Friday, 30 August 2019

The sad facts about sanctuary life

Sadly, we have some neighbours who feel very threatened by the fact we can breathe without consuming other animals. They make it their life’s mission to try and rattle and poke us every day. When we don’t receive out and out vandalism and racial abuse, they are shifty and underhand. The local gendarmes must feel sick when these people go to complain and mention our names. From trying to lodge complaints to make the gendarmes ‘force us to eat meat’, to complaining about where we park. Apparently, our flowers go too far into the road, our property is a mess, we spread rubbish and we block the roads. We have the audacity to unload our car with food into our barn and stockroom, and we have children that play on their pushbikes in the village.

The day after our recent Open Day, which we applied for and permission had been granted, our sanctuary signs were destroyed. Signs erected with the go ahead and stamp of approval from the mayor of our commune. Beautiful, handcrafted on wood, natural and in keeping with the countryside. Hours of work; signs to point the way to our safe haven, our sanctuary. A place promoting kindness and compassion. The sanctuary faces weekly abuse and vandalism, because of the relentless nature of these attacks, it has almost become normal. To be sworn at, verbally abused, fences pulled down, water taps left open to drain water sources, gates opened, flowers pulled out... it's all part of the charm of living in the French countryside. But this, seems particularly vile. These signs were for other humans that were interested in kindness and compassion. Who wanted to join us for lovely food and help support the sanctuary. So not only are we abused, but now it seems that other humans don't have the right to find us and support us. We are weary of living within this spiteful mindset. We are so weary. We do not interfere with anyone else's property or life. But just our being here quietly caring for other earthlings that humans have abused and used, is enough.

You may have thought the sanctuary signs being smashed and stolen was a one-off, a flash in the pan. Since then we have had our cafĂ© sign thrown across the road - twice, flowers continually pulled and tossed from our front garden. Someone aimed for Alba as she was walking behind me crossing the road. We had a visit from the SPA (French RSPCA), after an anonymous coward complained about the state of the animals here. The inspector arrived, said how clean everything was and how well all the animals looked. She said how ‘grim’ the mindset was around here and told us to carry on with everything we are doing. So thank you, to the person with double standards, for letting the SPA see how well we keep all of the garden folk, and giving us a ‘pat on the back’ despite your best efforts.

Then, we awoke to find two tyres slashed or more accurately poked with a screwdriver, and a failed attempt on a third. We have only just managed to get the vehicles back on the road, and these two tyres were the last ones replaced. So yet again we face a bill of 160plus euros. I understand that humans do not want to take responsibility for their own unkindness. This is how the people around here react when they have to think about whether the choices in their life are the right ones. Whether who they are eating or shooting at is the right thing to do. Far easier for them to turn on us than to face the truth of their own choices, their own cruelty. The more they continue, the clearer the picture becomes for anyone sitting on the fence about whether they should adopt a compassionate lifestyle.

Are we deserving of this spite, just because we are compassionate and kind? Are those carrying out the crimes showing a humane mindset, to turn on their own species just because they want to kill with guns and dogs and eat bodies, or rear sentient animals to then have them killed? Who would you want to be sharing your space with really? Who would you want caring for you when you are vulnerable? We are trying to fund a comprehensive CCTV system. It is unclear if the gendarmes will give a damn, but it may dissuade a few of the hobgoblins from shuffling around at night and drooling over their latest schemes. We know who the main ones are, but it would be nice to have their faces on film. If you would like to help with this, please send anything (except horrible messages) to via paypal. 

Friday, 23 August 2019

Azra's story

The road has been long for Azra. First bred to be used by the forces in Serbia, to put her life on the line, to protect her handler. After seven years’ full service to then be thrown onto the streets. She has three old microchips in from previous owners, who then threw her back outside. Not one of them were held accountable for their actions. Over three years surviving on the streets, an old girl, half blind, completely deaf through neglect and trauma, missing nearly all her teeth, found her way to the public shelter, where she came to our attention.

She arrived at our sanctuary three years ago. Bald from skin mites, severely underweight and exhausted. We thought she would be with us in the hospice for a few months of TLC before she passed away. How time has flown by with darling Azra. Mostly sleeping, but loving and gentle. Never aggressive to any human or animal and she has seen many come and go. She has been licked by Jack the calf, sat on by Blake pigeon, had Pip and Silver hares fall asleep on her. Lilly lamb ran to her for protection, nestled up with Phoebe pig and played nanny to orphaned chicks. She is the heart of our sanctuary and encompasses all we believe in. Nurture with care, pause for thought, love with abandon and protect all that is dear.

