The Mothers-to-Be, Saved From Being Meat
Our story starts with a Saturday night call about two little goats with nowhere to go…
When police officers got a call about children hitting two goats with sticks, outside an apartment complex in Surrey, BC, they could not have known the tale that would subsequently unfold. As Diane Marsh, co-owner of Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary in Langley, BC recalls, it’s a story that starts with a Saturday night call about two little goats with nowhere to go, and ends with a family of five, now living their best life at the sanctuary — a happy ending far different from what could have been.
“One day I went to the [farmed animal] auction . . . and there was a calf. I had seen calves and goats and everything before, and never even thought about it. This one though — I felt like I got run over by a truck.” So she brought the calf home.
Before the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary came to be, former stockbroker Marsh, along with her partner Stephen Wiltshire, initially ran an equestrian centre, where they took in retired racehorses who they’d let local kids ride. Following a trip to Japan however, with activist group Sea Shepherd, Wiltshire returned home with a new perspective on animals. “He saw the dolphin slaughter,” Marsh recalls, “came home, and went vegan. And that’s kind of what started this.”
Marsh says she then went vegetarian, and gradually vegan, “then one day I went to the [farmed animal] auction . . . and there was a calf. I had seen calves and goats and everything before, and never even thought about it. This one though — I felt like I got run over by a truck.” So she brought the calf home. Then the next weekend, she went back to the auction, and there was a piglet. She brought the piglet home too (the video of the calf and piglet first meeting has since gone viral and featured in a story on The Dodo). And that was the start of the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary, six years ago — the place that, five years later, would become the forever home of Puddin and Smudge, two goats who were first destined for far worse fates.
As the story of Puddin and Smudge goes, says Marsh, a man in Surrey, “had gone to the auction that morning and bought the two goats, and taken them to his basement suite.” He was going to butcher and eat them. In the meantime though, some kids had taken the goats out in the garden, “and were hitting them with sticks.” A neighbour saw what was happening and called the cops, forever altering the path of the two little goats.
An RCMP officer arrived on site, says Marsh, to find the goats locked in a broom closet. The officer then seized the animals, who could not legally be kept in a basement suite, and put them in the back of his cop car. He called the local animal clinic, but they didn’t have room for the goats that night. The clinic then called Marsh. “They said, ‘Can you take two goats overnight, that are driving around with an RCMP officer?’” It was a Saturday night, seven o’clock, she says, “and you think oh, where are we going to put them? But you know, you hammer a couple of nails, put a board here, a board there, keep the pigs out of the stall, bed it real quick” and next thing she knew, the officer was pulling onto their property, goats in back.
“He unloads the goats,” she say, “and they were the sweetest little creatures you’ve ever met.” They were also pregnant.
“We try to explain to people that most petting zoos buy their animals in the spring when they are babies. They’re always babies. Every year, different animals.” And they get mishandled, she says, “a lot, picked up by all sorts of little kids, dropped.”
Marsh believes Puddin, who she says reminded her of caramel pudding, and Smudge, named for the white smudge on her nose, likely came from a petting zoo. “They were just so social,” she describes.
It’s an issue that frustrates her. “We try to explain to people that most petting zoos buy their animals in the spring when they are babies,” she says. “They’re always babies. Every year, different animals.” And they get mishandled, she says, “a lot, picked up by all sorts of little kids, dropped.” And then in the fall, the petting zoo owners no longer want the animals, “because they aren’t going to make money on them. So they send them to be slaughtered.”
Puddin and Smudge, however, lucked out, and once they were safe and secure at the sanctuary, both gave birth a few months later, one week apart. Smudge had twins, and Puddin, triplets. Of the five babies, three survived, and today the mothers and their kids live all together — as the name would have you believe — in one big happy herd.
“They love the attention; they love the people,” says Marsh, of the goats today. “If the babies see people from a distance, they start to call out for them.” Sometimes the goats are allowed out for a run with the pigs, she says, “and you see this little herd of five little goats, running though the pigs and leaping in all directions. You just gotta stop and laugh,” she chuckles, “because the pigs are afraid of them. It’s funny because the pigs are bigger than them.”
From petting zoo to basement butcher, Puddin and Smudge knew nothing but exploitation at the hands of humans, prior to finding their way to Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary. Now, the mothers and their kids share a large open space, a warm little house, and loving attention from humans and animals alike. Now they are no longer seen as mere commodities or food, but are loved and appreciated as the individuals they are.