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Campus: Teaching Compassion for All The Satya Interview with
Sturla and Freddie
The New Doctors Without
With a name like Compassion Without Borders, this organization,
though based in Mexico, might easily be mistaken for the internationally-renowned
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières),
which provides emergency medical treatment to people worldwide.
These organizations are unrelated, but CWOB has perhaps a similar
mission, one that simply widens the borders to include nonhuman
animals. Their work serves to reduce and prevent animal suffering,
which they do mainly through two programs: spay/neuter camps, and
their rescue efforts (which you can view a sample video of through
Since 2001, CWOB has been establishing spay/neuter programs in developing countries,
mostly Mexico, to abate the number of unwanted animals roaming around cities,
where they are subject to cruelty and neglect. It is not rare for homeless animals
to be poisoned, end up as “motor sport” for bus drivers in urban
areas, or find themselves in government-funded collection centers known as antirrabicos,
where they are often kept without food or water until they are electrocuted sometimes
a week later.
The clinics are locally run and take the form of spay ‘camps,’ which
are organized as part of a collaborative effort with the Association of Veterinarians
for Animal Rights. These camps last one week, and provide not only free spay/neuter
services to areas with few resources at all, but also training for local vets
and advocacy groups who can then implement permanent services for the area.
CWOB also works largely with a shelter in Mexico City, Refugio Franciscano, in
addition to other groups, to run an international rescue effort for dogs in Mexico
and find them permanent homes in California, where participating groups are based
and are able to do some background checks on adoptive parents.
In accordance with their holistic community approach, CWOB also provides humane
education to children, and does outreach to the general community with food,
clothing, school supplies, etc. Children are given coloring books, and lessons
about animals and their needs, feelings, appropriate treatment, etc.
Animal Place veterans Christi Payne and Juan Ramon Camblor founded CWOB to promote
a sense of compassion for animals in areas where they are extremely overlooked
and neglected, and to implement means for people to put that compassion into
practice. To learn more, visit www.cwob.org.—R.C.
Kim Sturla has been a central figure
in the animal rights movement for 30 years. With a strong focus on
humane education, Sturla, originally a special education instructor,
wrote the first law in the country that protects pre-university students
unwilling to participate in animal dissections. Sturla also served
as the director of a Bay area humane society before co-founding Animal
Place, a farmed animal sanctuary—home for animals typically
raised for food production: cattle, sheep, goats, chickens (layers
turkeys, rabbits and pigs. Kim also currently serves as the Education
Director for the Fund for Animals. Kymberlie Adams Matthews had a
chance to speak with Kim Sturla about life on the sanctuary.
Let me begin by asking what is Animal Place?
It is home for over 150 abused and discarded farmed animals. These
rescued critters, indigenous wildlife, several staff members and myself
share 60 acres. But as Animal Place slowly grows it has really been
the education component that we focus on; trying to use the sanctuary
more as a tool, a classroom of sorts.
I believe that those of us with farmed animals have a real responsibility
to open up our sanctuaries to the public. People have such a powerful
with farmed animals that any time they have a chance to meet them face to face
or nose to snout—personalize that individual animal—it is more
difficult for them to go home and chomp on a burger. It is probably one of
the most powerful
forms of education.
When visitors meet Howie the cow or Brenda the pig firsthand they discover
the vitality, depth, and individuality of these animals that are typically
as food. There is just no denying it. Also because there are so many resources
being used here to save such few animals, I can’t personally justify it
unless we ‘use’ those animals as kind of ambassadors. They don’t
get a free ride here unless they give back—they are our poster kids for
all the other billions being killed every year.
We are actually publishing—it should be out by December—our first
catalog featuring all our educational events, called The Barnyard Campus.
What type of classes are you offering?
Well, aside from extending the tours quite a bit, we are going to offer ‘targeted’ tours.
Kids, adults, daytime, nighttime, and working tours (folks actually work the
sanctuary) will all still be a part of our program, but we are also going to
focus in on carnivores. ‘Eat Meat? Meet Me!’ tours will be for
carnivores, or provide a chance for vegetarians to invite a carnivore who gets
in for free.
We will conduct these tours with a little bit of tongue and cheek, a little
bit of humor.
We will also have volunteer training classes, special education classes on the
dog rescue program, the volunteer work days, vegan cooking classes and we also
started a vegetarian society with a few of our neighboring counties.