But, our friend is slowing down. We walk beside her each step along her final journey. We cherish each moment and breath she shares with us, our dear snaggle-toothed friend. Wynnie crept down the first night Azra was home, we found her snuggled against her warm belly in the morning, they have been dear companions ever since. She knows Azzie is nearing the end of her journey; she slips further along her silvery road. We watch her closely now to see if she is still breathing when she sleeps. We hold her close and let her know she is loved and cherished, our only regret, we didn’t meet her sooner and have more time. We take it in turns now to sleep with her through the night, as we do for all the garden folk, if their time is nearing. It matters not to us if the outside world considers them farm animals or companions, for they all look for us at the end. They all want comfort and company, they all need their family and friends, they all need to feel safe. Treat others as you would wish to be treated, I would not wish to die alone.

At Azra’s appointment with the vet it is as I feared, during the niggling dark hours. Her fast spiral downwards has been accompanied by cancer. The hidden shadow, that made her age so quickly in one week, that took her off her feet. A small patch of hairless skin on her belly, that I have been watching with fear, turned into a swelling. I didn’t want to say or write anything out loud, hoping in my silly way not to encourage anyone to think of it, not to add any energy to the growing shadow. Sitting in the clinic, smelling the stomach churning mix of weak disinfectant and illness, I listened to lots of French words that didn’t really join up into anything. All I concentrated on was Azra and Wynnie, watching how they breathed together, watching how they loved. Letting the words tumble over me like a shawl made of ice. My mind focused on the vile word ‘metastasis’, while my eyes lingered on the friends on the floor. I knew a decision had to be made, but I wanted to hide and be small. My wonderful nan, had this shadow, I felt the loss of her again, acutely intertwined with the moment.

If it has moved into her lungs then we say goodbye was my mantra while waiting for her Xray results. I know what to do, I know who she needs me to be. Wynnie sat on my lap, fat tears rolling down her soft cheeks. “I don't want Azzie to go, but I know how to be a good friend”, she said, while putting her earmuffs on straight. Her earmuffs that are not weather dependent, but mood associated. If she feels sad, or unwell, or if the humans around her have talked about eating her friends. She is Azra’s friend, today was definitely an earmuff day. There were 27 bottles on the top shelf in the cupboard, 3 different hand washes, 95 tiles on the floor that I could see... The wait seemed to stretch before me like a living thing, capricious yet unfeeling. I could hear the click of Azzie’s nails on the unforgiving floor. Had the wait been long because her lungs were riddled? Or long because they were double checking? The games we play in our minds are all the same.

The vet appears, I try to decipher what her smile was saying, looking into her eyes, is it bad news or really bad news?.... her smile watery, “her lungs are clear”. The tightrope between actions pings harder, the consequences, the responsibility, the weight. Knowing a tumour such as this may return in two months or in two years after removal. Knowing she is an old doggy and may not survive the operation. Knowing that age shouldn’t matter. I have elderly friends and family, would they be denied the chance for another year of life? No. So that is how we chose. She is pain free, if she passes under anaesthetic then that is peaceful. If she has extra moments and the will to reach out with her ginger hand and want to touch Wynnie then that’s as it should be. The vet has said she may regain her normal movement once the lump is removed. She will not know until she tries.

We have had vets in the past that told us Duchess our cow was meat on legs, to send her off, she would never walk. But we persevered, Duchess persevered, she walked. We have had the same said about Brynn sheep, Blossom pig.. They all move around now. We already have a wheelchair ready for Azra, if she wants it. Her operation was booked for Monday 9 am. I think Azra voted when she tried to run out of vets. The weekend was long, we had no way of knowing if she would make it to Monday. But if she didn't, then that’s as it should be. Whatever she decides to try, we will give her the option and when she doesn’t want to try, then I will step forward again instead of walking at her side. Are we making the right choice? Well that changes moment by moment, while she breathes rhythmically and her heart pounds, while she studies me with her inky dark eyes, and laps her water and snoozes in the sun, then that is as it should be. I will never let her suffer, but it’s up to her how she wants her life to be. Her quality of life has always been sleeping, eating and cuddles, so if she comes through the operation, then that won't change ...

Our old girl had her operation on a rather long and probably bizarre day for her. She came home on most painkillers the vet could throw at her. The lump removed has made the wound very tight due to lack of skin. She chomped through her last Wymsie and two marmite and tomato sandwiches. Wynnie has given her magical teddy that does the rounds to all that are poorly. Azra has drooled quite a lot on him, so he is sticking in place quite well. We turned her every two hours and bathed her operation site in silver every time we turn her. She was drinking well, but she only fancied her chia bones. Wynnie sleeps with her every night, and will not be tempted away for someone else to take a turn.

