Open Your Eyes and See the History All Around You: The Importance of Knowing Our Activist History
It is no exaggeration to say that Hilda Kean set me on the path I am on today. Well, to be more specific, one of her books did–it would be several years until I would actually meet Hilda Kean in person! When I was a graduate student in the early 2000s my research was situated in environmental studies but, at that time, the idea of studying and thinking critically about animals was still quite separate from the scholarship being done in environmental studies. I found this somewhat strange and a little frustrating, but then I came across Hilda Kean’s Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain Since 1800. This was the first time that I had read the work of a writer who had taken human-animal relationships seriously as a subject of cultural and historical research. Her influence has been enormous, not just on my own work, but on the fields of animal studies and human-animal history.
For this interview, I arranged to meet Hilda Kean a few summers ago at a vegan cafe in Brighton, UK. When she arrived, she told me that she had almost missed her train because she had awoken to discover a fox in her house that morning! “I don’t see why some people are frightened of foxes,” she calmly said as she recounted the details of what had transpired that morning.
The fox Kean found in her house that morning.
Hearing Kean talk about her encounter with this fox reminded me so much of her writing. In both cases her narrative is framed by a compassionate yet critical inquiry. Her work is grounded by a real concern for thinking about the actual lived experiences of individual animals and she resists historical understandings of human-animal relationships that are informed by clichés or symbolism.
For instance, in one of her recent books, The Great Cat and Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War Two’s Unknown Tragedy, Kean went to great lengths to learn as many individual stories as she could after the 400,000 cats and dogs in Britain that were killed by their owners at the outbreak of the Second World War. In telling these stories she moves beyond the standard tropes typical in narratives about both this war and of human-animal (and animal-human) bonds. Her meticulous research is grounded in actual events and testimonies and, as such, complicates the narratives we like to tell ourselves about our historical relationships with our companion animals. This is an uncomfortable history and Kean does not shy away from telling it.
Likewise, Animal Rights is a book that looks at the complicated history of animal advocacy in Britain. Kean’s motivation for writing Animal Rights grew out of a sense of frustration about the lack of awareness of activism in previous historical periods.
“It is important to acknowledge that in Britain campaigns for animal rights and animal welfare go back at least to the late 18th and early 19th century,” she stresses. “So, if you like you can say you don’t agree with these ideas, but you can not say that these ideas came from nowhere.”
“These things did happen and they were important.”
Kean underscores how important it is for activists of today to know that “these ideas have not just come out of thin air.” Anti-vivisection, in particular, has a long and complex history in places like Britain, and it was women who were often on the front lines of these fights. Recognizing the work of these reformers from earlier historical periods is important, Kean feels, not only to give credit where credit is due, but also to allow us to take a broader historical perspective on animal advocacy. This can help reframe some of our current struggles to change the world for animals. Kean acknowledges that as we look to this history and realize that some of the fights we are fighting today were also being fought by previous generations of activists it can be “somewhat depressing” at first glance. But Kean stresses that knowing this history also “places things in a broader context of time” to allow us to see how the “ideas and campaigns have been worked through, modified, and emphasized in different ways. They have had some successes over a period of time.”
As a historian, Kean feels it is important to take the full messy, complex narratives of animal advocacy into account. Looking to the past only as a source of “inspirational stories…implies that there were only successes.” There have been, of course, changes for the better. Kean points to the status of companion animals as an example of this, noting “that their lives are better now than they were say in the early 1800s or even in the early 1900s.” With farmed animals, however, she is concerned that things may be “much worse than they were 100 years ago, that moving animals away from fields to inside” has caused even greater concerns for activists.
While Kean is pleased to see so many people working on animal studies topics within academia in recent years, she also sometimes finds it frustrating that this academic work can often be incredibly “esoteric” and seemingly removed from actual animals. For Kean, animal studies is much more than an “academic exercise” and she finds it “quite shocking” that there are some working in this field who “apparently have no interest in living animals.”
Kean also stresses the importance of historians getting up from their desks.
“I don’t think history is all about somebody sitting in a library and writing notes and getting it published in the most prestigious peer-reviewed journal. It is also important to actually look at what is going on in the world.”
