By Avril A. Brown
Being neither vegan nor even vegetarian, I have no particular axe to grind over how or what other people eat. I am, however, very sensitive to the contradiction of eating animals and yet claiming to be an animal lover, and I am certainly conscious of the impact of industrialized animal farming on our increasingly fragile ecosystems. Previously, I tried to address these twin concerns by sourcing ethical animal products (if it can be argued that such things exist).
Then through social media, I became aware of a very special animal sanctuary called Tribe Animal Sanctuary Scotland (TASS). After following them on Facebook for some time, I was delighted to have the chance to visit.
Nestled in Scotland’s Clyde Valley, the 11-acre site is home to around 100 “food” animals rescued from slaughter, neglect, or abuse. The sanctuary was set up 2-1/2 years ago by tattoo artist Morag and her husband John as the culmination of a long-held dream.
As she introduced me to some of their 100 resident animals, Morag said, “I’ve been vegan for 25 years and I’ve wanted to set up a sanctuary to rescue farm animals for almost as long.” Morag’s activism has matured over the years. Less an “angry vegan” now, as she puts it, she prefers to help people make the connection between the meat and dairy on their plates and the animals she cares for.
Making the connection is the TASS mantra. Morag and John firmly believe that the pigs, sheep, goats, Highland cows, chicken, turkeys, and donkeys have just as much intelligence and personality — and therefore intrinsic value — as all the cats, dogs, rabbits, and other domesticated animals that we currently celebrate as pets. However, most people never meet any of these creatures, let alone get to know their personalities. That’s why TASS encourages visitors to come and meet the animals, in the hope that by being able to look into the eyes of a sheep or a chicken, people will make a connection that will encourage them to forego meat in the future.
TASS is a peaceful place, relaxed and full of love. None of the animals are required to “perform” or to “earn” their living; they are simply allowed to be. The joy and satisfaction they bring to Morag is obvious — her face lights up when she talks about them. I asked her if she had a favorite species or animal among her crew.
“They are all so different,” she responded. “They’re so special in their own ways that I love them all and couldn’t possibly choose just one. Every animal at TASS has a name and they all have their own story.”
I loved meeting and learning about all the animals. Who knew that every sheep has its own individual and recognizable bleat, or that goats have a sense of mischief and humor? Or that turkeys have strong opinions about who they do and don’t like?
TASS has grown remarkably in its short existence. Morag’s and John’s ambitions for the future include expanding their outreach work, offering guests the opportunity to stay at the sanctuary and work on a variety of projects, and of course continuing to rehome as many animals as they can accommodate. They also hope at some point to develop as a wildlife rescue.
My visit to TASS has certainly left me with a lot to think about.
I do definitely feel differently about what I eat. I no longer consume pig, lamb, or turkey, and I choose far more vegetarian meals than before. I used to love bacon, but I’m not sure I could eat it now, not after seeing how smart and funny pigs really are when given the chance to be themselves.
Whatever your own stance may be on meat consumption, I think it’s obvious that there is a lot that is not right within the world of intensive agriculture and factory farming. I’m not here to lecture or pressure anyone; instead, I would just like to suggest that we no longer consider animals as “products” — and that we give them the credit of being sentient beings who deserve better lives and living conditions.