When those you love are hurting, it is always important to give unconditional love. To listen with an open heart, to give time. Gwynnevere has slept beside Azra now for four nights, she doesn’t care about anything apart from giving her friend support. I wish that I could bottle up her kindness and sprinkle it around the world like fairy dust. I look to her for guidance as she is just; she is logic wrapped in love. She follows me when she feels mummy is sad, she sits and holds my hand. We can talk about feelings with a laugh and with reverence. So gentle, so kind. We try to shield the children from the intolerance directed at us, but they seem wise beyond their years. Tiny humans raised to be compassionate to all. Their love, vulnerability, and strength shine in a glistening bubble. How to protect them in this human, inhumane world?

She has spent an hour reading and singing to Azra. She said “I know she's deaf, but she can feel my heart”. I hope one day all will feel hearts and wrap their thoughts in love. Then nobody will die alone or afraid. No distinction will be made between pets and farmed animals, for farming souls will be considered incorrect. Numbering folk that are different and treating them as things, will be frowned upon and no longer tolerated. I hope that Azra will make it through her operation and have joy again. The funds have been raised by generous donors, who hold our hands from afar. We are infinitely grateful for your kindness. We wrap you in our love and sprinkle you with Wynnie dust so that when you face challenges, you know you too are loved from afar.

If you would like to donate to help BigV Care for Azra, or any other residents, please visit our donations page or use our PayPal link

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Gwynnevere with Little B

There is nothing so crushing as seeing someone you care for hurting. Gwynnevere heard someone talking about eating pigs. It was a throwaway comment made by somebody that thinks of pigs as pieces of flesh, nothing more nothing less. The type of conversations we hear all the time, in every supermarket, on every TV channel, in most conversations about food. This idea is shoved down the throats of everyone, continually, unabashedly and subliminally. I don't know why this time was different for her. Perhaps it was the glib delivery or the empty laugh. Perhaps it was the mock caring of animals; perhaps because the human seemed to look kind; or perhaps Wynnie has reached that age where she can process more delicately.

She looked at me at the time with such despair, my heart trembled; for I knew I could not protect her from this cruelty and intolerance. Cruelty that is so widely accepted; to not just be tolerated, but glorified in all its myriad forms. To mock the victims with indifference towards their suffering. To ignore them to such an extent as to treat them as "things", "objects", numbers".

At the time I held her, for that is all I could do. I couldn't lie and say everything was ok or was going to be ok. I wasn't going to insult her intelligence. I just let her know she was loved and safe.

Today over a beautiful lunch, on a balmy sunny day. The birds chirruping in the trees; the drone of the bees almost deafening in the lavender. The garden folk milling about or snoozing in the indigo shade from the big, old, shelter tree. Wynnie looked at me and quoted almost word for word what the human had said in the supermarket; this time looking at me and saying "why mummy?" - why indeed?

“Because they do not know or understand, or maybe don't care, but you are safe here, there are many hundreds of thousands of people like you and me that do care, that will always care”. Wynnie replied, “how can anyone, anywhere be safe if people think it's ok to hurt someone because they are different?” I replied sadly, “because they don't see them as someone, they see them as things that don't feel anything, that killing them is an ok thing to do, as long as you use nice words to describe it.” Wynnie raised an eyebrow and said “how ridiculous, I'm only six and I know the difference between right and wrong, I know they feel, think, love and play, they are my friends”.

Wynnie then took herself down to the bottom of the garden and sat with Little B. I believe the look on Gwynnevere's face speaks volumes. I hope one-day people will realise how damaging consuming animals is for all the earth, the environment and themselves. That they will understand that with the growing thousands of plant-based children around them, how damaging it is to talk about killing with no reverence or personal responsibility. Times are changing, humans must change too. There are thousands of little ears around now that see the importance of all life and are touched deeply with ignorant comments about animals.

Memories of the summer heatwave

The heat is relentless, every creature is seeking respite; temperatures climb from 39 degrees. Our herd has been standing in the lake, sometimes up to their necks cooling off. Flicking water at themselves and each other. They have a big, clean field shelter in the shade, full of fresh straw. But the watering hole is where they choose to be. Happy chilling out, chewing the cud, not under any stress or obligation. They have had a large breakfast and in the ratelier lies a big round bale of just cropped meadow grass. Yet I know my herd are uncomfortable in the heat, but they have everything we can offer.

