down until one of us is dead!) And this is why we can’t help but be driven to save the animals, we who cannot save ourselves. We understand exactly what it’s like to not be able to save ourselves. Terrified cows standing in line at the slaughter yard cannot save themselves! Chickens in tiny cages at live markets cannot save themselves! The hysterical woman at the rally who screams about the raping of dairy cows often knows about rape first-hand. She is an empath, desperately trying to stop another living being from enduring the kind of pain she has carried for far too long. It is part of her therapy, to be the one she prayed would save her, yet never arrived.  And if she couldn’t save herself, maybe she can save another living being from her pain. The woman who loses it at the animal rights rally (when yet one more would-be comic starts talking veal parmesan) is the one who can carry the pain that has been dumped on her, but never the endless pain inflicted upon a veal calf.

Can we be fixed, the walking-wounded empaths who carry a lifetime of pain on our weary shoulders? Nope. Because we will always feel the pain of others and count it as more valid than our own. Most of us will have layer upon layer of PTSD from our traumas and will always use the same old coping skills we developed in our youths. It’s ingrained in us on a cellular level; our DNA dictates it.

It sucks to be us, no question. Our only hope, the only way we can survive (and more of us commit suicide than you could ever imagine) is to channel that energy in a way that makes us feel that we are saving others from similar pain. It’s the only arrow in our quiver. When you see that “crazy vegan” on the sidewalk, demonstrating in front of your favorite ice cream parlor, please understand, more often than not, he/she comes from a place of intense pain and has shown up to try to spare another living being their agony. These activists put aside their turtling and opossoming and throw themselves out in public, knowing they will be mocked and criticized, and for the noblest and most selfless of reasons.

Now that you know who we are and how we ended up being that thorn-in-your-side with a sign (and a possible raging case of PTSD,) when all you’re trying to do is buy a dip-top cone, is there anything you can do to help, aside from the obvious change in diet? (Pretty please?!) Sure. The best way to create a generation of well-balanced, non-reactive demonstrators is to not be a bully (because we activists will not go away – may as well help us be even-tempered!) PTSD is the most difficult mental illness to address; results from therapy are spotty and few sufferers have positive results without pharmaceuticals. Empaths with PTSD are a particularly difficult “fix;” fighting back may inflict pain on another and WE JUST CAN’T DO IT ON OUR OWN BEHALF! Teach your children to be kind to the “odd” ones at school. Teach them by example, by practicing tolerance of everyone. Everyone!! And smile and take the brochure the activist offers you. Why not? maybe even mention that they are “very brave” to place themselves in the line of fire out of love for their fellow living creatures.

You may never know how brave these people truly are, especially when they lose it right there on the sidewalk. I know the darkness whence it comes, and I know how hot the truth and light of day can burn.

Peace to all, and keep on lovin’!

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, are owned by the animals of Locket’s Meadow Animal Sanctuary where they spend their day feeding, mucking and passing out hugs to their “babies.” Then feeding and mucking some more . . . It’s not a living, but it is a “loving”! 


Too Many Horses, Not Enough Love

There are too many horses in the United States. So many so, that in 2016, 125,608 of them were shipped to slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Most years, we intercept a few and bring them to our sanctuary, Locket’s Meadow, to live out their lives in safety – fed, cared for and loved. In 2019, despite a dire need for more homes for horses, we didn’t rescue any new ones, instead focusing on bull calves who were previously destined to become veal, as well as goats and sheep. Why? Because horses are the most expensive animals to maintain and we knew we couldn’t afford another, nor could we provide anymore adequate shelter. The horse section of the sanctuary is full.

While we are a non-profit, my husband, David, and I fund the vast majority of our operation, with hay and feed alone costing more than $2,000 each week. Over and above that, horses require hoof care (several thousand dollars a month for our herd of around 40,) vet care, parasite control, supplements and medicine for countless reasons . . . oh yes, and then there’s mortgages and utilities and everything else . . . but it’s what we do because I love horses and my husband, well, he loves me. Poor David . . .

