Let this be a call to all the happy hearts who are interested in living with community in dedication to Animal Liberation. Introducing: Peacebird Animal Liberation Cooperative — a vegan community at Piebird Farm Sanctuary in Nipissing, Ontario — an interspecies intentional community focused around sanctuary and dedicated to Animal Liberation and respecting animal-personhood.
Follow along: www.instagram.com/peacebird.ca
January 22 2018 — The best world we can imagine must undergo the formality of actually occurring. What’s in our happy hearts must exist under our feet if it is ever to spread to the hearts of our neighbours. Heavy concepts of true Peace, Personhood, and Equality become echoes lost in our soul if we don’t create them with our hands. So this creation must be the first act of Liberation: to actually build a place of Peace. Set it free from the captivity of our hearts or the confinement of our dreams, to where anyone can come hold it in their own hands. A place where Peace can be seen and heard. Where Peace can be joyful, luminous and flowerlike. Where Peace can be free.
Here at Piebird Farm Sanctuary we have spent the last twelve years building a place of Peace, giving it a place to happen. Building a place where others can come share and participate and contribute. Now we’re taking a step towards adding another way that sanctuary here can be meaningfully shared — another way that sanctuary can more meaningfully contribute to animal-personhood — by community. Co-operative community, living on the land and living in service to furthering Animal Personhood and Animal Liberation.
If you are interested, read on…
Over the years, our growth grew to become a life of living in service with animal-friends and truly respecting their personhood. Living with equality and uplifting autonomy. A life that is a reclamation of love. This has informed the work we do here at Piebird Farm Sanctuary / Vegan Farmstay towards Animal Liberation.
If you are like us, you are ever-striving for more ways that your life can further contribute to your values in a meaningful way. For the last 12+ years, Piebird has been a place that nurtures caring for animal-persons, the world and each other. We live in joyful community with the animal-persons here in this sanctuary family and invite others to come and participate in this life. It’s an atmosphere of inspiration: guests bring their own richness, inspiring us — and hopefully our sharing also sparks something in them as well. Between the guests, the animal-friends who live here and ourselves, it’s a community rich in beauty and celebration — and mutual inspiration that is deep in connection and caring
It is in this spirit of recognizing the transformative power of community that we begin this cooperative living project that will hopefully take the sanctuary into the next phase. We acknowledge the limitations of the conventional sanctuary model to truly assist animal-persons in uplifting themselves from all forms of oppression — and the remedy that we see is community. Simply, sanctuary is not enough anymore. Only by more-broadly communicating that we are living in true community with animal-persons can we together express the kind of equality, interconnectedness, diversity and respect that we need to express.
OPPORTUNITY / RESPONSIBILITY
We all have the responsibility to be building communities that include animal-persons as equals — and we as a sanctuary have the opportunity to begin this vibrant living community now. Communities are catalysts for broader change. Communities are learning grounds that bring together people to imagine, create and actually experience the more just, peaceful and sustainable world they dream of — and the impact of such a community is felt far beyond the sanctuary’s boundaries.
By actually living the world to come, we help transform the world that is. As a sanctuary, we have the opportunity and responsibility to step beyond the theoretical ethics of a moment, and apply the best of them to reality. Ideas become life. Beliefs become breath. Theory becomes energy. Shared ethics become community.
Sanctuary ought to not only fight to end the current domination of humans over other animal-persons, but should also simultaneously begin to build an alternative society characterized by truly-loving and always-respectful relationships with all animal-persons. Interspecies interconnectedness.
BRIEF HISTORY OF PIEBIRD
To us, the Ethical Vegan lifestyle is not just choices that are sans-animal, it’s a life that celebrates other lives, celebrates other animal-persons. With that spirit, Piebird began in 2005 and has grown slowly and happily — being growers of food, it’s very fitting that our growth has been organic. We started living with animal-persons 12+ years ago here simply from the felt responsibility of having the space and ability. This evolved (and continues to evolve) slowly to a relationships of more meaningful equality. Daily there are understandings that allow these interspecies friendships to further bloom into equality. Because we are small scale, we operate more as a family than as a farm, so each family member here in the sanctuary is truly seen and heard.
As the sanctuary has developed, we have tried to create a space where Peace makes it’s presence felt. Being caregivers for the family of animal-friends who lives here is a form of love-based activism. Through meaningful (mystical) experiences, guests here inspire themselves to care about life, Earth, one another, to critically examine social justice issues, and to foster skills and adopt actions that will help birth Peace. We are inspired by them as well. This mutual inspiration helps us all further understand our ethical, environmental and social responsibilities.
