Stephen Wiltshire and Diane Marsh are living proof that connecting with farmed animals can profoundly influence someone’s life. They didn’t set out to become vegan and they certainly didn’t set out to start a farm sanctuary, but life—and the animals—had other plans.
With an idyllic rural property and a few animals already running around, it didn’t take long before they started rescuing animals in need of care and a home.
Diane says she has a special connection with a young steer named Scooter. When he was just a day or two old, he was in a livestock auction pen destined for slaughter when, she says, he called out to her. “He was scared and came up to me immediately when I went in their pen,” she says. Both Scooter and his friend Sparky went home with Diane that day.
They were sickly calves, a byproduct of the dairy industry that literally discards the males. Mother cows need to keep giving birth in order to lactate, but their babies are taken away immediately so that the milk can be bottled and sent to supermarkets. Calves like Scooter and Sparky typically end up as veal.
One day, Stephen went with Diane to an auction and came across a large male turkey crammed into a small cage at an auction. His sadness was palpable, says Stephen, and Thomas the turkey came home with them. According to Stephen, “Thomas loved people. He would always greet everyone when they drove in the driveway and follow everyone around the property.”
Even though Stephen and Diane only live with a few animals, giving them the care they need is a big undertaking. The day starts with breakfast and cleaning. Lunch is hay for the three cows, fruits and veggies for the donkey and the pigs, and sometimes apples for the goats. Lunch is followed by more cleaning, then dinner. At dusk, the animals need to be “tucked in” for the night. Stephen and Diane both contribute to the feeding, cleaning, and facility maintenance.
On weekends, volunteers often help with various tasks around the property and, of course, get to know the animals. It’s clear that the animals all thrive in the fresh air, ample space, and clean environment. The animals are friendly and calm—the mark of trust that results from loving caregiving.
Stephen and Diane know they can’t save all of the animals who are casualties of our food system, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Diane still thinks about an elderly pig who connected with her at an auction, and Stephen says he wishes they could help them all. He says, “Without a doubt, interacting with farm animals every day in a caring way will make you look differently at animal agriculture.”
To get in touch for a visit and see more pictures of the happy animals of the Happy Herd, visit their Facebook page here.