But back to the problem of too many horses. Those of you not in the rescue business may not know this, but the issue of excess horses and what to do about them is a matter of massive, angry and bitter debate. In fact, the very existence of horses, or any domesticated animals for that matter, is also up for debate (but I will save that for a later rant . . .) The tragedy is that most of the people wrestling over the situation all agree they love horses, but most every one has a different opinion as to how their population should be “controlled.” For example, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) believes the solution to “excess” horses, including their breed-of-choice, is slaughter. In their statement about their support of horse slaughter they talk about animals starving, neglected, abused . . . but they never mention money. Which is a shame, because in the end, it is only about money. Quarter horse breeders pump out tens of thousands of foals each year, looking for that perfect performer (hopefully a stud who will continue to make bank for them after retiring, siring lots and lots more horses) knowing full well that thousands of foals won’t be up to snuff and will eventually end up meat after a really terrifying, brutal and painful last few weeks.

As an aside, I find it interesting that people breed millions of unwanted dogs each year, but we never consider slaughter the answer to that problem; rather, they are humanely euthanized. By the truckload. Hell, if I’m gonna go on this particular tangent, I may as well add that when we watch videos of live dogs in Asian countries solidly packed and stacked in trailers on their way to slaughter, we are HORRIFIED! We would NEVER ship our millions of unwanted dogs to slaughterhouses and then to Asia as a meat product! We LOVE our dogs! Yet we profess to love horses while thousands of trailers, just as solidly packed with them . . . many of them sick, injured, pregnant . . . haul them to slaughterhouses every year. They are slaughtered and butchered, then shipped to Europe and Asia while most people turn a blind eye . . . I mean, like, they aren’t dogs, or anything . . . sigh . . . OK, tangent over, back to topic . . .

It can cost several hundred dollars to humanely euthanize a horse. Depending upon the weight of a horse, their flesh can be worth hundreds of dollars at market . . . money . . . money!!! It’s always about money . . . and how dare we ask people to take on the responsibility for offing their own beloved (or income producing) animals when they are no longer wanted when they can make a few bucks as they send their unwanted carcasses on their way?

To be fair, there are a lot of other organizations aside from AQHA, horse and otherwise, that are pro horse slaughter, and again, to be fair, it’s still all about money.

You might think animal rescue organizations would work together to find the solution to this enormous problem, but you’d be wrong. I’ve been at this rescue business for almost twenty years, and wow . . . nope . . . not so much. I was so naïve in the beginning, thinking that “loving” a horse meant the same thing to everyone. I have been well educated since then, thank you very much! It’s insanity and totally senseless, with organizations standing on principles that have nothing to do with reality. For example, the following excerpt is about two groups, both of them declaring they love animals. Below is an article about their all-too-typical dispute. This is a quote from CBS Boston, December 20, 2019:

“A non-profit horse rescue is shutting down. Online criticism may be to blame.

At Blue Star Farm in West Brookfield, the owners started rescuing horses years ago. Now, they have 28.

They are mostly draft horses that spent their lives working. Most pulled carriages, some were in police mounted units and some worked in fields. So in retirement, their new owners at Blue Star made sure the horses continued to work.

But some animal rights groups disagreed, saying the horses should simply run free. So the groups slammed the farm on Facebook, managing to convince the social media giant to remove the farm’s page, which is how they raise money to support the animals.”

The Facebook account was shut down just before Giving Tuesday, a fundraiser that we in the non-profit rescue world have grown to depend on. Blue Star normally would reap at least $15,000 in donations that day, but this time they only raised $1,200. They didn’t have the funds to make it through the winter, nor the heart, and after years of battling with those who advocate for letting the horses “run free,” they finally gave up. As I write this, Blue Star is in the process of placing 28 horses, a monumental task, and these horses have gone from complete safety into potentially dangerous situations (few people are as amazing as they like to say they are on their adoption applications.) Organizations who claim they love horses did a very bad thing . . . and they still didn’t achieve what they wanted, because all of these animals are going to homes where they will still be “captive,” and many will still have jobs. WHAT WAS THE FREAKIN’ POINT? They were never gonna get to run free! (This is why, when people ask me how to start an animal rescue organization, I advise them to become independently wealthy and then go for it . . . something we neglected to do in advance . . . doh!)