As a sanctuary, our efforts are to inspire and empower all to put their energies towards confronting the systems of oppression. By creating a positive space, practicing non-violent communication (not to be confused with apathy), and building entry-points into empathy, we hope that the sanctuary inspires the movement to remain positive and cooperative.
Sanctuary life is a life of service. As a sanctuary, we operate as a fluid community, always adapting itself to the needs of the sanctuary residents. Respecting the changing needs of the animal-friends here requires a rich degree of individual responsibility. This level of self-responsibility makes it necessary for continued development of the self-aware individual to always be accountable to everyone around them, including themselves.
Piebird has always been a place for people to pause, remember, and re-connect with themselves, with the land, with each other, and with a sense of purpose, so that more honest innovations for addressing the change needed in our world can emerge.
We (Yan and Sherry) believe we can make gains in the animal rights world by helping humans work with the ingredients of friendship, love and kindness. We choose to live in love. We choose in live for liberation. We choose to live with plentiful peace.
We’re grateful for this life that allows us to foster truly respectful communion and coexistence with other animal-persons as a community. Grateful for the understandings that pronounce themselves, and for the goodnesses that speak.
VISIONS OF PEACEBIRD ANIMAL LIBERATION COOPERATIVE
A cohesive community is unlikely to emerge if its members do not subscribe to shared common values. Simply this is Animal Liberation, especially as applied to sanctuary. While values must be shared, the structure should recognize the need for diversity in the community.
The first seed community will bring together a small diversity of people with a shared commitment to:
- transforming themselves as they act for Animal Liberation,
- weaving justice and sustainability into every step of the journey,
- to actively be of service to animal-persons as an inspirational model of living,
- working together to create social change and community amongst ourselves, and
- diversification of skills and the development of social competence to share and care for self and others (necessary additions to community purpose).
Currently, the sanctuary buildings are designed and built to immediately inspire a sense of beauty and to foster the kind of emotional landscape where change comes easy — this beauty is important to contribute to as the sanctuary becomes community.
The community will utilize existing infrastructure of Piebird Farm Sanctuary and successively launch it’s own housing projects to form the cooperative. The sanctuary is five separate land titles so there is multi-dwelling flexibility that most other lands do not offer — we envision one of the buildings being a small multi-unit living space. Broadly, the community will achieve affordable housing by it’s very nature and accessible land ownership. If the community is able, it would be really meaningful to offer one of the spots to activists in need (ie: animal liberation activist just released from jail, or other marginalized persons, etc) — third-party investments would be welcome for this.
It was in seeking responsible solutions for long-down-the-road and continuing the sanctuary beyond our own lives that initially got us thinking of community. Small, multi generational, community— with resilience. This is a learning that was furthered by observing the flock and herd sizes where the friends feel most comfortable and secure, and where diversity fills-in the roles.
But then the richness of this community model shone for us with all the ways interspecies community could further Animal Liberation: from providing an alternative land-ownership structure that could challenge the “legal property” stance of animal-persons (to them co-owning the land where they live) — to better communicating the ideas and ethics of this work — to simply the mutual inspiration and all the other rich beauty that comes with sharing and collaborative visions.
We are keeping all of this intentional vague to allow a truly collaborative vision to emerge. Quiet honestly, we are open to most possibilities of community as long as they in some way address the one need the sanctuary has: always move towards (rather than away) Animal Liberation and the long-term security for the sanctuary residents.
Initial cooperative seed members/founders will need a financial investment for land and housing. The wonderful part is that we already have the land so the land/money scramble isn’t there like it could be for some communities. This isn’t a “start-up” — it is an “evolution” of an existing awesomeness. We are an un-status-quo operation with all sorts of un-status-quo creative ideas of how it could work! It’s just a matter of founding members deciding how best to work together to utilize the land and existing structures, how to work towards, through shares and investments or land dividing and co-op housing, an attainable and sustainable legacy for the animal friends who are also considered equal members of the community. We just need the right dedicated humans to contribute. If you think this could be you, read on!
We are better at communicating realities and expectations in actual in-persons conversations. If we haven’t yet met, then perhaps arrange to book a stay come Spring, we re-open in April and being here in person is the best way to see how our energies merge.
In the meantime, let’s have a conversation. Tell us about yourself, we’ll leave this open for you to decide what to say. A good place to start would be to tell us about skills you have that would be useful, activism, volunteer history or work history that may be relative (including a couple of references will be helpful), where you are in life in terms of commitment and resources for example– firstname.lastname@example.org — Piebird Farm Sanctuary, 113 Chapman’s Landing Rd., Nipissing Ontario P0H 1W0
If you are interested but not yet ready for such a long-term change, or do not have the personal or financial commitment at this time there is also our Residency Experience here at the sanctuary.
