01.07.2015 Community

Kinder Choices

Here is an excerpt from Turning Points in Compassion by Kyle Behrend, who works at a farm sanctuary in Victoria called Edgar's Mission. 

"I remain happy, positive and upbeat. I find it energises, engages and encourages others to see the world from another creature's point of view. I am mindful not to be judgmental or harsh with anyone. That certainly is not the way to guide people to a kinder world." Kyle Behrend. 

Like many, I feel we live in troubled times; we are indeed at a cusp and which way we tilt will determine the future of the planet. My take on this is that kindness is the key to a better world for all, kindness towards each other, towards the planet and towards animals.

There is no doubt our environmental footprint is very much in the spotlight; we are encouraged to take shorter showers, use recycled materials, eat organically and travel less. 

But I feel our greatest test comes from how we treat animals, our fellow inhabitants on this planet, and if we look at our past report card on this we haven't done too well. I truly believe people are good of heart and that many have just lost their way. Through my work with Edgar's Mission I believe we can help people reconnect with their inherent 'goodness'.

I started out volunteering at Edgar's Mission. This gave me the opportunity to do something with my life that I feel made a positive difference to the world and all the creatures we share it with. Sadly today there exists a great disconnect between people and farm animals. Edgar's Mission helps bridge this void.

Not long after I started volunteering I was offered a fulltime role. Prior to this, all the day-to-day activities were carried out by the founder and director of this magical place, Pam Ahern. I now live at the sanctuary and can think of no place I would rather be. The sanctuary is home to more than 350 rescued chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, horses, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits and even peacocks. My daily tasks include animal feeding, animal husbandry, farm maintenance, administration, photography, maintaining the website and Facebook page, helping with the monthly e-newsletter Trottings, outreach work to markets, schools, community events and aged care facilities, and conducting tours for visitors. 

I really enjoy conducting the farm tours. It is amazing how the touch of a gentle cow or the grunt of a friendly pig can really help people put in perspective what their dietary choices are doing to these innocent creatures.

Every animal at the sanctuary has a unique story to tell, and they are all united in that their arriving at Edgar's Mission was brought about by an act of kindness by someone not wishing harm to come to another creature.

There is no doubt people empathise with farm animals once presented with the individual creatures and many are shocked, even brought to tears, when they learn the emotional capacity of these gentle souls is not unlike that of their beloved pets. Over and over I hear, "I have never thought about that before." It really is the light bulb moment for many.

We work very long hours but I love the work we do and would not have my life any other way. Nothing comes easily, and I think it motivates others to see how much time and effort we put into helping animals, with nothing to gain except a kinder world for all.

Every day in Australia about 12 million chickens live in battery cages, with not even enough space to extend their wings. Knowing this can be stressful and unpleasant, with many people preferring to switch off. But in knowing the reality of our choices we are given the opportunity to make informed decisions so that our actions can truly reflect our ethics. 

If we simply dwelled on the cruelty in the world there would be no change - we would become depressed, despondent and slip into a world of despair. Yet every day I am reminded the greatest tool for change is us. Everything we do, say, and even don't do, tells the world so much about the sorts of people we are. 

Last year we were contacted by a battery hen farmer who decided he didn't want his spent hens to go to slaughter and determined it was cruel to confine these intelligent, curious and inquisitive birds in tiny barren prisons. With an undertaking he would not restock the cages we assisted in what has become Australia's biggest rescue of farmed animals. 

The experience of walking into the shed that contained all the chickens is one that will haunt me forever. Most of us have seen pictures of hens in cages but nothing can prepare you for the sight, sound and smell of those hellholes. I was sickened to see the hapless hens trying to eke out an existence in such a sad, sad world. I wanted to race out into the streets of Melbourne and take everyone by the hand and make them witness what they were paying someone to do.

Whilst seeing animals in such a terrible state and witnessing the condition many animals arrive in is heart wrenching, I remain happy, positive and upbeat. I find it energises, engages and encourages others to see the world from another creature's point of view. I am mindful not to be judgmental or harsh with anyone. That certainly is not the way to guide people to a kinder world.

And if I were to suggest to you the single most important thing one can do to make the world a kinder place I would have to say adopting a cruelty-free lifestyle - for your health, for stopping animal cruelty and suffering, and for helping our ailing planet. It really is that simple.

Turning Points in Compassion is available online worldwide through Amazon, via our website www.turningpointsincompassion.info or call 0413 566 691.