Kean embodies this perspective in her own work. For example, during the time she was writing Animal Rights she remembers reading comments in a newspaper that ridiculed animal rights activists who had been protesting the selling of live lobsters. She recalls that the comments were along the lines of “Where do these mad people come from? Fancy doing this about lobsters!” As she was reading about this protest and the public response to it, she couldn’t help but think about the 1829 pamphlet she had found during the course of her research. This pamphlet was “published by what was then the SPCA. It was a campaign about lobsters and the cruel way that lobsters were boiled alive.” As she read the newspaper coverage of the protest in the late 1990s the connections between the 19th century protest and the 20th century protest were obvious to her. “When I’m reading something like that in the newspaper, I’m relating that in my head to other things I’m doing. And it makes me think ‘I have to do something.’ I don’t mean that I have to write to the newspaper necessarily, I mean, I will do that, but it is more around thinking about how to argue the importance of knowing the history of animal rights activism.”
While Kean is passionate about the history of the animal advocacy movement, she is also firmly rooted in the present moment, and keeps a sharp eye out for ways in which human-animal histories remain part of our current environments. “I just see things in the environment that catch my interest.
“I sometimes notice things others don’t because I think most people run around with their eyes shut.”
Walking, looking, and noticing details such as statues or monuments featuring cats, dogs, horses, or other animals are an important part of Kean’s research methods, and her impressive list of published writing on human-animal histories is a testament to how astute she is at this practice. She also spends a lot of time talking to people, asking questions, and thinks critically about how animals and humans would have interacted in previous spaces.
Understanding this kind of context is at the heart of the work that Kean does. For instance, she discusses the Old Brown Dog memorial, a highly controversial monument dedicated to a dog who was killed in a vivisection laboratory in 1903. During the early 20th century this memorial statue became a touchstone for ongoing debates about animal experimentation until the decision was made to remove it from the Latchmere gardens completely. In 1985 a replacement statue was placed in nearby Battersea Park, but, as Kean points out, the new statue was within the park and this was significant. The placement of the original statue was highly political. As Kean notes, it was “in the middle of a model housing estate for workers. This was a socialist area at the time. So, the location of the statue very much brought across the politics of it, the alignment of ordinary people and animals.” This historical connection is not immediately apparent with the new memorial statue having been placed there just before the demise of the socialist Greater London Council (GLC). This is the kind of attention to detail that informs all of Kean’s work.
“We need to consider these things in their social and cultural contexts.”
When I asked Kean about the kind of advice she would give other writers and scholars who want to make a difference for animals, she replied that “it is really just thinking about what you want to do, and if you want to do things that privilege the position of animals, you just do it.” I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you, Hilda, for all you have done for animals and for the field of animal history.
Images courtesy of Hilda Kean, Rosa Harvest and Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and story by Keri Cronin.
“Culture or tradition or taste or habit – they don’t justify our belief that we can use them as we wish because they are not one of us.”
Sandra Higgins With Mr. Darcy. Photo by Agatha Kisiel Photography.
Sandra Higgins has an easy laugh and a bubbly nature, but talk to her for a few minutes and you’ll quickly realize that she is dedicated, whip smart, and not a woman to underestimate.
Higgins runs Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary in Ireland, where she manages the day to day operations down to the last detail. Managing a sanctuary is itself no small feat, but Higgins doesn’t stop there –– she’s also running one of the world’s biggest vegan campaigns.
Photo courtesy of Go Vegan World.
Go Vegan Ireland launched in 2015 and Go Vegan World the year after. Both have been more successful than anyone could have predicted. Anyone, that is, except perhaps Higgins herself, whose quiet determination is apparent when she talks about the campaigns.
“They’re designed to confront us with our own values,” she says of the campaign’s ads, an approach she calls “empathic confrontation.” Many of the Go Vegan billboards feature the residents of Eden. They are combined with messages that, while shocking, are simple, direct, and indisputable: “Dairy Takes Babies from their Mothers,” for example, is one of the recurring messages.
Leicester Square, London. Photo courtesy of Go Vegan World.
