Member feature written by Susan Milne
It’s mid-morning and Farm Animal Rescue volunteer Nicolette Moore is coming to the end of her shift. She’s been hard at work since 5.30 am, feeding, cleaning, grooming and carrying out basic health checks on the free-roaming pigs, sheep, cattle, goats and chooks who call this tranquil sanctuary in the beautiful Dayboro Valley home.
It’s a busy schedule but for Nicolette, 28, who has been a volunteer at not-for-profit FAR for seven months, it’s a labour of love and she still always finds time to scratch the pigs behind the ears, give the cattle a loving pat, and hug Ethel, a 23-year-old Merino sheep, who Nicolette admits is her special favourite.
Grand old dame Ethel, who was rescued from the wool industry, peers calmly at the world through woolly dreadlocks, shaking twigs and leaves from her long shaggy coat.
That Ethel has lived to such a great age is remarkable – the lifespan of a commercially bred sheep is only about five years or 10 years for a pampered hobby farm pet. All 100 animals at this serene sanctuary, like Ethel and her pal Murray, a large cream and black Murray grey bull, who is leader of the cattle herd and who was headed for the slaughterhouse, have been rescued by Brad King, who set up FAR 12 years ago after seeing similar operations in the US where he was then living and working.
Brad’s career was in project management, but he has been a lifelong animal lover and passionately opposed to animal cruelty.
“When I saw in the US how the lives of abused animals could be transformed, how they could be given a second chance at life, I wanted to do the same.”
I returned to Australia and bought this 55-acre block of bushland, where we offer a home to commercially farmed animals who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. They are referred to us by vets, the RSPCA and other animal charities, by members of the general public who know about the work we do and by our own investigations team,” he says.
There is nothing today to indicate the tragic back stories of most of these animals – they look the picture of contentment, peacefully basking in the spring sunshine or seeking shade under the trees, having been nursed back to health through love and skill. It’s a scene that delights Nicolette and she’s proud of the role she and the other volunteers play in maintaining it.
Nicolette, like all those involved in running this not-for-profit organisation, has always been deeply troubled by the cruel treatment many commercially farmed animals are subject to, whether battery farmed chickens or sheep and cattle suffering agonies aboard live export ships or in slaughterhouses.
“I always wanted to volunteer to help these animals in some way and when I came to an Open Day here I saw the opportunity,” she recalls.
“That occasion had a massive impact on me. I saw animals living without fear. I saw how these animals who had been caged, who didn’t really have a life, who were once full of fear are now living freely, uncaged, with a life and most important, a home. I so badly wanted to be a part of what Brad has created here.”
Nicolette, who works as an Assistant in Nursing in a hospital sterilisation unit, is one of six volunteers who are assigned a weekly, fortnightly or monthly shift; they work alongside a team of live-in volunteers – mostly backpackers – who receive free meals and accommodation in exchange for working on the farm.
Although the animals’ welfare is the first priority, raising the funds to keep FAR operating is a constant concern and particularly now the cost of living crisis is resulting in dwindling donations. Fund-raising activities include selling products at vegan markets, selling merchandise, animal sponsorships, grants, speaking dates, and a vegan black tie gala dinner to be held in Brisbane later this year. Open Days are held regularly to raise awareness of the work done at FAR.
While raising funds is a major preoccupation for Brad, so too is finding volunteers, who are “fundamental to the work we do”. Opportunities are advertised on the Volunteering Queensland website and currently FAR is looking for an animal care assistant, habitat cleaner, open day volunteer, grill crew member to join the team operating at vegan markets and an event coordinator to run fundraising events. On the rewards of volunteering at FAR, Brad says:
“Volunteering with like-minded people and sharing the goal of creating a kinder world for farmed animals results in strong bonds of friendship, trust and teamwork, the work here is heavy, dirty and very, very satisfying!”
For more information about Farm Animal Rescue including Open Days, donating or volunteering, sponsoring an animal, animal adoption and much more visit their website: farmanimalrescue.org.au. Find FAR’s current volunteer opportunities at volunteeringqld.org.au.
Banner image source: Farm Animal Rescue