Five weeks ago my friends and family started on a 7-week challenge to go meatless. This program is incremental whereby participants are encouraged to go meatless only 1 day the first week, 2 days the second week and so on. The first week starts on Monday, i.e., Meatless Monday. I explained the entire program in an earlier post including the weekend challenge. Meatless weekend days can be the most challenging. During the week we can go on auto-pilot and eat whatever meals we have planned but on the weekend people are different. So, to reiterate the last two challenges on the weekend they are as follows. Saturday is “Seitan or Seeds, Nuts, Legumes Saturday” and Sunday is “Sanctuary/Shelter Sunday”. Both of these challenges will begin to make sense when I explain to you a conversation that I had with a Terri Williams, Shelter Director for Fairfield Animal Rescue in Winnsboro, South Carolina.
Princess is a 2-year old brindle pit bull who will be killed next week to make space in the shelter if an adopter, foster or rescue does not step in to save her. She is heartworm negative and has $225 in volunteer pledges towards her rescue. Contact the shelter at 803-385-6341 or e-mail @ email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Currently, there are five dogs on the SUPER URGENT list at Chester County Animal Control in Chester, South Carolina. Four of the five are female and two are pit bulls. Working as a long-distance volunteer for this shelter, I reached out to an animal rescue (this was number 14 of 36 that I had contacted thus far) to ask if they had availability to pull any of these dogs into their shelter and she did not because she currently has fifteen animals up for adoption, in her home, and one cat, who is her main companion animal to care for. ”Helping animals can be the most heart-breaking and rewarding work that you will ever do.” Without missing a beat, Terri described her experiences working as an animal control officer and running her own shelter. She described how people conducted dog fights in the woods which began and ended with a car horn in broad daylight. Her main complaint is how South Carolina’s laws define our relationship with companion animals as “owner”, us, and “property”, them. However, in California the term “owner” has been changed to “guardian”. While at the outset these terms mean very little to the “owner” or “guardian” but the truth is staggering in practice. Protection laws are very light when it comes to property (and it is even worse with farm animals) and she along with many others are fighting to change these laws.
Terri’s cat Duster
Terri’s companion cat is named Duster. Duster is paralyzed from the waist down due to an accident with a car door as a kitten and Terri stepped in to adopt her and then try to rehabilitate her. Her vet told her that Duster would not last past a few weeks to a few months because there was damage to her colon. Terri did expensive, but discounted, physical therapy for a while then bought Duster a wheelchair. Duster did not like it because it straightened out her severely curved spine and made her feel very uncomfortable. That wheelchair is now an expensive wall decoration in Terri’s house. Terri said, “I removed the wheelchair and Duster looked much happier and moved on about her business.” She continued, “That’s the way most animals are. If they have a screwed-up jaw, bent tail, missing eye, any kind of physical abnormality, they don’t care. They just move on through their life with grace and dignity. That is what Duster has taught me. She has taught me about how gracious animals can be about the world. And you can see this if you just observe them and let them into your heart.”
Terri also explained how she became a vegetarian in 1977 after assembling chicken parts to make fried chicken for her and her husband. She said that she just couldn’t continue on with the meal when she started sobbing. She began to see them as animal body parts. (Side note: As I have become more involved in companion animal rescue, I am find more vegetarians among the rescue community than in my everyday life.) Terri said that in her pre-veg days she LOVED eating meat. She has not tried seitan but I sent her links to my recipe for Grilled BBQ Barbecue Ribz and other people’s recipes on the internet. There are loads of recipes using this versatile protein. She was thrilled! So, this describes Saturday’s challenge. Find a way to use seitan in a recipe for the day. It is such a good transitional protein from an omnivore to plant-based diet. If you can’t stomach it try a new seed, nut or legume.
Rescues like Terri’s need more help from volunteers to find homes for the massive amount of homeless animals that they are dispatched with. The problem is enormous. The county animal control centers also desparately need volunteers to take photos of the animals and post them on the internet, walk the dogs, socialize with them, work with aggressive animals to make them more adoptable, clean the kennels and stalls, bathe and groom them, network them to safety (what I try to do in my spare time) and ask them “What can I do to help?” Most importantly, they need fosters! Shelters everywhere are overwhelmed beyond belief.
There are many opportunities as well in assisting farm animal sanctuaries. This experience can range anywhere from sponsoring an individual animal’s care at a set dollar amount to cleaning the animals’ living quarters, conducting group tours . . . Both of these experiences whether working for a companion animal shelter or farm animal shelter will open you up to the plight of animals. So Sunday’s challenge is this. On week 7 of this challenge I am asking friends and family to seek out an animal shelter and ask them “What can I do to help?” If no conceivable opportunity exists to volunteer to help animals, then tour a sanctuary (just switch your weekend days as most are open on Saturdays on the weekend). If a tour is not feasible then please open your eyes and your heart and read an excellent book about the plight of farm animals or companion animals. Watch a documentary such as Forks Over Knives, Peaceable Kingdom, Earthlings and the Meet Your Meat video (also available to watch for free here). There are many farm animal sanctuaries throughout the U.S. and there is a companion animal shelter in nearly every county/province. Make sure to call them in advance if you would like a tour because the staff usually have limited availability and most of the time will schedule tours in advance. Terri said, “Animals are not commodities! They are not property! They are here as one of many of us put on this earth by God. We are their stewards.”