Leicester Square, London. Photo courtesy of Go Vegan World.
The campaign presents people with the consequences of their choices. Go Vegan World isn’t an anti-farming campaign – Higgins is targeting consumers of animal products to encourage individual members of the public to be personally responsible for the impacts their non-vegan choices have on other animals. “It is irrational to blame farmers, slaughterhouse workers, or other employees of the industry,” Higgins explains. “We’re paying them to do a job we ourselves would feel too uncomfortable to do.” One of the activities of Go Vegan World is supporting farmers to transition to plant agriculture as a more ethical, sustainable, and secure way of living that benefits humans as well as other animals.
Linda and Cormac. Photo by Agatha Kisiel Photography.
We had the opportunity to visit Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary, and as we walk around the sanctuary, Higgins talked about the campaign and her work caring for Eden’s residents. Following her through the fields and enclosures, it’s clear that she is used to working every minute of the day, but as we pass each pen or coop, she still stops to greet each animal by name and offer some insight into their personality or the story of how they came to be there. We meet Dominic, Angela, Timothy, Aoibheann, and David. George, a pig, clearly holds a special place in Higgins’ heart. “If you saw the delicate way that he eats a raspberry,” she says, not to gush, but rather to emphasize his unique personality and gentle nature. Higgins’ every thought is about how to create – as the name of her campaign indicates – a vegan world for the animals.
Everybody has the common goal of wanting to avoid pain, wanting to stay alive, and wanting peace and some happiness. Every single creature on the face of the earth wants that.
She has a profound respect for animals because of everything we already know about their intelligence and social structures –– but perhaps more importantly, she respects them because of all that we still don’t know about their sentience, behaviours, their motivations, their desires. “I think there’s so much for us to learn about them and from them,” she stresses.
Higgins opened the sanctuary in 2008 and built it up slowly over the course of several years. “I’ve worked hard to get to this day when I could take in bigger animals,” like cows Cormac and Linda, she explains. She believes profoundly in the power of narratives. Talking about the individual chickens and geese and pigs in her care is a totally different angle than talking about the abuses of the industry, she says, and Eden’s literature is filled with stunning portraits and moving stories about the animals in her care.
Photo courtesy of Go Vegan World.
Photo courtesy of Go Vegan World.
The vegan guide, part of the Go Vegan World campaign, is a comprehensive, well-designed resource that covers everything from why to go vegan to how to get enough calcium to planning a week’s worth of meals. “I just give people what I wish I’d had when I went vegan,” Higgins says. It’s been a huge success, with requests for copies coming in from all over the world and thousands of downloads every month.
I keep thinking, for every person who writes, maybe there’s a person out there who went vegan and didn’t write.
Photo courtesy of Go Vegan World.
The campaign as a whole features billboards and transit ads in some of the most visible places in the UK –– entire walls of tube stations, the sides of hundreds of London buses, and an international rugby match (the first vegan campaign to do so). The impact has been profound. Higgins says that prior to the campaign, there was very little visibility for animal rights in Ireland and that it’s succeeding in opening people’s eyes. She receives constant letters and emails from people saying that the campaign inspired them to research the issues or to go vegan. “And I keep thinking, for every person who writes, maybe there’s a person out there who went vegan and didn’t write.”
In a cab one day, the driver asked her “Did you put up the chick ad?” Referring to a billboard that exposes the fate of male chicks in the egg industry (death by asphyxiation or maceration on the day they hatch). “I’m horrified,” he said. “I never knew that.”
And it isn’t only non-vegans who are changing because of the campaign. Seeing the messages on such a large scale has revitalized so many activists, Higgins says. Little wonder, given one of its recent victories –– a win that came, almost unbelievably, thanks to the dairy industry, which inadvertently handed the campaign one of the most significant victories for animals in the UK in years. After the campaign launched, seven complaints – filed directly by the dairy industry – were made to the UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), claiming that it portrayed the industry in a misleading light. The ASA reviewed the advertisements, as well as evidence provided by Go Vegan World. It did not go well for the industry. In its ruling, the ASA ruled that: “although the language used to express the claims was emotional and hard-hitting, we understood it was the case that calves were generally separated from their mothers very soon after birth, and we therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to materially mislead readers.” In effect, the ruling sets a precedent for animal rights campaigners around the world to publicly denounce the dairy industry as inhumane. It’s a game-changing victory that received well-earned worldwide attention.