And while I’m here . . . why not let the horses run wild and free? Well, the two biggest reasons are these . . . where will they run free? And WHY? THEY AREN’T WILD ANYMORE AND THEY CAN’T SURVIVE THAT WAY! Ahem . . . sorry . . . I will calm down . . . But first, let’s visit the wild mustangs of the American West. So beautiful, so romantic . . . so . . . doomed. Why? Because they compete for land with beef cattle, and the beef lobby will win every single time . . . you know, money . . . so the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, the organization in charge of equines living on public lands, rounds them up using helicopters and ATVs, (a terrifying and heartbreaking event that many mustangs don’t survive due to broken legs from panicking . . . Google it, if you dare) herd them into crowded corrals and . . . just keep them there, baking in the hot sun, far from the cattle grazing on mustang land that was rightfully theirs. Some are shipped around the country to be purchased at auctions. Some languish in their corrals, and many die from the crowded, unsanitary conditions as well as injuries received in their pens. But Americans want their beef, and if they don’t know that wild mustangs, a national treasure, suffer and die so beef cattle can graze on our public lands (put aside partly for the reason of sustaining aforementioned wild horses) well, whatever . . . bring on the burgers!

Did I digress again? Sorry . . . I will try to behave, but . . . you know . . . horses . . .

So, now that we know there really isn’t any safe place for horses to run free, let’s talk about domesticated horses that actually are turned loose and allowed all that freedom some humans believe they deserve.

Let’s take a quick visit to West Virginia, where thousands of domesticated horses run free on thousands of acres. Idyllic! Inspiring! And yet . . . the following excerpt about these horses is by Tinia Creamer, Director of Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, INC:

 

“Many were dropped off, some had ‘owners’ who turned them out or claimed them all while using land illegally and dangerously and not providing any or enough care. They were reproducing across these lands.

They were injured, emaciated and reproducing. Few thrived, and almost none did well for long.

People were shooting them for sport, chasing them on ATVs, they were being hit on road ways, they were falling into mining locations, they were starving because the re-claimed land and active mine lands weren’t growing anything nutrient dense, and no one knew this was happening in West Virginia outside of the counties experiencing this, let alone nationwide.”

She went on to explain that there are fewer horses now, all for very bad reasons.

Tinia Creamer has spent ten years advocating for and rescuing these horses from their “wild” environment and adopting them to safe homes because horses ARE NOT WILD ANIMALS ANYMORE AND THEY CAN’T THRIVE, NEVER MIND SURVIVE! They need adequate nutrition, hoof care, safe pasture, and dare I say it . . . LOVE and COMPANIONSHIP to thrive and be happy! They are no different from domesticated dogs, who would probably fare better than horses if we decided to set them all free (aside from the obvious road carnage, and the problem of dogs scratching at front doors to be let into people’s houses for dinner . . . because we can’t actually undo domestication! Well, aside from cats, but . . . you know . . . cats . . . always defying the odds . . .)

And we go on and on . . . Some horse rescuers believe horses should be trained, as a trained horse is a safe horse (trust me, this is the truth!) and training can keep them safer from slaughter. Others believe they should be given space and have their autonomy respected, even if they don’t know what that is. There are those who believe no animals should be paid for, even in a rescue situation, as it demeans them as property (although I don’t know a single horse pulled out of a kill pen who ever quibbled about an idea as trivial as an exchange of money for their life – if it’s ransom or death, they are all gonna choose ransom.) Locket’s Meadow has been harshly criticized for giving pony rides at our fundraising events because animals “should not be used for entertainment,” even though our horses love pony ride days and all the attention they get from them . . . And we go round and round and round and round, but meanwhile, these horses that we LOVE with all our hearts, are suffering because we all believe we know what’s best for them (and in most cases, best for our wallets because horses are definitely big business from breeding to slaughter) and almost nobody is asking them what they want from life.

Except . . . I can. I have been talking to horses, and they have been talking back to me, for my entire life. As each horse comes into our rescue, we work though their issues (or not, especially if they come from the Amish world . . . more on that another time . . .) Some love having a job, contributing to what they see as their herd, or family. Others worked enough, thank you very much, and want to hang around and eat hay all day. Some start out thrilled to be a part of our programs, but there comes a day when they decide they are done, and we say, sure . . . go chill with the other retired ponies. Because we are a self-funded rescue (but don’t get me wrong, we are happy to accept donations!) we have the luxury of allowing our horses the freedom to choose. Hell, we have a few horses who’ve decided they don’t want to be in paddocks anymore, so I made them promise to stay on the property if I let them loose; they have never crossed the borders of our land.

