Eureka

Eureka

Around 265 BC, a Greek scholar and mathematician named Archimedes dipped his toe into a tub at the public baths in Syracuse, with his leg following suit. In doing this, Archimedes watched the water level rise. Lowering himself more fully into the water, he saw it continue to do so, ultimately spilling over the sides of the bath. At this point, Archimedes recognised that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body that had been submerged.

So excited about this discovery was Archimedes that he immediately jumped out of the bath and ran all the way home crying out, “Eureka, eureka,” which is Greek for “I have found it, I have found it”. In his glee, Archimedes failed to find his clothes and he ran home stark naked. However, what Archimedes was referring to was a way to determine the answer to a problem he had been posed by Hiero of Syracuse on how to assess the purity of gold in a golden crown. Continue reading

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Because it means something …

Pam Chicken Save Rally

When I was six years old, right about this time of year, I came to this very spot with my family.  It was something so many families did, tugged along by excited children and lured in by the enchanted Christmas windows of Myer. And we did this because it meant something to us – the spirit of Christmas, the promise of presents and the essence of family, it all meant something to us.

Ironically enough, I stand here today, gathered with like-minded individuals who have given up their time because today means something to us all.  However, it is not the intricate, colorful and mesmerising windows of Myer that captures our hearts and minds, but images of animals caught in the crossfire of our humanity and culinary pleasure.  Of beautiful, intelligent, sensitive, curious, emotional, witty, playful and sentient animals who sadly will never experience the peace and goodwill that is purported to be showered on all at this time of year. They will never realise their potential or enjoy their place in the sun.  In fact, for most of these animals, the very first time they will see the sunshine or feel and breathe fresh air will be on the last day of their lives as they are trucked off to slaughter.  Continue reading

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What you choose to do next …

MissMarple,pamandblossom

It’s a scenario that repeats itself many times during my day: the phone rings, a desperate caller seeking my assistance, and one thought runs through my head. Just one thought; “what I choose to do next could save a life”. I don’t man the phones at 000; I don’t work in a doctor’s surgery; nor am I an ambulance officer. My name is Pam Ahern, and I am the Founder and Director of Edgar’s Mission, a not for profit haven for rescued farmed animals. But what is at the core of who I am is just the same as what is at the core of all the people who sign up for those roles. An individual with power, so much power. Despite my diminutive pint-size of 54 kg, that power is played out daily, never more so than just after the phone rings.

A call from a pound worker seeking a refuge for an escapee farmed animal; from a distraught parent whose child lovingly brought home from a kindergarten chicken-hatching project chicks who have just morphed into a dozen testosterone-charged and vocal roosters; or from a kind-hearted yet naïve adolescent who bought two bobby calves to spare them being killed as surplus to the dairy industry’s needs—the list is as endless as the number of animals who need sanctuary, and whilst my thought remains the same, so does the reality. I cannot save them all. Continue reading

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The point of change

eye

As someone who is still coming to terms with the fact I have an iPhone and not ‘my phone’, is yet to master my computer’s keyboard, and cannot reconcile the cyber melody that is social media and struggles to navigate the forested paths of Facebook, it should be no surprise to hear that I rarely venture into her darkened woods. So if you’ve sent me a friend request I haven’t responded to, included me in a notification I’ve missed, tagged me in something I haven’t seen or invited me to an event I never showed up for, well there’s your answer, sorry :(

But every now and then a curiosity is too enticingly inviting for me to ignore and I am lured in to find out more. This happened most recently with a posting (hope I’ve got that term right) that came up on my Facebook feed . I chanced upon what seemed to be a rather innocuous image of a girl’s legs that looked like they had been cryovaced. It beats me why someone would do that, but given the plethora of other inane things people seem to do coupled with their need to post such exploits on social media, I just put this image down to yet another embarrassing social faux pas and moved on. Moved on, that is until the repeated occurrence of the image and subsequent discussion around it finally lured me in to find out just why this image had so captured people’s attention. Continue reading

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The curious place of animals

Little John and Pam

Walt Disney said, “around here however we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things; because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”.