It’s funny, on one hand I think that most of our visitors probably do
eat animals and their products, as I am sure most of our supporters do too,
are not really preaching to the choir. We are just trying to offer different
ways to approach the farmed animal subject.
That sounds exciting. Do you have a personal favorite class?
My favorite is the vegan cooking class. It simply offers a winning combination:
educate members and show them why they should become vegetarian, and follow that
up by giving them the tools to make the transition. Teach people how to make
dietary changes, feed them and show them how to prepare that extraordinary delicacy,
How do you find situations where animals are abused? Can you tell us a few of
your rescue stories?
We have a couple of small slaughterhouses north of us and there have been a
few wayward animals that get lucky and are brought to us. Our most recent rescue
was Harold. He was found dying outside a slaughterhouse. It was a strange situation,
since Harold is a pygmy goat and they aren’t typically raised for meat.
It is hard to say exactly what his story was.
Also recent to Animal Place are two sweet hens from the broiler industry. They
came to us at a very young age, and they have all the typical difficulties with
their huge, enormous mass produced bodies. At the factory, broilers are usually
killed at six weeks, when they are already the size of adult birds due to genetic
breeding; their young bones simply cannot hold their weight and they collapse.
We are watching these girls closely.
Ten defenseless turkey chicks arrived a short while ago rescued from a factory
by a kindhearted woman. Tragically, although we got them when they were just
weeks old, they had already suffered enormously. Each is permanently disfigured,
having had their beaks and toes chopped off as part of routine industry procedure.
It took awhile for us to gain their trust and for them to feel secure and safe,
but they have begun to settle in and are now acting like the mischievous youngsters
One of our largest rescues was of Winona and her brood, she was one of more
than a million laying hens trapped without food or water after a tornado destroyed
the Buckeye factory farm in Ohio in 2001. Like the millions of other hens at
this farm, they were crammed in tiny wire cages. Volunteers were able to rescue
only a few thousand of the hens before bulldozing killed the rest. Winona and
several hundred of her ‘sisters’ are now thriving with us.
Then there is Jessie, a beautiful older cow who has been with us for over 15
years. Jessie saved her own life when she jumped out of a truck (speeding along
the highway) on her way to slaughter. The truck driver gave her to some kind
folks who saw the incident, and brought her to Animal Place.
Brenda Grace was one of many ‘production’ pigs born with hernias.
A farmer had a deal with a veterinary medical school whereby the students would
do the surgery and, if successful, he would buy back the pigs. The two students
assigned to this pig, however, could not bear the thought of her becoming ‘food.’ So
they convinced their instructor to allow them to find a sanctuary for her instead.
In honor of these two students, we named Brenda Grace after them.
I could go on and on and on, each and every one of these critters has a story
that would break your heart.
Why do you use the term ‘farmed’ instead of ‘farm’ when
referring to the animals?
We say “farmed” and not “farm” animal to emphasize that
this is how they are used, not who they are. Farmed animals are the most exploited
and least protected group of animals in the world. Twenty-seven million are killed
in the U. S. alone each day—nearly 19,000 per minute–equating to
a tragic total of 10 billion animals per year.
So tell me about your ‘5-H’ Campaign.
Basically, for generations, 4-H agricultural animal projects have taught kids
how to raise, love, and care for pigs, cows, goats, and other animals. Distressingly,
however, the final assignment—the displaying and selling of the animal,
destined for slaughter or the auction block—counters these earlier lessons,
separating children from their natural compassion. With this program, Animal
Place is offering 4-H participants the chance to “go 5-H” by adding “humane” to
their project descriptions.
The 5-H Campaign implements several strategies. First, we looked at who is
funding the FFA (originally called the Future Farmers of America) and 4-H programs.
our research it became clear that they are federally and state funded—our
taxpayer dollars are supporting these horrible desensitization programs for
Another one of our tactics has been to collect data on school campus slaughters.
There are essentially no animal care standards for these programs. There is
also no centralized database for any information regarding these school practices—so
we have been working to build one ourselves. Basically, we surveyed 186 agriculture
teachers and have gotten about one third of them to reply. We are using this
information to prepare legislation for next year. All this violence, it just
seems like such an inappropriate activity to allow at school.
Secondly, we are trying to get parents involved and we have designed opt-out
forms, which tell school administrators that parents want their kids pulled
out of class when agriculture business is in the curriculum. Thirdly, we have
meeting with the local FFA agriculture teachers—we want them to offer
kids the option of a non-exploitative FFA approved project to work with rescued
animals here at Animal Place.
