The FFA, or Future Farmers of America, is an organization which teaches children and teenagers to raise animals, like beloved pets, and auction them off to slaughter. The idea is to teach kids “responsibility and determination”, but at Generation Awakening we know that it really just desensitizes young people, and encourages them to become advocates of the unsustainable, unhealthy and inhumane animal agriculture industry. So it’s quite ironic that FFA stands for Future Farmers of America, because the future of agriculture lies in sustainable, plant-based farming; the only way we can continue to feed a population pushing 8 billion.
This year, Generation Awakening teamed up with an independent animal activist and began reaching out to the FFA kids at the OC Fair. We discussed with them their animals’ fate, how they felt about it, and offered to take the animals to sanctuaries and private adoptive homes. Some kids were totally indifferent, claiming that they had no problem with eating their own animal- and some were absolutely devastated, but were unable to surrender their animals due to financial issues. At the end of a long week, we finally had connected with one girl who was willing to do anything to save her lamb, Marcel. Jessica explained to us that she felt backed into a corner, and did not know what else to do besides sending him to auction- she was completely distraught and haunted by the fact that she was about to betray her most trusting, loyal friend. So, with some networking, we found a wonderful private home “out in the country” who was willing to take Marcel. The adopter, a vegan animal activist, proceeded to tell us of her five acres of rolling hills, dotted with seven goats, two cows, three turkeys, some horses, pigs, roosters, dogs, cats and a llama. It was a dream come true for Marcel the lamb! A pile of paperwork later, we had arranged to pick up Marcel at 10:00 pm when the fair closed, have him spend the night at our founder’s home, and drive him to sanctuary the next day. Now the livestock section at the OC Fair seems like a happy place during the day, but when the fair closed and the animals were ready for “processing”, it was a whole different story. Screams, bellows, squeals and squawks of terrified farm animals rang out as they were rounded up onto the trucks and trailers of butchers, processing plants, breeders and otherwise ill-intending purchasers. The FFA kids cried and held their animals, trying to block out the horrific situation. Meanwhile, Jessica and her dad both were beaming ear to ear with happiness, knowing little Marcel would be going to a wonderful, happy place.
We led our single lamb out by halter, and gently coaxed him into the slightly undersized crate. He was terrified, but after about forty-five minutes of patience and problem solving, we all managed to get the 115 pound (and STRONG) animal into his crate and into the car. He arrived near midnight at our founder’s home to spend the night, and was let out in the morning for a good romp and some breakfast before he hit the road again. We arrived at the sanctuary that evening, and Marcel couldn’t believe his eyes! He kept hiding behind our legs, peeking out with wide eyes and perked up ears- this was definitely no high school FFA barn! A little herd of goats came stampeding across the property, followed by three turkeys, a cat and a band of children. Marcel greeted his new friends one by one, nervous but excited to explore his new vast home. His new human mom helped us take his ear tags out, one which was severely infected, to symbolize that he is no longer a number. “You’re someone now, Marcel.” we told him, and took off his halter and lead. We watched as he sniffed around the new property, then eagerly followed his human and goat family up the hill towards the barn. We suspect that within a few days, timid Marcel will be the head of the flock, considering his youth, strength and size. Either way, the only thing that matters is that one less animal was killed that day. One less being considered property. One more long, happy life began- and instead of ending in abrupt tragedy, one more story began.