I was just seven years old when curiosity lead me down a path that was to take me into my parents’ bedroom and behind my mother’s dresser to where she had carefully stashed the Christmas presents intended for my sister and me. My mum’s words of “Don’t go behind my dresser” was enough to tell this intrepid young and curious sleuth where to look. Carefully unwrapping each little curio, my heart beat faster over the animal figurines I came upon, as I knew their future and mine would be soon intertwined, come December 25th. I wished to linger longer, but knew if I did, the chances of that shared future not happening would be exponentially heightened. So I rewrapped the paper, retracing the original folds and sticky tape lines perfectly—well, as perfectly as any overexcited seven-year-old could. Curiosity sated, I made my way back to the kitchen and trusted no-one had become curious over my absence as I resumed playing with my toy animal farm set. Continue reading

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Let me tell you about a pig called Max

Max

The first time I saw Max, I thought just two things and felt just one. The first thing I thought was, “Oh my; he is sooo big,” which quickly led to the second thing: “How am I going to get him into the horse float?!”.

You see, Max, a rather elderly boar (that’s an uncastrated male pig) was holed up at a country pound after he had been found wandering the streets of Castlemaine. Castlemaine, while once known as a gold rush town, is known today as the home of KR Castlemaine Pork Products, so it wasn’t really a good place for a pig to find his pot of gold. But no one told Max that, in fact, no one told Max too many things. Continue reading

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Foreign

Foreign

An eight-year-old young girl slowly opens her eyes in a bed that is not her own. Her throat parched and sore from a recent tonsillectomy, she struggles to swallow but a burning lump prevents this. Frightened and confused, she battles to take in the unfamiliar world around her that is a hospital ward. A sleeping nun sitting in the chair next to her is summoned from her slumber; this is the moment she had been waiting for. A gentle smile caresses her face as she rises, placing a cool cloth to the forehead of the child, without words she speaks a softness the young girl quickly understands: that all will be well.

Although the child welcomes the gesture, a fire still rages within her throat—in a desperate attempt to snuff it out, she mouths the words, “Water, can I please have a glass of water?”. Just one sip of water is all the salvation that is needed and the glass is returned as the comforted child lays back down and rests once more. Continue reading

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The Promise

The Promise

When you make a promise you are telling someone you will definitely do something, or that something will definitely happen in the future. And I can say with the greatest honesty, pride and exhilaration, and with the biggest smile on my face, that when you fulfil one there are few greater joys. This is the story of one such promise.

I cannot remember the exact date I first saw the small white female goat tethered on a cold, unforgiving metal chain outside the knackery that was all but a stone’s throw from the heart of Melbourne. But I will always remember my parting words to her all those years ago: “I’ll save you, I promise.”

The Promise
Continue reading

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We can do better….

We Can Do Better

Alvin Toffler “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”

It was November 17, 1970, and the then Chief Secretary of the Victorian State Government, Sir Arthur Rylah, made the announcement that the wearing of seat belts would be mandatory in all cars. The effect on road trauma was great as the death toll from road accidents plummeted along with the number of people suffering horrific and debilitating injuries, and Victoria became the world’s first legislature to decree mandatory wearing of seatbelts. This happened for one reason, and one only, because we, as a society, knew we could do better. But our way of thinking did not change overnight; it was a hard-fought battle going back to the 1930s where lone voices in the wildernesses gathered both momentum and numbers until doing anything less than changing our legislation would not be in keeping with public opinion. Continue reading

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Making your mark

Edgar Zorro

In 1919, Johnston McCulley created a fictional character who was to make his mark on generations. This character, Don Diego de la Vega, and his alter ego, Zorro, morphed from the pages of comic books to the movie screen and although undergoing changes throughout the years, the typical image of Zorro saw him as a dashing black-clad masked outlaw who defended “the commoners” against tyrannical officials and other villains as his hallmark Z became his insignia. My first introduction to Zorro came by way of the Disney TV series, and I have to say I was hooked. I loved the TV series for many reasons beyond its entertainment value. Zorro won my heart for his passion, courage and sense of justice, and he also filled many of my dreams. But not casting myself as his fair damsel in distress—no, I would be his accomplice, tagging along, forthright as any five-year-old could be, as we stood: champions of all things good. Zorro had indeed left an inedible mark on me; I guess it could be said Zorro was to help pave the way for the sense of justice I hold so close today. Continue reading

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Animals, my teachers, my friends

Animal friends

Like most, I have had important teachers in my life who have inspired and guided me, yet the most profound teacher I have ever had lies buried at the entrance of Edgar’s Mission. A landrace, large white pig I came to love and adore, and whom I named Edgar Alan Pig. Now he lies interned beneath a carved wooden sculpture of a pig with wings, with a rooster dutifully standing on his back, a stoic reminder to all who pass through our front gates of why we exist.

