There is no doubt about it — animal sanctuaries are needed. Zoos are built for people. Sanctuaries are where non-human animals are protected for the rest of their lives.
Rosina Espig, who has founded a little private animal sanctuary, reflects, among other things, on the reasons she established a forever home for one Dog, one Cat, one Duck, one Chicken, two Rabbits, two Pigs, three Goats and five Cows.
Rosina, how do you define yourself?
I prefer not to define myself too much. I belive that we all are so much more than we could ever put in words. We are more than others can see and more than we think we could ever be. But I understand what you mean with the question. My mission is to help other humans to see animals from new perspectives. My mission is not to change anyone. I don’t belive that it is possible to change the others. But I want to inspire and trigger other people in a way that they might get into the process of changing themselves in order to get closer to the highest feeling of all — love.
You have said that you were a vegetarian and vegan, but you are not a vegan anymore, you are plant-based. Can you elaborate on that?
I grew up as a vegetarian and when I was 17 years old, I started a vegan diet, I was really straight with that for around 2 years. During that time I noticed that not everything about veganism made sense to me. Like there were also some aspects that could not be included in this word, but which were also not evil in my view. For example eggs of the chickens, who are living with me or milk of my goat (she is producing milk due to the strong breeding of this breed without ever having a lamb, whenever she eats a lot of fresh grass and she is treating me as her lamb). Also, I don’t belive that it makes a huge difference if there is just a really small amount of animal products in something. For example crisps, which contain 1% sweet whey powder. To my mind this small number is not changing the world. Also, I understood that no-one can live 100% vegan in this world. There are many people who tell that they are, but you can think like this as long as you don’t know where your products come from. No matter what we do, we are connected to animals and we need them. In some places we need them to fertilise our fields or to have plants pollinated. And no matter how hard we try, we will allways destroy their habitants and kill them when we want to grow or produce something. So I’ve just started to see more and more colours between black and white. And I found out that it is important to me to decide what feels right for me — doing that in every situation. I don’t want to limit myself by a dogma where somebody else tells me what is right or wrong. I want to decide on my own. I want to take the full responsibility for my own actions and really think about their impacts. I still really like the idea of veganism and I think it is getting close to the way we should live in the future. But I don’t feel comfortable to call myself a vegan.
You have founded a little private sanctuary. What were your reasons being establishing the sanctuary? What is the most important thing for you while running it?
This question is huge. This sanctuary is kind of my whole life. I have grown up with many animals around: farm animals, pets and wild animals. I’ve spent a lot of time during my childhood farms being around me, also my parents have had many animals. For me there has never been a clear border between pets, farm animals or the wildlife. I’ve seen all of them as friends. And I’ve seen their suffering. So I started very early to try to rescue as many as possible. It was my biggest passion in my life that felt more important than anything else. The sanctuary has been growing naturally over the years. But since around a year ago I’ve changed my view a litte bit and I stopped trying to save as many as possible. Now I try to let quality rise over quantity. As long as I was trying to save as many as possible, I focused on all the cruilty and I lost a lot of energy in that. There were more and more animals I was responsible for and they had a better life now than before, of course, but what I noticed was that it was not enough for me. I want to give them as much quality in their life as possible. I don’t want them to spend a life similar to a life on a farm, just with less violence. The most cruel part for me is that we, people, are taking away their freedom and their personal responsibility. Their right do decide on their own. For me freedom is not only about being fed well. There is so much more that animals need to live a fullfilled life. I am unable to claim that I am able to give to my animals what they really deserve. But I want to give my best. And to do so I need to take my time for them. For those whom I have already saved. That is the most important part for me.
Also, I’ve decided that I want to offer my best in order to change the system that is causing their enormous suffering. And I know that I can’t do that on my own. I try to translate what I think animals want to tell us, humans. In this way I want to inspire and trigger other humans to consciously ask all these questions and to develop their own opinion. In order to rise the awareness and to offer my part to the healing process of the relationship between animals, humans and nature.
How do you operate your sanctuary?
This question is really huge to be just a single question in an interview. There is so much included in running a sanctuary, even with a small one. It is a lot of work and a lot of time. There are many challenges in so many different ways… Every single day is different and I need to fight for the simplest stuff that is needed to suvive (not for me, for the animals) on a regular base. I know how fragile this life is. Sometimes it feels like a gift to get reminded about that, sometimes it is the worse challenge I can imagine.