Photo courtesy of Go Vegan World.
In reality though, it’s unsurprising that the ads stood up to scrutiny: Higgins designed them that way. They’re not graphic and the messages are facts that are easy to understand. “A lot of people say that the ads are manipulative, but they are stating facts, that’s all. But they’re tugging at people’s empathy. They nag at the moral conviction most of us share: that it is wrong to use, harm or kill another feeling being, especially when we do so to meet our most trivial of needs.”
Culture or tradition or taste or habit – they don’t justify our belief that we can use them as we wish because they are not one of us.
And this is truly the core of her approach. “What I do is leave them no excuses,” she says, describing her method of asking people to relate agricultural and other animal exploitation practices back to their own values. “Terrible things are socio-culturally sanctioned… It was also the culture to beat your wife with a stick no bigger than your thumb. It was illegal to be gay.” Higgins acknowledges that the Go Vegan World campaign doesn’t make people go vegan, but says that it’s goal is to plant seeds for changes about how animal use is thought of in the public discourse. She believes that social change is not only possible, but that it’s coming –– because it’s logical. “Culture or tradition or taste or habit – they don’t justify our belief that we can use them as we wish because they are not one of us.” As we’re leaving the fields to go inside, Higgins interrupts herself to point, “There’s a nest in that house, you can see the birds.” And that’s who she is: advocating for justice on the grandest scale of any campaign to date, but still focused on each animal, treating every individual life with equal worth. “Everybody has the common goal of wanting to avoid pain, wanting to stay alive and wanting peace and some happiness,” she says. “Every single creature on the face of the earth wants that.”
Interview by Keri Cronin. Text by Sayara Thurston.
Lind af Hageby, centre front. The other women in this photograph are: Mrs. Clinton Pichney Farrell, Mrs. L.B. Henderson, Mrs. Florence Pell Waring, Mrs. Caroline E. White, and Mrs. R.G. Ingersol.
In July 1909 police in London informed the organizers of an anti-vivisection protest that they could not use two of the banners that had been made for the event. In both cases the images on the banners showed a dog being subjected to experimentation. The organizers made sure to point out that these images had been taken directly from publications which promoted animal experimentation. In other words, the organizers of the protest felt that it was important to underscore the fact that these images were not fabricated representations but, rather, were adapted directly from vivisection material. There was “no exaggeration” in these images stressed Louise (“Lizzy”) Lind af Hageby, the organizer of the International Anti-Vivisection and Animal Protection Congress, a multi-day event which included this high-profile public demonstration through the streets of London on Saturday, July 10, 1909.
The police were concerned that the images on these banners could potentially stir up trouble by provoking a “turbulent element” and potentially “lead to riotous proceedings.” Of particular concern was a silk banner that included an image taken from a scientific journal showing a dog who had been subject to experimentation. This image was accompanied by the words “Is it nothing to you all ye that pass by?”
This image was reproduced on one of the prohibited banners for the July 1909 procession.
A lively debate about these banners took place in the “Letters to the Editor” columns of the London papers. Dr. Stephen Paget of the Research Defence Society, a pro-vivisection organization, described the use of these images in this way as a “striking exhibition of insult and hatred” on the part of the activists, and argued that anti-vivisection societies must be losing their support amongst the general public if they were attempting to use shock tactics to draw attention to their cause. Lind af Hageby refuted this, noting that these images were not the “invention of anti-vivisectionists.”
In the end, the police’s decision to prohibit these banners was upheld. However, as a protest to this ruling, one of the forbidden banners was draped with another piece of cloth to hide the offending image, and the resulting blank banner was carried defiantly at the end of the procession.