Edgar changed my life forever, as he taught me the most important things in life are not things, but rare moments in time that will live forever in one’s heart. Until the time Edgar trotted into my life all I had ever wanted to do was ride horses, and while it took some time convincing my parents to even allow me anywhere near a horse, it was something I was able to do with what many would call great success. However, amongst the trophies and accolades I always felt there was something missing. It took a little piglet with an incredibly big heart to show me just what that was. Continue reading

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Now you see it—magicians, MLA and the art of misdirection

Misdirection 

Dedi got the ball rolling in ancient Egypt in 2700 BC as one of the first recorded magicians, then in 50–300 AD groups of magicians known as Acetabularii performed tricks using cups and balls in ancient Rome. More recently, in 1983, David Seth Kotkin (better known as David Copperfield) made the Statue of Liberty “disappear” in front of a live audience on Liberty Island. In that same year, Dutch magician Richard Ross mystified the world with his flawless linking rings trick. At the heart of these seemingly magical manoeuvres is art of misdirection or sleight of hand. Illusionists throughout the ages have employed it to gain fame, fortune and more recently increased sales of lamb on Australia Day. Continue reading

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You’ve got a friend in me…

Friends

He sits on my shoulder, trots alongside me when I go for walks and even rides on my head as I push bike around the farm. He loves scratches under the chin as he drops both his eyelids and his guard, and melts off into blissful oblivion. With equal measure, he loves going for rides in the car as he does pecking at the keyboard as I type away on the computer. He loves inspecting my ears and holds great aspirations of becoming a toothpick and he is my new best friend. His name is Red Baron, and he is a tiny rooster chick.

Red Baron

I can only imagine the terror, confusion and bewilderment that embraces male chicks shortly after their sex has been determined and they are tossed aside, only to be killed, an inconvenient truth of the egg producing industry. They must honestly feel like they haven’t a friend in the world. Gassed, frozen and then sold off as snake food, Biggles and Red Baron somehow managed to navigate the blizzard of cruelty. They were surrendered into our care at just two days old, sadly little Biggles proved not long for this world, the ravages of his ordeal proving just too great. Quickly showing himself to be endearing, trusting and vulnerable, Red Baron was in desperate need of a friend. With no mother’s wing to seek refuge under, an upturned teddy, heat lamp, hot water bottle and a ticking clock proved a poor second. Readily accepting my outstretched hand and kindness, as a spot on my shoulder (or head, whichever takes his fancy) became his perch.

Red Baron

Despite his great difference in form to that of our own we can already see logic in his behaviours. When it is cold Red Baron snuggles under my hair for warmth and security as he cheekily peeps his little head out to announce “I am here” – seeking reassurance he is not alone in much the same way a young child does. When he comes for walks with me around the farm and realises I have moved on, he makes haste, chirps madly and catches up. He takes great pride in his appearance as his fluffy down gives way to quilled feathers, pecking at their itchiness. In short, he feels. Continue reading

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Learning to fly

Edgar Alan Pig

It was 1997 and there I awkwardly sat with nine other equally uncomfortable people. While different in circumstance, we were united in need—in need of a job. I and around 60 other hopefuls had made it to round two of the interview process for a local manufacturing company. Ushered into a large hall, we were soon divided into several groups and seated around a designated table. It was in attentive silence we sat as our task for the day was explained. And that task was to make paper planes—but with a difference. We were not to make the good old-fashioned, two folds and you’re done type plane. No this plane was much more complex and would involve group participation. As such we were to form an assembly line to produce the final product—a state-of-the-art paper plane, coloured, with wings and a couple of other whizz-bang things that have taken leave of my memory. We would need to rotate through the tasks, undertake quality control, manage stocks and maintain efficiencies: all the while working as a team with a common goal.

“And your time starts now.” Continue reading

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Recognition

Buster

Recognition is a noun. It is described as the action or process of recognising or being recognised, in particular: identification of a thing or person from previous encounters or knowledge. It is the acknowledgement of the existence, validity or legality of something. The verb is to recognise.

