Catskill Animal Sanctuary is a magical place that melts hearts and takes away one’s fears. I can attest to this because Simon’s empathy and compassion were fully awakened and I finally stopped being unreasonably afraid of turkeys. I’ve been terrified of turkeys ever since I was four years old and the story goes like this.
When I was still a wee little girl in Korea, we went on a preschool field trip to a farm. And on this farm, there were goats, sheep, horses, chickens and a few turkeys. The nice, well-meaning people at the farm gave us little cups filled with chicken feed and the boys, instead of feeding the chickens as intended, dumped the cups on top of the girls’ heads. The chickens started running and clucking, eating all the seeds that fell around our feet, but there was one turkey who looked at the feed stuck in the strands of my hair and decided that it looked like a nice place to get his lunch. Needless to say, I started running away, crying and screaming bloody murder… and the turkey chased me around for a short bit. Maybe he thought it was a game or didn’t know how to react to this little crying girl and wanted to comfort me or maybe he just wanted to eat me. Who knows what was going through that turkey’s brain, but all I know is that I was a particularly small child and it was a very large bird who ran very fast. On that day, my fear of turkeys manifested and it stayed with me for almost 30 years.
Fast forward 5 years. I am now 9 years old living in America and experiencing my first Thanksgiving. There are pictures of turkeys everywhere and I am very VERY confused as to why then I saw my dad preparing and roasting this big bird and I learn that we are about to eat a turkey for dinner and I was horrified (we don’t eat turkeys in Korea). I did not eat turkey that night or the years after moving to America. When I was a teenager, someone asked me why I don’t eat turkey and I told him the story and he said, “Well, that’s more the reason to eat it. You know, payback for being mean to you when you were young.” That didn’t make any sense to me. Why kill something just because I am afraid of it? And the turkey on the dinner table didn’t do anything to me and it certainly can’t be the same turkey that, with no malicious intent, chased me for a few seconds on that farm. Bottom line is that when I see a turkey on that roasting pan, I don’t see food. I see a live animal who just wanted to eat and for that reason, I could not, and still cannot, bring myself to cut into its flesh with a knife and eat it.
So now we are back at CAS and we are outside of a small pen where a few chickens and turkeys reside. We are about to go inside the pen and I can feel my heart fluttering and I am getting slightly sweaty. I am four years old all over again and I am really afraid of being chased by a turkey. But reason sets in and I realize;
- These white turkeys looks nothing like the big brown ones I saw years ago
- They almost look like small swans with really bad acne
- They are much smaller than I remember
- I am much bigger than them
- They were abused by humans prior to their rescue and they probably have more reasons to be afraid of me than me of them
So I slowly approach them as our guide, Rocky slowly picks one up and invites us to pet her. I keep my distance but Simon bravely pets her wings. Rocky gently set her down on the ground and demonstrated where the turkey likes to be scratched and how (their sides and back under their wings if you are curious). To my amazement, the turkey closed her eyes and made little chirping noises I can only interpret as happiness. I decided that I am going to get over my fear (always face your fears!) and touch this turkey. And once I touched this turkey, I couldn’t stop! She was so incredibly soft and receptive to my touch. I started scratching her and she started PURRING! Her whole body was shaking, she was chirping, closing her eyes and I felt her entire body just relax under my fingers just as my dogs do. It was incredible to see a bird behave like our canine and feline companions.
Fret not, meat eaters. Visiting CAS will not turn you into one of those “weird vegans”. But, you will hopefully leave a little more educated, a little more compassionate and a little more empathetic towards the animals we have “dominion over”. Hopefully a small part of you will leave believing that having dominion over these sentient beings always meant to take care of them instead of hurting them.