What do horses want? There are as many answers as there are horses. The biggest crime we commit against them is the one where we lump them all into one group and decide what’s best for the whole lot. Sure, we created them thousands of years ago, but just as many of us believe we were created by a kind and loving God, and pray for mercy and justice, horses look to their creator “gods” for the same mercy and justice. We seldom measure up. In fact, we are a pretty crappy bunch of gods who seldom do right by the animals we have brought into this world.

Truly, we suck.

I can’t tell you what all horses want, at least not the ones I haven’t met. But I can tell you the stories of some of those that I have known . . . their loves, their passions, their sadness and regrets.

I am a Horse Girl, kissed by the soft lips of a pony long before I was born, and my job, or so they tell me, is to speak for them. So, sit back and have your hankies ready . . . their stories will be coming shortly . . .

I may not know what horses want, but they sure do.

Kathleen Schurman, and her husband David, own Locket’s Meadow Rescue Sanctuary in Bethany, CT. Kathleen works as a psychic and animal communicator to help support the animals, and also writes children’s books about them.

Visit www.locketsmeadow.org for more information, or find us on Facebook. 

 


I am the Horse Girl

I Am the Horse Girl

I didn’t call to the horses. They called to me.

I was born to love them. My first dreams were of horses; when I was still in my crib I would wake with visions of prancing ponies in my head. My first word, much to my mother’s confusion, was “horsey.” We lived between Interstate 95 and the railroad tracks – no ponies in sight – why would “horsey” come before “Mama?” Or even “train?”

When I was 3-years old, I taught myself how to read using Dr. Suess’ One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I was driven to learn so I could read our book, which had a cover engraving of a little girl riding a pony. It was titled, “All Around the Neighborhood.” Oh, to be the little girl riding her pony around the block! When I could finally read it, I was devastated to discover there was not a single horse story between its covers. (I have not yet recovered, and this happened in 1964. . . inaccurate book covers should be banned and burned!)

I endlessly begged my Daddy to take me for pony rides. On Sunday mornings in Southport, Connecticut, they could be had a few miles away, 25 cents for three laps around a small ring. It happened so seldom, but when it did, it was the only time I felt completely happy and complete, five minutes of bliss . . . and I believed my being there did the same for the ponies. Horse girls and people ponies recognize and need each other!

Why are there horse girls? Some people say it’s a genetic predisposition, but I never knew of another in my family. However . . . I have some insider information about this; ponies, contrary to popular belief, are not born of little girls’ wishes. Horse girls are born of the wishes of ponies. THEY NEED US MORE THAN WE NEED THEM! (Which, to a horse girl, seems impossible as how could anyone need anything as much as we need horses? Really . . . HOW???)

Thousands of years ago, humans began domesticating horses. Over the centuries we tamed them and made them completely dependent upon us. We created domesticated horses, and now they need us to love and protect them from the bad people who would hurt them, and those bad people are legion (visit a livestock auction and watch terrified ponies load onto the trailers headed to Mexico and Canada and certain death – you will never be the same.)

The horses choose their horse girls long before we are born, en utero. They gently kiss us with the softest of noses, a feeling we never forget and always crave, then tap us with a tiny hoof and anoint us with the sweet perfume of horse sweat. They declare we are one of them, then trot away to leave us to our gestation while we dream of a sunny, grassy hillside where we are surrounded by grazing ponies.

We are born searching for long noses and soft eyes. We sniff the air for pony-scent and instead are greeted by talcum powder and brewing coffee. We love our parents and families and are content to be with them, but we are always, always searching over their shoulders for our true soul mates, the fuzzy, whinnying family members who touched our souls long before we ever gazed upon our human mamas’ faces. We are obsessed! We have been touched, and are, by any psychiatrist’s evaluation,  seriously “touched.”