I find this to be such a fascinating example of the role of visual culture in the animal advocacy movement from this time period! Images can, of course, draw attention to important issues, but imagine the power that this blank banner had in this context. The absence of imagery here was likely as powerful as any pictorial banner in the procession – perhaps even more so. As one eye-witness pointed out, if an image is deemed to “be of such revolting character that it cannot be carried through the streets,” then isn’t this a powerful argument against the action being depicted? As I often remind my students, when it comes to visual culture it is important to remember that what is excluded is often as significant as what is included. In this case, the blank banner was a bold statement against both vivisection and censorship, and certainly a clever use of visual culture by Lind af Hageby and her colleagues.
*I discuss this event as well as the use of visual culture in other animal advocacy campaigns from this time period in my new book, Art for Animals.
 “The Anti-Vivisection Procession” The Times (July 8, 1909), 3.
 “Prohibited Banners” The Standard (July 3, 1909), 8.
 “Anti-Vivisection Processions” The Times (July 9, 1909), 4.
 “The Anti-Vivisection Procession” The Times (July 8, 1909), 3.
 “The Anti-Vivisection Agitation” Saturday Review of Politics, Art, Literature, Science and Art (July 17, 1909), 83.
“Most people… tend to be ignorant of the processes by which food reaches their table, or if not ignorant they find it more comfortable to forget.”
M any activists can point to a single moment that changed their lives—a photograph, a movie, a conversation, or a chance encounter that forced them to think differently about the world around them. For British activist Ruth Harrison (1920-2000), that moment took place in 1961 when she was handed a pamphlet outlining how animals were treated in Britain’s factory farming system. Like many people, Harrison hadn’t thought much about modern, industrial farming methods prior to receiving this campaign literature from an activist who had been leafletting with an organization known as “Crusade Against All Cruelty to Animals.”
Harrison was deeply shocked by what she saw in this leaflet and this compelled her to take action. As a recent biographer noted, “despite being a vegetarian, she reasoned that, although she did not eat them, she still had a responsibility towards animals.” Harrison began to research the claims made in the pamphlet to find out the truth about factory farming for herself. What she discovered was worse than she could have imagined; reading about things like veal crates and battery cages filled her with horror and dismay. She described factory farming as “production line methods applied to the rearing of animals, of animals living out their lives in darkness and immobility without a sight of the sun, of a generation of men who see in the animal they rear only its conversion factor into human food.” Harrison felt driven to share her findings with a broader audience, reasoning that if she had not known about the reality of industrial farming then many other people likely didn’t either.
Ruth Harrison, by Brittany Brooks (illustration commissioned for The Unbound Project)
In 1964 Harrison published Animal Machines: The New Factory Farming System. This book was meticulously researched and included details of things that Harrison had witnessed on her fact-finding missions to various farms across Britain. She was inspired by Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking work Silent Spring, a shocking account of the health and environmental effects of pesticide use. She was so inspired by Carson’s work, in fact, that she wrote to her and asked if she would write the foreword to Animal Machines. Even though the two women didn’t know one another, Carson agreed because she understood the importance of this project.
Animal Machines also included a number of photos illustrating the ways in which animals were raised, confined, and killed on factory farms. Many were taken by Ruth’s husband, Dex. Harrison realized that part of the reason that so many people blindly accepted the treatment of farmed animals was that the marketing of meat, dairy, and eggs drew heavily on idealized images of farms as peaceful places where animals are treated well. She wrote:
“Farm produce is still associated with mental pictures of animals browsing in fields and hedgerows, of cows waiting patiently in picturesque farmyards for the milking, of hens having a last forage before going to roost or sheep being rounded up by zealous dogs, and all the family atmosphere embracing the traditional farmyard. This association of ideas is cleverly kept alive by the giants of the advertising world who realize that the public still associates quality with healthy surroundings. A picture of the close-tethered veal calf standing uncomfortably on slats in its gloomy crate, the battery hen cramped in the cage, the closely packed, inert mass of pigs on the floor of the sweat-box piggery, or the sea of broilers in their dim shed, would not, they rightly surmise, help to sell their products.”
The photographs in Animal Machines, then, played a powerful role in interrupting this advertising fantasy.