Follow along: www.instagram.com/peacebird.ca
ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE COMMUNITY
We value participation and cooperation. We value caring, serving, thoughtfulness, and living by love. We value peace and peacemaking. Sanctuary is way of life that respects and honours all through the practice of non-violence.
We value social change activism, those who uplift and empower, those who use hope and optimism to undo the systems of oppression, those who understand progressive equality, and those who try to live a life of empathy, care, courage, and authenticity.
We value those who are loving and radical. Our efforts are not limited to Animal Liberation, but also embrace Earth Liberation, community empowerment and all forms of resilience. We value those who give breath to their dreams, and who give dreams to their breath. We value those who freely give more than they expect to receive in return.
In respecting the sanctuary residents, we value those who add positive energy to the circle of compassion. We value those who enable, empower, and inspire with cheerful grace. We value consciousness-raising and those who feel the moral obligation to contribute to the happiness of others. We value those who are charitable with their love.
As a self-sufficient sanctuary, we value sustainability. We value artistic aesthetics to create a beautiful world for the sanctuary residents. We value those who add to the spirit of revolution.
These ideas can be represented by:
Empowerment – We believe in a commitment to the empowerment of community members, empowerment of the community as a whole and empowerment of those for whom the community is in service. We believe in collaboration and co-empowered leadership. We believe in means of influence that share power with others rather than using power over others. We believe in non-hierarchal structures. Obviously, we believe that the community will extent this commitment of empowerment to the animal-persons as well.
Communication – Community is communication. We believe in compassionate communication: honest expressions of views, needs, and feelings, while owning one’s own and respecting other’s. We value listening and those who contribute to quietness (concise, meaningful & direct communication). We believe in active reflective listening to one another to increase our ability to live with choice, meaning, and connection — to connect empathically with self and others to have more supportive relationships. We value strong interpersonal relationships. Even in disagreement we believe in being uplifting in emotion and giving of energy.
Community Growth / Change – We believe in the creation of environments which encourage exploration, curiosity, and creativity. If the community is so organized that it lacks room for change or the stimulus of uncertainty then blandness is the inevitable result. We believe in growth and change in the collective processes and activities, based on collective reflection and evaluation — always moving closer to efforts of true Animal Liberation.
Individual Growth / Dialogue – Healthy relationships and communication are the cornerstone of any effective movement that works on transformations. Without a basic level of trust, openness and respect among individuals, the movement becomes fragmented and divided. We believe that when trust, openness and respect are nurtured, the community is more effective, more resilient and happier. So a cornerstone of our vision is that all those living in the community will participate in some form of ongoing personal development that will help everyone to better engage in dialogue and help the community better realize our goals. A continual blending of action and reflection where they each inform the other. This commitment to self influences commitment to community.
Community Organizing – If we want to be actively involved in pushing society towards a revolutionary consciousness we need to move outside our usual circles. We believe in being engaged in the world beyond the immediate community. As a small community living on the same land, we can be well practiced in our methods to better engage the broader community.
Positive Space – We have learned that no revolutionary project can be complete or successful without love. To foster that love, we maintain a positive space. To act to end the suffering of this pre-animal-liberation world is often a disheartening situation to the ethical vegan, therefore sanctuary must be a positive space for all. A space where all work to allow others to have mystical experiences. This means to inspire and empower all to put their energies towards confronting all of the oppressions that stand in the way and not contributing to them. As a sanctuary, we aim to inspire the movement to remain positive and grounded. This positivity will in turn positively enhance the community ecology of sanctuary and make a more resilient positive space.
Liberation – We insist on liberation. As a sanctuary, we most obviously engage for Animal Liberation, but we recognize that all entanglements of oppression and liberation are related. We see a critical connection between the exploitation & degradation of the environment and the exploitation and oppression of individuals and their communities. The liberation and self-determination of animal-persons, humans, self and the environment is inseparable.
Unity – Animal Liberation is a movement of togetherness — so we aim to inspire towards unity. The unity of respecting each other and all. We do this by debunking or bridging the perceptions of division. We show this by living in such a way as to inspire the understanding that our selves are no different than any other species. Our selves are no different than any other selves.
Collective Impact / Effectiveness – As a small community we can be well practiced in effectiveness to better engage the broader community. We can polish the things which bring us together as a loving and learning community. It is crucial to resuscitate and nurture the togetherness that connects people in circles of care, cooperation, and compassion. Elevate and unite community. Working with others means increasing our collective impact — as well a understanding and amplifying each other’s approach to change. We have learned that no revolutionary project can be blooming without proper nourishment. And the best kind of nourishment is mutual.