I remember being young and wanting to join the 4-H program, just to
be with the animals. I don’t think kids even realize what they are getting
into. Luckily for me, there was no 4-H program in the area. I had to settle
Are you working on any other campaigns?
Yes, a few more are in the works. One, called Food for Thought, is probably dearest
to my heart. It is a campaign to encourage SPCAs and humane societies to become
consistent in their compassion toward all species and adopt an animal friendly
menu. Specifically, we are asking all animal welfare organizations to adopt a
vegetarian or vegan policy for their events. The response has been less than
warm, which we knew would be the case.
The good news, and what is really going to help immensely, is the Humane Society
of the United States (HSUS) just passed their vegan policy. They are seen as
the mothering organization for the SPCAs, shelters and animal control agencies.
And the fact that they have adopted a vegan policy may just be the major breakthrough
to bring others along. All HSUS expos, trainings, conferences will be vegan.
It is huge.
Another part of this campaign is targeting the environmental community. They
have the same responsibility to adopt a vegan policy as shelters do, just different
reasoning. An animal protection organization shouldn’t be serving dead
animals at their events. An environmental agency shouldn’t be endorsing
the desecration of our earth. It is just a huge hypocrisy. They don’t even
have to announce it is a vegetarian function—serve pasta!
Does Animal Place adopt any of the animals out?
Very rarely. In general there are very few people who want to adopt. Most people
don’t take proper care of their dogs let alone farmed animals.
What is the biggest challenge for you in this endeavor? What is the greatest
A very rich life, rarely monotonous. There are extreme joys and celebration
each time you save somebody, but you deal more with the extreme woes because
seeing the results of cruelty. We have been on a couple local cruelty cases
ourselves because animal control won’t do anything about it. One was the recent rescue
of Bert who was a seven year-old durox pig who was the worst starvation case
I have ever seen, in all my years in animal control and humane work. I mean he
was a skeleton—a skeleton with hide draped over him. On another case,
somebody alerted us to a pasture with almost a hundred goats and sheep with
no care. We found no less than two dozen animals dead in different stages of
decomposition. Seeing all that stuff firsthand is why we really have to give
ourselves time to rejoice and to just have fun with the successes. We need
to balance that out.
Tell me about the food—I know how much my two cats eat, it feels
like I am always picking up another can of food. How much do you go through?
A lot! It is nice to point out though that we have a relationship with grocery
stores. Every day, seven days a week, we pick up hundreds and hundreds of pounds
of produce, day-old produce—and everybody eats it. It’s great!
It actually pulls the animals off commercial feed which has a whole bunch of
in it. It is also environmentally a great system. The food is not wasted and
it goes back to the earth as wonderful fertilizer.
Beyond that, gosh our vet bills and feed bills, I don’t even want to go
there. It’s a lot. Every drop off from the feed store is $500. So the cost
is up there. Different hays, rye, pig pellets, bunny pellets, goat pellets, chicken
scratch, all our bedding material. That’s the typical stuff delivered
Do you have any closing words?
A couple thoughts come to mind. After coming to Animal Place and getting down
on the ground and rubbing a big ol’ sow’s belly, who is grunting
with pleasure, you hope people remember it the next time they go grocery shopping.
It is very hard to chow into some spare ribs after rubbing Izabella’s belly
and it’s almost impossible to order chicken nuggets after seeing the poor
little birds here who have been debeaked. At Thanksgiving time, reflecting on
the turkeys who really just don’t have any beak left and who have been
de-toed and are basically crippled.
One time a reporter asked me what I want people to come away with after visiting
Animal Place, and I think what we really try communicating is compassion for
all. That sounds so basic. It is interesting having the dogs here. When we
give tours it is almost easier to see that connection between the value of
a dog and
that of a pig—the ability of one to suffer and not the other. We talk about
how these doggies are going to the clinic to be sterilized. How they will be
under anesthesia during the operation and have postoperative pain meds. How they
will come back to their kennel with a warm blanket. Then we’ll explain
how they do it to young little piglets, or young calves, and really spell out
the incredible difference of how we treat and how we relate the pain that two
mammals feel. Where one is just completely discounted and the other we address
responsibly. I think compassion for all life would be the one message we would
want all people to take away from here. To understand the connection.