The publication of Animal Machines sparked a powerful reaction. It led the British government to order an investigation into factory farming practices. Because of her ground-breaking work in this area, Harrison was invited to be part of the team undertaking this work. The results of this investigation were made public in 1965, leading to major changes in animal welfare (e.g.: the concept of the “five freedoms” for farmed animals stemmed from this initiative). The following year, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, another government initiative, was struck and, once again, Ruth Harrison was invited to be part of this committee. The discussions and findings of these committees led to a new farm animal welfare law, The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which came in to effect in Britain in 1968.
Ruth Harrison remained involved with animal advocacy work for the rest of her life, taking on consulting roles with such organizations as the Animal Defence Society, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Her groundbreaking work is often overshadowed in the history of animal welfare/rights—as Carol J. Adams points out in the guest essay she wrote for the Unbound Project, it is important that we recognize the efforts of Harrison and of all of the women who worked so hard for animals in the early days of organized animal advocacy.
Notes  Heleen van de Weerd and Victoria Sandilands, ‘Bringing the Issue of Animal Welfare to the Public: A Biography of Ruth Harrison (1920–2000)’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science 113, no. 4 (2008): 405.  Ruth Harrison, Animal Machines: The New Factory Farming Industry (New York: Ballantine Books, 1964), 15.  Ibid., 16.
Lina Lind Christensen runs Frie Vinger, a sanctuary for rescued farmed animals in Denmark. She also works with Anima, the largest animal rights organization in that country. Her rescue work is featured in “The Machine,” a powerful new short film produced for The Unbound Project by Jan Sorgenfrei.
UP: Can you tell us about your work with Anima?
LLC: I am a campaign manager with Anima. This means that I am responsible for campaigns educating people about things like egg production. I also do a lot of outreach work with companies, trying to get them to stop using eggs from battery hens.
UP: How did you get involved in this kind of work?
LLC: My interest in helping animals dates back a long time. I have always been interested in animal welfare, even when I was kid. Eventually I ordered some flyers from groups like PETA and, funnily, from Anima, where I now work. I handed out these flyers because I wanted to educate people about how animals were being treated. I became vegetarian 7 years ago after I saw online video footage from slaughterhouse with cows standing in line waiting to die. I found the video to be so powerful – we can see clearly that the cow or bull is scared and trying to get away because she/he understands what is happening up ahead. This made me think about the moral status of animals – should we be killing them at all?
My move to veganism was in “baby steps,” and I kept removing one product and then another. When my husband and I bought our current house we were so happy that it had a garden. We knew about the British Hen Welfare Trust and I asked my husband if we could take in a few hens now that we had a garden they could live in. I had always loved birds, so this seemed to make sense to me. I looked in to organizations in Denmark, to see if there was something like the British Hen Welfare Trust here. There wasn’t, so we decided to start rescuing hens directly on our own. I started calling around to farmers to ask if I could have some of the hens they didn’t want anymore. One of them laughed at me and said “why would you want some of my trash?”
I finished my Master’s degree in Philosophy in 2015 and I had been planning to go on to do a PhD in animal ethics, but I changed my mind — I decided that instead of doing academic work I wanted to focus on rescuing animals. I have a huge amount of respect for people who work in ethics, but I personally felt that for me I needed to have a lot of direct contact with the animals and I find that motivating.
UP: Can you tell us about your first rescue?
LLC: One farmer said he was getting rid of hens in a week, and that it would be ok if I went and took some of them. So, we drove to Jutland, 1 ½ hours away. It was a medium sized farm that had about 50,000 hens. When we arrived, nobody was there – I walked around exploring because I had never seen such a place before. I called the farmer once we arrived and he said he was running late, that he would be about 10 mins. While I waited for him, I looked around some more. I opened a door to a barn, and looked inside and this was a profound moment for me. I had heard about how egg production was organized, but I had never seen it with my own eyes.
I opened the door and immediately saw on the other side of the door, a hen who had fallen out of a cage. She was a little brown hen who had barely any feathers. She was obviously scared and never seen the sun before. It was a beautiful sunny day, the 1st of June – the sun was shining, but here was this little hen just inside the door who had never seen sunshine. I will never forget this moment. I called for my husband to come and see this hen, but when I turned back she was gone. I didn’t get to help her, although I looked for her. It was so dark in the barn, such a contrast from the beautiful sunny day outside. I looked and looked for this little hen, but I could not find her.