On Tuesday 6th of October 2015, we recognised the all-too-familiar sights, sounds and smells of bushfire as Edgar’s Mission stood between the out-of-control “planned” burn and the fire’s sinister plan to take over the world. Recognising the imminent danger we faced, we swung into gear to protect everything we loved and had worked so hard to achieve. As pilots of water-bombing helicopters recognised the close proximity of our four dams to the fire, these dams became a critical arsenal in the assault on the fiery menace. The cacophony of noise and embers that engulfed our tranquil sanctuary was met with an equal dose of choking smoke sent billowing over the farm and sending the sun to another realm while robbing our airways of their ability to breathe. And, in a paddock nestled between the two dams that had become a pit stop for the choppers to re-energise their firefighting efforts, our terrified sheep huddled. Continue reading

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Now you see it …

Now You See It

As a long-time resident of this district, and having traversed the roads many times over the years, I feel I know most of her landmarks. This served me well during our search over the last couple of years for our new forever home. Scouring internet pages and newspaper listings for any property on acreage that was fair game, I was readily able to identify locations and quickly assess pros and cons: closing my eyes and imagining, “Is this the one?” Coming into the mix every so often was a property in the lovely township of Monegeetta; although the word “mansion” coupled with a multi million-dollar price tag and small acreage saw me quickly flick to the next listing. In fact, one property that saw us really doing the sums was closely linked to this one. Although the Monegeetta property was never a contender for our final resting place, each time it popped up it unearthed just that little bit more information that caused me to be just that little bit more curious. But I never knew exactly where this property was, despite my cursory glance each time I drove through the town looking for the “mansion”. Never knew where it was until recently, when someone remarked, “Have you seen the mansion in Monegeetta?” to which I replied, “No, I know it’s around there somewhere but I have never seen it”. I was quickly informed the property with its mysterious mansion was located just south of the military proving ground smack bang in the centre of Monegeetta. “Really?” I remarked in astonishment, “In all my years I have never seen it, yet must have driven past it a squillion times”. So the next time I drove through the town, I slowed a little, and low and behold I saw the mansion. There, just shy of the road, it stood in all its hauntingly magnificent glory. It was huge—how on earth could I have missed it? Continue reading

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Starry, starry night – the passing of two stars

Starry starry night

She first graced the silver screen way back in 2006. Her debut film was to be her one and only, but her mark was indelible. While no Oscar or Golden Globe award would ever grace her mantelpiece and no paparazzi ever camped outside her home, her starring role earned her a lifetime of every comfort imaginable. She was a star; she was a diva; she had many adoring fans—and she was a pig. Lily Pig, along with 45 of her siblings, played Wilbur in the cinematic portrayal of E.B. White’s classic tale Charlotte’s Web. Plucked from the obscurity of the pigsty on a factory farm, these pigs did what so few pigs ever do—they lived. They lived rich, full and long lives, Paramount Pictures along with Animals Australia ensuring they did so. Proving that pigs really do have wings, the porcine stars were flown to far-flung places around the country, settling into the hearts and homes of their new forever families. I was truly fortunate to be one of those families and Lily one of those pigs. Daisy Pig and Mrs Peaches were also to call Edgar’s Mission “home sweet home”.

About the same time, another famous piglet was to trot into my life. The world knew her as Bella but I loved her as Miss Pompy Do. Pompy too rubbed shoulders with movie stars and the rich and famous. She circumnavigated the Sydney Opera House on the leash of Oscar-award-winning actor James Cromwell, she featured in women’s magazines in the arms of celebrities and she toured Australia squealing for a better deal for pigs. Retiring from active duty, she quickly settled into her straw-filled stable with Lily and the two became lifelong best friends.

Starry starry night Continue reading

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An inconvenient truth

An inconvenient truth 

Did you know that Al Gore enjoys the company of Bill Gates? Legend has it the pair met under a tree in a park where they quickly became fast friends. Today they like to hang out together sharing confidences, digging up grubs and picking up chicks. The truth of the matter is that Al Gore and Bill Gates are roosters. They came to our sanctuary after they were found one night huddled together in a national park as wildlife carers were releasing some barn owls. Somehow defying predators and an inhospitable world, the two had managed to survive, they are indeed amongst the fortunate ones. Sadly, most roosters are not so lucky.

Such is the lot of roosters that we no longer measure our days here at Edgar’s Mission by hours or minutes but by the number of calls, emails, Facebook posts and text messages we receive to take in these hapless lads. By far the greatest number are graduates from school or kinder hatching programs who are much loved members of a family; others are backyard hens who have morphed into roosters; and yet others surplus animals from breeders—whatever their origin, all are looking down the same grim barrel at death.

Continue reading

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“What did you do yesterday?”