SHARING VS. SEPERATION
We are all shaped by the variety of our experiences, but we share more similarities than differences. We live in a culture of separation: competitions in popularity, divisions of ownership, detachment from responsibility. These have consequences on the lenses through which we view the World. The best way to break free of all that is to build community. Creating community is systemic change.
For us, sanctuary has always been about sharing: sharing the enjoyment, sharing the awareness, sharing the exploration — evolving into community means for us to all take a meaningful step backwards and share more.
FREEDOM AND FRIENDSHIP
As a sanctuary we create the space for animal persons to be free — but that isn’t to say that their freedom is something we’ve given to them. Yes, we tear down strife and we uplift — but the liberated raise up their own freedom. None of us give others their freedom, or “rescue” them to their freedom. Their freedom is theirs and they have it within. We just help lift whatever oppressions are holding them down.
Freedom carries with it the responsibility of being part of community. And that commitment means: that our own individual freedom must bloom the freedom of all others too. The freedoms that we ourselves are given require of us to give freedom to all. To uplift.
As ethical vegans, we know veganism to be a necessity. But through our work as sanctuary, veganism become just one step in the long road of truly respecting personhood. Not killing, eating or exploiting someone is really just the least we can do. We can do more. We can see all animal-persons as the sovereign individuals they are. Self-governing and self-determining — each with consent over their own body and life.
The friendships became so much more respectful the more respect we added to them. Such is the nature of friendships. Our sanctuary work became to demonstrate the happy moral certainty of such friendships: a meaningful happiness that gifts meaningful happiness. We envision that community can expand upon this immensely.
CHANGES VIA MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES
The nature of oppression is boring, while the spirit of resistance is inspiring. It’s imaginative. Many of us are naturally attracted to give our efforts to the resistance simply because it is more beautiful. It is there where love lives. It is there where freedom grows. It is there where goodness comes easy. It is there, amid the creative powers of liberty where we do our best work as Piebird Farm Sanctuary. It is there, where we orient ourselves in launching Peacebird Animal Liberation Cooperative.
Love is our creative force. Love enables. Love empowers. Love inspires. Love allows us to embody and express the deliberate creation of Peace. When the energy of our attention is a steady expression of love, the work of bringing about the presence of Peace has more ease to it.
Transformation is a creative act, so in fostering any change we must enable creative transformation. We do our best to be joyful and to have the ideas we embody and represent be welcoming.
We realize that the positive changes we seek (in how we govern ourselves, and in how we may inspire others), these do not often come from the analytical spheres of our being, but rather they come from the poetry of life. Loving example has more followers than prudent reason. With all of the understandings we have and hold shining bright, we create a place of beauty and meaning and love and joy, where participants are invited through self-inspiration to create their own mystical experiences.
SANCTUARY AND COMMUNITY AS REVOLUTION
As a sanctuary, we have to live love loudly, and show what non-exploitative, non-hierarchical relationships look like.
New ideas of peace, justice and love are always germinating, seeking to find their way into the light. As a sanctuary, our felt-responsibility is to give new ideas and new ways a space to be, to allow them to take root in life.
Everywhere, new ideas are opposed by the inertia of the dominate order. Culture has a relentless momentum that is unkind or at least un-noticing to gentle voices of change. Our role is to brighten the space where those voices speak. They are speaking already: The chicken-friends are telling stories of metamorphosis, the goat-friends are humming tunes that tell of shifts, the turkey-friends are singing songs of great transition. Our role is to make it enticing for all to listen. To be present. To participate.
We speak of the true meaning of sanctuary. Not necessarily the popular application of sanctuary. To avoid endless circles of exploitation then reformation, sanctuary should be a true revolution. We all witness dire forms of animal-exploitation be replaced with more-mild forms of exploitation that are still ahead of the status-quo curve but way behind true respect and the equality that’s due. Sanctuary should present a revolutionary vision. Always. We very much see it as a revolutionary project to inspire society to have respectful relationships with all the animal-persons we share this world with.
So sanctuary must be a model of how the revolution could be pursued, and some indication of what to do once we get there.
On the day after the revolution that is Animal Liberation, our communities will need to have been given more tools than only clever tee-shirt phrases and an affinity for cuteness. They will need to have been given the experience as to how relations to animal persons must respect autonomy and individual sovereignty. If the overthrow ends only the exploitation of use and does not gift understandings of equality, then our achievements will be lacking.
It is with these thoughts that we begin this conversation of community. If you are interested in this kind of life then do reach out.
– Yan & Sherry, January 22 2018
Piebird Farm Sanctuary / Vegan Farmstay
113 Chapman’s Landing Rd., Nipissing Ontario P0H 1W0