Not all of us find our way to our ponies, no matter how desperately we try. I had encounters as a child, never enough, and was always searching, always sniffing the breeze. I didn’t get my first pony until I was 39, a little paint named Cressida whom we adored. My sensible self told me that was enough, but my pony soul would not be denied. A magnificent paint/draft cross, Falstaff, was right behind. Within a year we had established a horse rescue, and every pony I had ever wished for on my birthday, each horse I had called to as the first star of the night sky, finally found their way to me. It turns out when a pony first chose me, they chose well; I was late to the party, but I compensated well!

Over the years I have loved many animals, all of them so special. Every rescue I’ve taken in . . . dogs, cats, hens, roosters, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, geese, ducks, steers . . . so many more . . . have held a special place in my heart. My love for them was so intense that despite serious concerns (and rather severe annoyance) by my family, I became a vegetarian in 1982, and a vegan several years later. I think of myself as an “animal person” because I love them all, from spiders and worms to whales and elephants. But when I take a moment and think about where it all started, I can’t help but remember my dreams of ponies, and awakening to gaze though the bars of my crib, searching . . . sniffing . . . and I know in my soul . . .

I am the horse girl.

See also Too Many Horses, Not Enough Love
What He Did For Love; The Story of Sir John Falstaff

Kathleen Schurman, along with her husband, David, own Locket’s Meadow Rescue Sanctuary in Bethany, CT, where they care for nearly 150 rescued animals, more than 40 of them horses. Visit www.locketsmeadow.org for more information, or find us on Facebook. 

 


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!


A Presidential Case of PTSD . . . Or . . . time to turn off the news, Kathleen

17426183_10155150958898799_302676436118734886_nYesterday, Ragano Hemingway, my young Australian shepherd, had a tummy ache complete with vomiting and diarrhea. I tried to talk myself down and wait 24 hours to see if he felt better, but my OCD got the better of me and I made a late afternoon appointment with his veterinarian in Milford. Ragano and I settled into the truck and I laid my right arm on the console; he rode shotgun and laid his head across my arm. My animals are always a comfort to me, and that day I thought he was letting me know he was going to be OK. But being Ragano, it was much more than that.

I have mild post-traumatic stress disorder . . . as if there is such a thing as a tiny dose of PTSD. I was a badly bullied child. I wouldn’t say I was the most bullied person in the world (as I will respectfully leave that title to those who did not survive the trauma) but it was to the point where I was frequently suicidal. When I was in the sixth grade, however, I was gifted with a stray dog named Gretchen who loved me best and gave me reason to live. When kids followed me home from school chanting “Schurman rots” while spitting at me and pulling my hair, I would march with my back ram-rod straight, absorbing the onslaught, waiting for the moment my dog would race to me, let me hold her tight and sob into her soft, brown fur; Gretchen is what kept me from marching straight to the gun rack in the basement and blowing my head off.

While my dog was there to comfort me, home wasn’t much better as I had a sibling who was just as tortuous, if not more so. “All the neighbors talk about you all the time – they all say you’re fat and ugly. They hate you.” Fat and ugly. Fat and ugly. Everyone hates you. EVERYONE HATES YOU. It was all too easy to believe. If not for my dog . . . who never noticed I was fat and ugly (I was actually very skinny, but if you told me so, I wouldn’t have believed you) I wouldn’t be here today.

Consequently, my adult life is now one endless battle on behalf of all animals, one of whom saved my young life a thousand times over . . . but that’s not what this story is about. It’s about bullies, PTSD and the events that trigger it.

No one can deny the President of the United States is a bully. Even his fans know this, and they insist it’s an admirable quality in a leader. I disagree, as I believe strength of character and integrity are far more commendable attributes for leadership, but I guess that’s just my humble opinion . . .

Everyone also knows one of Trump’s favorite bullying tactics is middle-school-variety name-calling. Elizabeth Warren finally had her DNA tested and it turns out “Pocahontas,” as the president has derisively tagged her, did have a Native American ancestor. Sure, it’s distant, probably about the same distance my kids have from the Native American in their paternal grandmother’s gene pool, yet it existed in Warren’s family lore as it does in my children’s (who think it’s pretty cool, and I am, I must admit, a little envious.) So yesterday, Warren announced she’d had a DNA test done and it was positive for Native American genes. Trump’s response was classic bully. “Who cares?” He laughed, then attacked her because it was distant, and of course, he reneged on his offer to donate a million dollars to charity if it turned out she was correct. Oh yes, and and he will continue to call her Pocahontas. The truth is, when up against a master bully, it doesn’t matter what you do; they are slippery little devils and they instantly find the next words or actions to torture their victims and keep them looking over their shoulders. Instead of actually living their lives, a bully’s victim is always watching for the next punch, the next ball of spittle . . .