Little Miss Sunshine

It’s a thought exercise we pose regularly to students as part of our humane education program, ‘Joining the dots’. We ask them to write their detailed list on an A4 sheet of paper. At the same time we have Paula, Little Miss Sunshine Hen’s personal assistant, pen the many activities this inquisitive and industrious little hen got up to the previous day. But we also charge her with the additional task of writing down on another A4 sheet of paper just what Little Miss Sunshine did in her day two years ago, prior to coming to Edgar’s Mission. Amidst much chattering and scribbling the bell tolls, and it’s pens down. The children are then requested to hold up their pieces of paper while Paula holds up the two lists of LMS’s exploits. However one sheet is blank. Continue reading

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Why?

They speak in tongues we cannot understand; their cries fall on deaf hearts, yet their plea is always the same, “Why?”

Why

It was more than profound that the heavy wooden yokes we cut from the necks of a recently arrived herd of Boer goats, perfectly formed the letter ‘Y’. For ‘why’ must be a word that runs constantly through the minds of animals. “Why are you doing this to me?” “I don’t understand why you want to hurt me/take my babies away/lock me away so I cannot move or do any of the things that are important to me.” Placed on the goats in an attempt to curb their happy wanderings through fences and held in place with wire and hose tubing, the yokes failed to achieve their goal but what they did leave in their wake were hairless patches of well-worn skin and sores on the necks of the hapless animals.  So long had been their burden that the wood had been worn smooth, constantly caressed by the animals’ fur and bathed in their oils.

Why Continue reading

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Desire

Desire

Desire – noun.

         A strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.

On the 23rd of January 2015 we opened our hearts and farm gates to Snoopy, an adorable little palomino miniature horse. Unfortunately for Snoopy, she suffers from all that is wrong with selective breeding for a single trait, in her case this is being small. With a limited gene pool dwarfism is not that uncommon in the miniature pony breed. As renowned author and Professor of Animal Science, Temple Grandin states, “If you over-select for a single trait, you are going to cause problems in the animal.”

While Snoopy’s big bug eyes, knock-knees and large forehead make her look rather cute, sadly these conditions will herald health issues and make her frail beyond her years. Despite these things, it was our desire to give little Snoopy the best and safest life possible. Not quite wrapping her in cotton wool, we kept her close by the barn so we could watch her every move, walking her to a luxurious straw filled stable each night so no harm could befall her. Continue reading

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Something I had to do…

Something

Whilst it could never be described as a panic attack, it was more of a heightened sense of anxiety that would swell, threaten to engulf me and then subside as quickly as it sprang forth.  For several months now something has been eating away at me, causing me to move uncomfortably in my thoughts and distracting me throughout my days.  It has been tugging at my conscience, waking me at night (when I do manage to catch a few hours’ sleep) and building to make me more anxious each day; because there was just something I knew I had to do.  For some time I have been able to keep this nagging feeling at bay, knowing all was well but with the imminent sale of my old farm, Edgar’s Mission Mark 1, crunch time was nigh.  Because I knew full well that once I closed that front gate for the last time, there would be no way of going back.  No way of ever again stealing a silent moment under a starlit sky, taking in the wonder of the universe and seeing the crystal clarity of just what I need to do in the company of my Edgar.

Of course I know he will always be with me in spirit but the heartache of knowing that his bones would remain there in the ground, to be walked over each day by hearts that never knew of, or even cared about his glory, was too much for me ever to rest in comfort.  And the horror I would feel if I were to one day learn that the ground in which my buddy had been laid to rest had been dug up, and his bones tossed aside as garbage. And so I knew just what I had to do, my only challenge was how. Continue reading

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Give something to someone who needs it more than you

