This article was first published in VEGAN, the Vegan Society magazine of Aotearoa, New Zealand.
In the rural heart of North Canterbury, a 19-year-old human dynamo is opening the eyes and hearts of New Zealanders and others around the world to the beauty and plight of one of our most exploited animals. Til the Cows Come Home Farm Sanctuary officially opened its gates in 2018 and since day one, Jasmine Hubber has barely had time to catch her breath. However she has no intention of slowing down!
Jasmine, with one of her much-loved rescues
Jasmine’s love of cows began before she could even walk, on her parents’ 1,100 acre beef and dairy grazing farm. Even from such a young age however, the treatment and ultimate fate of her favourite animals did not sit well. ‘The beef and dairy industry showed me how cruelly these gentle creatures are treated’, she explains. ‘I wanted to have a place where they would be safe, free from the hands of greedy people who just wanted to use and slaughter them for the sake of money’. In 2017, Jasmine and her whole family of beef farmers went vegan. ‘We moved to a smaller block of land. I started out by rescuing a few bobby calves but within a year I decided to set it up as a sanctuary and open it up to the community. I went from 10 cows to 78 in less than 12 months! It was insane and stressful but such an incredible year. The support has been amazing’.
Thanks to Jasmine, innocent bobby calves like this one have been saved from being slaughtered at four days old
There’s never a dull moment at the sanctuary and Jasmine never knows when another rescue emergency may strike. Followers of the ‘Til the Cows Come Home – Farm Sanctuary’ Facebook page are regularly glued to their screens waiting for news of the latest incoming residents. They cry, they cheer, they breathe sighs of relief, they grieve along with her. The love and concern Jasmine shows for all her rescues is so incredibly raw and touching, it’s impossible not to get caught up. Every animal at the sanctuary has a story, and a distinct personality. ‘They all have names and are very much a part of the family. Many are rescued bobby calves or ‘spent’ dairy cows – an industry term for a cow that has begun to decline in milk production and is marked for slaughter. Some have been saved by other likeminded people and brought here, as well as farmers wanting to do a good thing and give a peaceful life to some of their cows’.
Daisy, one of the sanctuary’s oldest residents
At the time of writing, Jasmine had recently taken delivery of six dairy cows from the North Island and animal numbers have now swelled to over 100. Perhaps her biggest triumph to date however would be the rescue of 21 dairy cows destined for slaughter. ‘Yes, we managed to raise $16,500 within weeks’, Jasmine recalls. ‘Unbelievably, just an hour before the fundraiser closed, Goodsouls Kitchen – a vegan restaurant in Thailand, stepped forward and donated $6,500! It was a truly amazing moment. In total, on Givealittle, the sanctuary has raised almost $40,000. It’s absolutely incredible, the amount of ongoing support has blown me away. I also often have messages from people wanting to donate equipment, their time, hay etc. The sanctuary has a wee community of support and it just continues to grow and grow every day. It has shown me the kinder side of humanity and makes me incredibly excited for what we can all achieve in the years to come’.
Saving a large animal like a cow is considerably different to rescuing small animal such as dogs and cats, which are often free. Aside from the costs of feeding and caring for all the animals, Jasmine has also had to raise money at short notice, to be able to save animals headed for the slaughterhouse. With the exception of a few, most farmers are unwilling to give away a cow which can still fetch them several hundred dollars at the meatworks. ‘I do not like paying for animals, but sometimes it is necessary when a life is on the line’, she explains. ‘It’s the farmer’s livelihood. Whether I buy her or the slaughterhouse does, their pockets will be lined either way. The cost of a cow is so high because they are such a large animal and they can ‘provide’ milk and meat and produce offspring, therefore making them a victim of mass exploitation and slaughter. To me, paying for an animal’s freedom is a small cost compared to a cost of their life. I believe that the money spent in buying the animals, then bringing them to the sanctuary and sharing their story with the world, is going to bring these cruel industries down, because people will make the connection and move away from animal products’.