Right now I am responsible for one Dog, one Cat, one Duck, one Chicken, two Rabbits, two Pigs, three Goats and five Cows. They all have had different journeys to come here. I am not open to take more animals at the moment. I know that sometimes animals come to you in a natural way, because it is meant to be. And whenever that happens I take them and find some space in my life and in my heart.
What do non-human persons need in order to feel secure?
The same things as Humans too — the fulfillment of their basic needs, love and freedom.
Why are animal sanctuaries needed?
They are needed because they help humans to meet animals, who are usually completely disconnected from them and the emotions they could feel for them. And of course, the sanctuaries give to some animals opportunities to live a better life. But hopefully we will find new ways to live together and meet each other at eye level in the future.
How to start an animal sanctuary?
There are two opportunities, in mind mind:
1. The animals and opportunities are coming to you in a natural way. It feels like your life’s purpose. In this case you have no other opportunity than going with the flow. Step-by-step you will find solutions for the struggles that are challenging you on your own personal way. Even in the hardest times you will always know that you are on the right path.
2. Don’t do it. If this path is not opening for you in a natural way, it is a clear sign that you are just trying to find a way to feel like a good person. You are just feeding your own ego. On a longer term this will not make you happy or rise the level of love. You should continue to search for your true purpose of life.
What needs to happen to improve the rights of non-human persons?
We need to reconnect with ourselves. With our true nature. In this way we will remember that we all are connected. We all are different from each other, but the similarities weights more.
What non-human persons can teach us?
More than we will ever be able to teach them.
Do you implement sustainable viewpoint on your activities and at the sanctuary?
As far as it is relevant and feasible for me. For example, I don´t have my own car right now and food gets sorted out from a supermarked.
You have said: “I don’t believe in a world without cruelty. I don’t believe, that we are able to live without harming others. But I believe, that we can do our best to tread every living being with respect and bring as much love and light into this world as possible. That’s all.” Can you elaborate on that?
I remember that I wrote this post after the castration of one of my oxes. As always, it was a really emotional situation for me. It was a good reminder of how difficult it is to bring something good into this world. I know that I’ve saved his life and that he would have needed to go through enormous suffering if I wouldn´t have rescued him. But… I caused him so much pain and fear. I’ve taken away a part of his natural masculine energy. A part of his personality. Of his childhood and his freedom. That is not right for me. Situations like this are making me to think a lot about life and how it is meant to be… It is clear for me that as long as we are humans, we will always course pain to others. But we are also responsible for the impact that we have in this world and we can decide to be as careful as possible. That is what feels the most important for me. How aware are we about our actions, and how loving and careful we are choosing our actions.
You have also said: “I am not against farmers. I am not against animal factories.” Can you elaborate on that?
I am not against anything, because I belive that everything exists for a reason. It will not go away, if we are fighting against it. So, if we recognise something as “not as we want it to be” we need to find the reason. In most cases it is a wound. A wound where we feel as if we would need to take away something from somebody else in order to feel good. Or, as if we would be the victim. It is a lack of love. So, if we put more hate into it, it is not going to get better.
Animal activists, people running sanctuaries, and similar are vulnerable to stress effects. Can you share some self-care tips?
Don’t take yourself too serious. We are all so much smaller then we sometimes think. Remember to fill your cup first – otherwise your support is not going to help anyone on a longer term. Find out where you act from a place of true love and where it is your ego who just wants to feel better. Choose love, unconditional, over and over again. Love for everyone and everything. Including yourself.
What vegans, activists, etc would you say have influenced you the most, and why?
There is an endless number of people who have infueced me during my whole life. But when we talk about veganism, I think it was one of my friend in my childhood. As I already told, I grew up as a vegetarian and the word “vegan” was unknow at that time. If I would’t have know that my friend was growning up vegan, I might have needed some more years to find the courrage to try it by myself and to reduce animal products in my life.
What’s next up for you?
A lot. But mainly surviving our first winter me as a self-employed.
Patreon (a crowdfunding membership platform): https://www.patreon.com/RosinaEspig