Kindness 

I have a confession: I am a collector.  Now some may call my habit of collecting various memorabilia ‘hoarding’, however I protest. I am a collector and I am a meticulous one at that.  This fact was painstaking obvious during the recent relocation to our new farm, which not only involved moving 350 plus animals but also my 50 odd years of collecting and its associated umpteen boxes of ‘stuff’!!  I have just about every diary I have ever written in, every pay slip ever received, stamps from way before I was born, (my specialty was Australian pre-decimal and Papua New Guinean)- sadly the advent of a not for profit sanctuary for rescued farmed animals put paid to buying any more stamps.  I have a wonderful collection of matchbooks (little match boxes from all sorts of places), a tie collection, a flag collection, countless horse magazines and newspaper clippings.  And I must confess, I have a collection of pig tusks but please don’t panic as they all have been ethically removed from our boy piggies in the name of good animal husbandry.  I am really not sure how that collection started but I don’t have the heart to end it or to throw the tusks disrespectfully away. Oh and books! Don’t start me on books!  I have made it my personal mission for my library to be called home by just about every book relating to farm animals, their health, welfare and behavior, along with just about every animal rights book published.  I cannot pass a second hand bookstore or jumble sale, least a bargain pass me by.  And an avid currency watcher I have become, waiting to pounce when the Australian Dollar is good against the ‘green back’ and then to amazon.com I jump.  Oh and there is my collection of piggy treasures – made up of pig statues, trinkets and all sorts of things porcine. There’s horse show ribbons, prize cards and trophies, school reports and birthday greeting cards.  And there’s collector cards- supermarkets love me for whenever they bring out an animal card series I am there!  Their clever marketing ploy is most certainly not lost on me.  Continue reading

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“You know I don’t even like cats….”

Ohana 

Incredulous as it may seem, those are the very words that came from the lips of the factory worker whose plea for help just saved the lives of four tiny kittens and their abandoned mother.  With his realisation that moving the metal carry all in which the hapless kittens had sought refuge would surely kill them, he also realised that he had a choice.  And so he embarked on a race against time to find someone who could not only safely remove the kittens, but ensure a happy outcome for them as well.  With calls to all the likely suspects providing little joy, it was an Internet search that somehow tossed up our number.  Whilst outside of our normal charter we knew were the kitten’s last hope, so it was to the catmobile, sorry our kindness van, to which we raced and prayed our aid would not come too late.   Continue reading

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Do you hear the cattle cry?

Cattle Cry

We did just last week, and forever their pitiful dirges will haunt us. As first it was their midnight bellows that stirred me from my bed. Thinking our own bovine residents were in some distress roused me from my much-welcomed slumber. Trudging off down the lane, I quickly realized I was, in fact, heading away from the distressed cries not toward them. Clearly the calls were coming from a neighbouring farm, but just where in the murky darkness I could not tell. As the sun’s rays came to claim the night, the mooing continued to tug at our heartstrings. With compassion and curiosity my driver I again trudged off to investigate and soon found the source. Contained in a small wooden pen were a dozen or more wide eyed and confused youngish calves of around four to six months of age.   In the pen next to them was the same number of female cattle, equally wide eyed and calling out for their babies. Rounding out the adjacent pen was a very large bull, who looked on intently, no doubt awaiting his call to ‘duty’.

It has been said that curiosity killed the cat and in this instance it certainly killed a piece of my heart. Trekking back to the sanctuary, stopping momentarily to tell two of our cattle, dear Hansel and Gretel how much I loved them, I soon relayed my tale. With the pleading cries continuing throughout the remainder of the day and into the night, retreats to our bedrooms provided no relief. By mid morning the next day the calls had ceased, and the young calves were gone.  Continue reading

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Apology to a pig.

Delores

Dear unknown pig,

Today, I write an apology.  Now I know you will not be able to read this letter, not for the fact that you aren’t intelligent, for I know well, more than most, that you have the cognitive ability to do numerous, complex tasks.  Mastering computer joysticks, learning to operate switches and levers, coupled with keen problem-solving abilities, are just some (if given the chance) of your many talents. I write this letter, nonetheless, in the hope that your human friend will read it. 

Dear pig, I am truly sorry I didn’t take the opportunity to speak up for you when I first saw you the other day at the pet expo.  You were lovingly held in the arms of your human.  The first glimpse I caught, was of your cheeky, little bottom, and cute wiggly, pink tail as they poked out from under your human’s arms.  My friend and I both thought you were adorable; our smiles could not betray this fact.  But how quickly our faces also didn’t betray our next emotion: Our jaws dropped, and our hearts skipped a beat when we saw the metal clip that had been punched into your sensitive, little nose. Whilst your human proudly showed you off to the stallholders just down the way, our collective hearts sank.  I watched you for a while – the precious, little piece of porcine creation that you are.  I watched and waited; waiting for the right time to seize the moment, and to speak with your human. Continue reading

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A dying wish…

Gertrude

Over and over we are touched by the mystical experiences of life.  Gertrude’s story is all of this and more.  But we cannot tell Gertrude’s story without telling the story of her true saviour, a lady we shall call Claire (although not her real name).  Claire, a kindly soul had a dying wish and that was to save dear Gertrude, a gentle black and white dairy goat she came to know and love in the wake of the devastating Black Saturday Bushfires of 2009.  Perhaps it was the common bond the two shared, both having stoically survived this firey inferno that was to change and char the lives of so many, perhaps Claire just loved goats, we do not know.