In comparison, those that are in the fields close by are lucky if they have trees. It is customary for all trees on the borders of fields to be removed. This eases the path for the tractor, making life more tolerable for the exploiter. Those girls kept in barns for their milk will be so uncomfortable. Genetically modified udders straining under the weight, heavy and pendulous. Skin stretched to breaking, veins throbbing, such pain. Unable to feel the comfort of their babies suckling. Their calves kept in little plastic hitches, the boiling sun causing a fetid stink of heated plastic and excrement. Little ones with no comfort and unable to escape. Just given milk formula to grow, as quickly as possible to keep their flesh soft and easy to chew. The countless millions in transporter lorries and ships. Squished together, unable to breath in the stifling heat. The urea stinging their eyes as it heats in the intolerable conditions. Scared and afraid, suffocating and boiling. The forgotten ones packed and processed. While we as humans celebrate the heat with bbq meals made from their bodies and ice creams stolen from their children.

Maybe my cows may feel uncomfortable in the heat, but they look to me with trust in their eyes. Choose a kinder diet please, with the least harm caused to other earthlings. They suffer just as we do.


Hello I'm Brynn. I have just spent the night in the garden, smooching around with my friends. It was warm, we talked about the day and what we hoped for breakfast and who might visit. I'm watching the goings on in the garden. Our humans were up with the birds, sorting out breakfast and filling our waters. Humum came and checked all our feet for pesky flies, there are so many this year and not enough birds. She painted all our feet with something that smells like flowers, so not too baaaad.
As the sun starts to ger hotter, the humans wilt and we all start to pant. I saw our human dad go off with the dogs before the sun was up. I could hear them all talking excitedly about swimming in the lakes. Humaam has come out to the garden with ice blocks for everyone and our bed in the barn is being cleaned out.

I know we are lucky as I remember my life before. My bed stayed the same for month, I never went outside. If it was hot, well we just had to get on with it. All panting and dirty, stuck side by side in the sheds. I remember friends that have come and gone. I used to run up to the shed doors and could see them being loaded onto huge trucks, all year. Freezing and icy in the winter, stinking of fuel and hot metal in the summer.

As I sit here in my garden, chewing ice pops under my shelter tree, I feel peace but with an underlying sadness. I know there are others like us, we can here them talking in the fields. Others that don't have ice pops, or feet checks or anyone that gives a damn if they are hurting or limping. Others that have lost friends and children onto those stinking trucks. We all know where they go, we might look stupid to humans, but we can smell death on those trucks. We all talk, we all think, we are not just "silly sheep". My humum sits looking at us, tears on her face. I know she's just seen something horrible. She sits in the garden for little moments, talks with us and we feel loved. The sorrow in her heart matches mine.

It's going to be so hot, the sun is white, the birds are quiet. Joy and Alf Turkey have tucked themselves by the pond. Clyde peacock is high up in the shady branches of the shelter tree and the cows are knee deep in the lake. I hope my friends on the trucks have a short journey and aren't too scared. Maybe the driver will change his mind and bring them here, for ice pops and shelter, I can hope, can't I ?

A Boy and His Pig and Her Boy

Hanging out together under the shelter tree, talking in whispers and grunts. Both watching a group of children who have come to visit. Neither wanting to be too involved, yet curious. The other children seem to be a different specie entirely, how I would imagine offspring from another world - indeed they are. Unable to interact with the animals, afraid of them but boisterous. Making jokes of the pigs, laughing at their muddy noses, yet afeared to be quiet and listen with their hearts. I watch my boy with his friend and feel sadness for the others. He shines in his compassion and understanding. Bess shines next to him in her trust and understanding. Both so similar and yet judged to be so different by the outside world. Two friends hanging out in the humid afternoon, both covered in mud from playing hide and seek and ball.

One little girl glances over at Louis and Bess and then looks at Teddy pig who is standing next to her. A little hand comes out and scratches his rather large and magnificent head. I hold my breath as the connection is made. A tentative smile plays on the little girls lips, fleeting and slightly clouded. There have been so many stories she will already have been told about pigs; that the truth of the situation she now finds herself in must be confusing. The seconds draw out into a perfect moment. A little girl and a pig, no difference in intelligence, just language and appearance. Each just being there in a shared moment. As quickly over as the flight of a butterfly. While Teddy decides to fall down for a scratch and take advantage of any love being given, the children move away. Teddy grunts his dissatisfaction at the unfolding situation of being scratchless. The little girl glances back, a look of longing on her face.

We can only hope that connection lasts and grows within her as a seed of compassion and understanding. That it flowers strong enough to withstand advertising, parents and peer pressure. That she will remember the quiet boy with his quiet pig sitting under the shelter tree while big Teddy came for a cuddle. That nothing was expected of her except to listen with her heart and act accordingly.