I knew that this sort of production existed in Denmark, but I guess I believed that this country was better than other places. I believe many people tell themselves that.
When the farmer arrived he told us to take the 6 hens we came for from the cages, but then before we could he went and did it himself. He brought them out hanging by their legs and roughly tossed them in the crate we had brought with us. He smiled and seemed like he wanted to laugh. He seemed to think we were idiots and said something like “good luck with them. I hope you can get some more eggs out of them.” That was our first rescue, and we have been back to that farm one time since – we managed to rescue 3 more hens the next time.
UP: How did your sanctuary get started?
LLC: After that first rescue of 6 hens we made a Facebook page for our sanctuary and that is when things really started up. At first we had only family and friends following us, maybe a few hen lovers. But as it grew we were contacted by people who wanted to adopt the hens, so we started doing more and more rescues.
UP: What is a typical day like for you?
LLC: I get up at 6am to look after the hens – I turn on the lights so that they can eat, and then I let them out into the garden. As layer hens, they are very susceptible to diseases, so I check each one individually each morning. I also clean the hen house each day. I spend a lot of time talking to the hens, and when I used to study I would sit in the hen house with them while I read! I also do a lot of “customer service” and I deal with potential adopters. I also spend time doing social media and outreach, and then it is time to go back to the hens again! In the winter bed time for the birds comes earlier because it gets darker earlier. In summer the birds stay up later, but there is always a lot of work to do! I have a “desk job” at Anima and now that I’m spending so much time in front of a computer I realize just how much time I used to spend with the hens when I was a student and at home more!
UP: Do people recognize you in Denmark, because it is such a small country? Do you think that it is harder or easier to have a Farm Sanctuary in Denmark because of its size?
LLC: I think there is a need for farm sanctuaries in Denmark. There are a lot of people who want to visit, connect, and volunteer too! This is good for the animals AND for the humans who want to see rescue and beauty and kindness. I am able to do what I do because I have the hens –people can see them, be with them, and connect with them. This is important.
In the beginning few people recognized me and that made it easier to go to different places for rescues. We weren’t really on social media, so it was easy to do what we had to do. Now there is a lot more attention on Frie Vinger and on the work I’m doing. I know that one of the farmers I rescue hens from knows for sure what I’m doing, but I don’t think he minds. There was one time I was at his farm, packing hens into the cages. One had fallen from the machine they use to kill the spent hens, a “chick grinder” which gases and grinds them up. This hen had a broken wing and I ran to pick her up. The farmer said “it is probably best that hen goes with you,” as if he was happy that she would get a second chance. Most farmers seem desensitized, and normally they laugh at me and the work I am doing — they think I’m foolish to be spending so much money on vet bills, etc., but not this time.
UP: How do you financially support Frie Vinger?
LLC: It is hard to find donors to help out in Denmark as it is not a very big population. In the beginning things were really tough — my husband and I paid for everything ourselves and we totally underestimated the cost! We did one rescue of 200 hens and it was really expensive! The cost of renting trucks and crates as well as the vet bills really adds up. We spent thousands of our own Euros on the rescue, and at that point I was still a student so we really couldn’t afford it.
Since then we have focused on doing smaller rescues, but we saw that the project had a future and we began asking for a bit more money from the people who adopt the hens from us. Now when people want to adopt they have to apply and they pay a fee. Not only does this help raise money for the rescue work, it helps to weed out people who want the hens for slaughter!
Now Anima helps a lot with fundraising and extra expenses. We have multimedia and videos that have helped to spread the word about our work and this has helped a lot, it has generated donations. In November 2015 we got our first monthly donor! We are going to start a virtual “adopt a hen” program that will also help support the work we do.
UP: What do you want so say to the world about animals?
LCC: I want more than anything for people to understand that animals are individuals. I want to give them their individuality back and, of course, I want to save them all too!