We were to learn that while Claire had taken refuge in an already burnt out paddock on that fateful day five years ago, a blanket providing her only protection from the unforgiving flames that would claim the lives and hopes of many including a herd of milking goats on a neighbouring property, a lone goat would flee for her life.  As the ashes cooled and those who survived returned to assess the damage, the lone goat, who was to be christened Gertrude, no doubt frantically and desperately sought out the friends and buddies she would never see again.  Confused and alone over the ensuing months, Gertrude eked out an existence in the burnt out forest, wandering aimlessly and alone.  And no doubt she would repeatedly return to her one time home range, only to be confronted by rubble and the blackened remains of her herd.

A lifetime of experience with animals tells us they are aware of their surrounds and that they possess the ability to feel in ways comparable to we humans.  And Claire knew this too.  Seeing the trembling goat coming in closer each day to graze by the side of a pair of aging equines, Claire took great comfort in knowing that dear Gertrude was not alone.  But sadly in the aftermath of the fire, the ravages of cancer had taken hold of Claire’s body, and while it threatened her life, it could not erode her love for Gertrude.  Knowing that her own end was near, Claire made her final plans, all things in place except for one – Gertrude.  And this is where we came in. Continue reading

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No exaggerating, can you take my rooster….

 Take you take my rooster

People often enquire what is the most frequently asked question we receive.  I do not even have to think for a second for the answer, as the lay down misère is this ‘can you take my rooster?’ At the time of writing this story, not even midday I have received three separate requests to take in roosters, last week via email the number of requests were twelve and by phone another half dozen or so. Whilst on the surface the taking in of so many testosterone charged and often wayward roosters is daunting enough, a terrible indictment on our society festers underneath.  Providing sanctuary (if at all possible) is simply a band-aide solution at best if nothing is done to address the cause of what I consider to be one of the most pressing (in terms of sheer numbers and lack of social awareness) animal welfare issues in our community.

The problem is this, however clever our society likes to think it is we cannot trump Mother Nature, and it is her dictate that when eggs are hatched roughly 50% will be male and 50% will be female; that is a given.  Ask any veterinarian; poultry farmer or animal advocate and they will concur with this biological fact.  So herein lies a terrible terrible fate for roosters who are; not able to produce eggs, unwelcomed by many neighbours, outlawed by most councils and municipalities and unwanted by countless poultry fanciers.  With the ethical spotlight now shining on the terrible lot of caged hens in Australia, rightly appalling all decent thinking citizens, there is a far greater number of feathered creatures that needs our consideration as well – roosters.  For every laying hen in Australia right now, and that figure is around 16 million, by the laws of nature, around 16 million roosters were brought into this world.  Yet sadly they didn’t even see out their first day, their gender, once determined sealed their fate.  Tiny fluffy innocently chirping chicks were ‘disposed of’ by the most expedient methods possible.  That’s right 16 million; it is hard to even comprehend that number. Continue reading

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Things Change

Things Change

Rambo Sheep first stamped his hoof at Edgar’s Mission several years ago now- a once cute orphan little lamb who had been lovingly, albeit naively, bottle reared by a young  family.  But a wee cute little lamb he was no more, having morphed into a testosterone-charged pubescent young ram, complete with all the trappings.  However with the family’s change in circumstance, read divorce, neither party wished to retain ‘custody’ of now wayward Rambo, who had been reduced to a life on a tether to rein in his rambunctious and ‘ram’ like behaviour.  That the family did love Rambo was not in question, it was however his behaviour they did not.  Ask anyone ‘off the land’ and they will quickly and gruffly tell you that there are few more dangerous animals on a farm than a bottle reared ram.  And there is good reason for this.

Despite the family’s kind intentions to not cause pain to their beloved lamb, he was never castrated. However in doing so, Rambo was consigned to a far worse fate and human safety was put in jeopardy.  Young lambs, like all avian and mammalian newborns, are pre-programmed to imprint on their ‘mother’.   Imprinting occurs post birth and provides the animals with their identity, along with survival skills but moreover it shapes their future breeding activities. Whilst humans can and often do perform the role of surrogate mother quite admirably, in the case of uncastrated males, they will come to see humans as their co-equivalents and once they reach sexual maturity this is fraught  with disaster.  Rambo’s situation is a case in point, with his classic display of misdirected attraction along with his bouts of aggression towards humans.