(Why do you walk so straight, I was once asked by a bully . . . you’re so stiff, he said . . . I didn’t answer . . . I just pulled myself taller and walked faster . . . always steeling myself against the punch in the back . . .)

In any case, I made the mistake of watching Trump respond to Warren’s DNA results. He volleyed with a string of bullying techniques, then doubled down while his followers cheered his every utterance. Shortly after watching this, I drove to Milford, my childhood town, where in my youth I’d been treated to every bullying tactic Trump had just demonstrated, and then some. I hadn’t noticed my PTSD was flaring from the news, and dammit, out slithered my “inner bully.”

I began to picture myself as fat and ugly, I took a wrong turn in a town that I know like the back of my hand, then actually used my childhood nickname (Bird Nest for my uncontrollable, straw-colored hair) as I mocked myself for screwing up. It took two attempts to park my car in the only available spot in the lot. “Aaaaaaaah! Bird!!!” I heard my inner bully taunt me as my Ragano Hemingway pressed his face tighter into my arm; it was clear he’d noticed what was happening to me long before I did. I hauled my dumpy, ugly self up the stairs into the vet’s office without realizing the nasty turn my brain had taken until after I’d left the office with Ragano’s tummy meds in hand.

It took two turns to get the farm truck out of the narrow parking space.

“Aaaaaah! You can’t even drive! You suck! Birrrrrrd!” My inner bully was hitting her stride.

Ragano whined out loud, and I thought he was in pain, but then I realized he was trying to wake me up from my daytime nightmare – my PTSD was spiraling out of control and I was reliving my childhood, taking on the voices of my bullies and using them against myself. The combination of watching our president bully a woman on TV, plus my being in my childhood town, was more than my psyche could handle.

I stopped at the exit of the parking lot and leaned over to hug my dog and take a few deep breaths. OK. My dog loves me, my dog loves me, my dog loves me . . . over and over again until nothing else was in my head or heart. He firmly pressed his nose into my arm all the way home.

Animals have always saved me, and in return, I will always work to save and care for as many of them as I can. It’s the very least I can do and it’s my greatest mission in life. Last night Elizabeth Warren carried on with her own mission despite having the “most powerful man in the world” as her personal bully. I felt envious of her thick skin, but then I thought about it and I realized she was too passionate about helping others to have never actually been affected by the sting of a bully’s attack. My guess is Warren has come up against plenty of bullies, aside from Trump, and it only inspires her to work harder for those hurting and in need.

This morning I woke up and started caring for my animals, most of whom are either special needs or came from one hellhole or another of abuse, neglect or being in line for slaughter. This is my life. Would I be an animal rescuer if I hadn’t been tortured as a child? Who knows. My earliest thoughts were of loving animals, so perhaps it was my destiny even without having overdosed on bullies. Did overcoming adversity lead me to do this? I dunno about that, either. I don’t feel I’ve overcome anything, and I still waste way too much time and energy when my PTSD kicks in. And lately . . . wow . . . way too many reminders . . . too many triggers . . .

The name of our farm’s non-profit is Rescues Who Rescue, which has multiple interpretations. As in, who is rescuing whom? The animals are clearly rescued, but those of us who care for them have just as clearly been rescued in return. We like to think of Locket’s Meadow as a microcosm of what the world should be . . . a place where animals and humans are all equals, where we work together to care for each other and lift each other up, NEVER tear each other down. Can this translate to the real world? I dunno. I really don’t. Ragano Hemingway thinks it can, as do the rest of our animals. So I will continue to plug away, right alongside them.

We are up against one hulluva huge wall, that’s for sure.

But if my babies believe it can be done, so will I, PTSD and bullies be damned.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, “Poor David,” own Locket’s Meadow Animal Sanctuary in Bethany, CT, where if anyone bullies any of their beloved animals they are immediately thrown out on their keisters.