Jasmine adores cows and calves – and they adore her
Some of the sanctuary’s youngest residents are bobby calves – babies who would otherwise have been slaughtered at just four days old, were it not for Jasmine. Looking at their exquisite faces and chuckling at footage of them playing and eating their rescuer’s hair, you just have to wonder at the human race. It costs around $500 to raise each rescued calf from birth to weaning, due to having extremely vulnerable immune systems from being taken from their mothers, and not being able to feed naturally. For Jasmine, it is the hardest and most expensive time of year. ‘We have to have plenty aside for vet fees and electrolytes to help them through the first few weeks of life if they fall ill’.
Grabbing a few moments of precious peace!
The days are often long, especially over calving season, but the rewards are worth it. ‘Sure there are times when I feel like curling up into a ball and eating ice cream (vegan of course!) I get overwhelmed and don’t get enough sleep – but that’s babies for you. I work full time as well as running the sanctuary, so I set myself a plan each day. I get up early to feed the babies, then head to work for the day and come home to feed everyone (big and small) before spending some time on the social media side of the sanctuary. Sometimes I don’t get in until midnight and I’m up again at 5am but I love being busy when it comes to my animals. I get to spend so much time with them, it’s like therapy. One of my favourite rescues is Teddy, a red Hereford bull calf who I found on the brink of death after a traumatic birth. He couldn’t even lift his head and had been left to die, alone in a cold, dark place with no warmth or comfort. I took him home, wrapped him up next to my bed and we cuddled up and watched Netflix together. The following day he was able to wobbly walk a few metres and the swelling to his head he had suffered at birth had gone down enough to enable him to suckle. He never looked back and is now a bouncing eight-month-old boy who is obsessed with muesli. I love him so much.
Being so aware of all this cruelty is exhausting. I’ve cried and cried for the animals I’ve had to leave behind when there has only been the room or money to save so many. Living in a world where people don’t care to see past their own nose is very hard, but the amount of support and change I have witnessed since rescuing has made me very hopeful. In this operation of rescue, you have to take things day by day, otherwise the darkness of this world consumes you. But being around the animals helps me and I love them with all of my heart. They are what get me through it. I love giving animals their freedom. I love the fact that you can help an innocent being feel safe and give them a place where they are loved; it is the most rewarding thing to watch them flourish and feel happy. I love the change in their eyes. Often when new rescues arrive, they have this glassy, sad, damaged look in their eyes but within days it begins to change. They become bright, clear and alert yet relaxed. You can tell a lot about an animal by their eyes. I love watching them learn together, make friends and I love watching them as a big family. Despite their bickering, they take such good care of each other’.
“I love giving animals their freedom”
With so much already achieved before the age of 20, who knows what the future could hold for Jasmine and her sanctuary a few years from now? Whatever it may be, you can bet she is already working on it. ‘My vision is to have a huge property where I can have hundreds of rescued animals, great and small. A place where the public can visit and have tours. I want them to see that their plate full of meat used to once be a living animal, that the milk in their coffee belongs to a dairy cow crying out as she mourns the loss of her three-hour-old son who was taken and killed. I want them to see the day old chicks that are ground up alive, simply because they are male and can’t produce eggs. Animals are here for their own reasons, not ours and it’s about time we start treating them how we wish to be treated.
I would love to have therapy days or something along those lines to help people too. I would also love to help kids who have come from difficult backgrounds by showing them the sanctuary. Animals are so good at healing your heart and mind and I know that it would be incredible for children as they can relate to these animals who have also had a difficult, sad past. I want to help so many animals in need and provide a loving, safe place for these animals that need our care. I am so excited for what the future holds, I have so many ideas, so many plans and it is only just the beginning. I have a vision of a vegan world. I want to change the world’.
Follow me and my friends at the sanctuary!
To learn more about Jasmine’s beautiful moos and keep posted of all the goings-on and new additions at the sanctuary, follow ‘Til the Cows Come Home’ on Facebook.