Whilst Rambo’s previous family’s concern for his welfare was well founded in that the traditional method of castration for a ‘farm’ animal is by way of a tight rubber ring around the animal’s testicles. And yes, this would have no doubt have caused great pain to their beloved little lamb. Yet a change in their way of thinking, from ‘farm animal’ to ‘family pet’, could have provided a much kinder, less stressful and relatively pain free method of castration, not dissimilar to that afforded domestic cats and dogs.  This is the method for which we insist for all the castrations here at Edgar’s Mission and indeed for all farm animals.  In fact, a change in the way many people view sheep will see these once considered dim witted animals as anything but.

Keith Kendrick, professor of cognitive and behavioural neuroscience at the Babraham Institute near Cambridge, UK found that sheep have the same specialised parts of the brain as humans to help them recognise and remember faces.  In fact sheep are able to recognise and remember the faces of at least 50 of their buddies even after a period of two years.  And sheep are able to read and react to facial expressions of both humans and other sheep.  In separate studies by scientists at the University of Cambridge, sheep have performed at levels similar to monkeys and even humans.

And it seems sheep have been shown to problem solve as was displayed by a group of sheep in West Yorkshire, UK, where in order to reach greener pastures that were steeled away on the other side of a cattle grid, the intrepid sheep rolled onto their backs and propelled themselves across the grid.  Not only this, sheep have been shown to self-medicate by selecting which plants to each to overcome their ills.

Whilst I am always loathe to use intelligence as a measure of cause for compassion (as if this were the case, a lot of we humans could well be in trouble) I truly believe that if anyone spent time, one on one with a sheep, divorced of any of society’s preconceived ideas of them, they would certainly walk away with a different point of view. They too would find sheep are more like us than previously thought, as found by Professor John Webster of the University of Bristol. Through Professor Webster’s studies, it was validated that sheep experience and visibly express emotions. And we here at Edgar’s Mission can confirm that sheep are intelligent, sensitive and gentle animals, who learn and respond to their names and form strong bonds with their buddies.

And what of dear Rambo today?  Surprisingly he too has had a change of heart.  Upon arrival at the sanctuary, dear Rambo did not take long to remind us of the dangers of bottle reared rams as he would take several paces in reverse, crane his neck back, stamp his foot and ‘ta da da da’ charge.  Alas, for the safety of humans (and to spare Rambo being placed on the register of naughty sheep) he was consigned to the back paddock were human activity was restricted.  But the February fires changed all this and more.  As part of our fire survival ‘stay and defend’ plan Rambo, along with our entire flock of sheep, cows, alpacas and pigs was herded into our prepared fire shelter paddock alongside the house. For several smoky days and long sleepless nights, this Noah’s Ark of animals stayed, slept and were fed. Having to learn to get along and cope with the inhospitable conditions life had dealt was their lot.  Once the danger had passed, the animals were ushered back to their homes and life returned slowly to some semblance of normal. But something changed for Rambo, he never made it back to his ‘time out paddock’ as he decided instead to wander the farm at his leisure.  Over the ensuing days, each member of our team was to comment, “Have you noticed Rambo?”  At first we couldn’t quite put our finger on it but as the weeks rolled on, the angry and recalcitrant sheep who was once Rambo had gone and in his place was a friendly big almost goofy like guy who just liked to hang out with us for a pat and wheetbix treat.  Whatever caused this personality changing transformation we do not know but we are certainly most pleased with the loveable Rambo we see today.

So I guess the take home message of this story is that things change, so do sheep, along with our perception of them (given the chance).

Rambo

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Reasons for hope

Reasons For Hope

Depending on who you listen to, the prospects of climate change can be quite dire.  Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner. Sea levels are rising and fresh water availability is decreasing in regions around the globe.  With an unprecedented human influence, our planet has altered dramatically. Rivers are dying, magnificent life-sustaining forests are being ravaged, clean air is compromised, more and more animals are killed and brutalised and more plant and animal species are being pushed to the brink.  Open any newspaper and a litany of unbelievable crimes spill out; self-indulgence runs rampant and politics seem even crazier.

But I still have hope, and I’ll tell you just some of the reasons why. Continue reading

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