The Story of Jim and Cheri Vandersluis, From Goat Farmers to Sanctuary Founders
The journey to a no-kill life came after the Vandersluis’s painfully watched their newborn baby goats—the by-product of selling goat milk to humans—being callously and unconsciously thrown into the back of trucks to be transported away to the slaughterhouse for meat. As their goat milk business grew, so did the number of baby goats, and the question and dilemma about what to do with their growing numbers of “kids.” In the dairy business, baby calves and baby goats are the unfortunate cast-offs that are discarded and disposed of, so that humans can drink the milk intended for the newborn babies. The babies are separated from their mothers immediately after giving birth, and are cruelly and forcibly taken away from the mothers to be slaughtered like “waste,” devastating and agonizing to both mother and baby.
The tormenting reality for the Vandersluis’s was having too many baby goats they could no longer support or keep on the dairy, and there weren’t enough homes to adopt the baby goats and keep them as pets, leaving only one other option. This heartbreaking dilemma became the catalyst for deep change in their lives, and the eventual transition to a new life and philosophy where they stopped raising animals for food, and instead chose to protect, honor and value farm animals in a sanctuary that lets these animals live and “be” without being used for a purpose that purely benefits humans.
While raising goats on their Maple Farm Dairy, the Vandersluis’s were interviewed for the powerful film Peaceable Kingdom. During the interview, they talk about the distressing and painful feelings they experienced letting go of their baby goats, “It was during the selling of the goats that we had these deep changes of feelings. We would sell them, but we had befriended these baby goats—and suddenly they were being hog-tied and thrown into the back of the transport trucks, the baby goats screaming and crying as they were driven away. The handlers were so rough with them, I would tell them please be gentle with them, but they never would be.” Cheri talked about how she would look into the baby goats’ eyes as they were being tied and taken away, and see fear, abandonment and so many emotions, and tears would stream down her face as the truck drove away with the frightened babies.
They talked about how they always tried to “toughen up” and let them go knowing their fate, but instead they felt so much dissonance deep down, “As time goes by you realize you need a certain amount of distance from the animals, you train yourself. It becomes a discipline. But we just knew it wasn’t right what we were doing on our goat farm, keeping the mama goats always pregnant, and selling off the babies for slaughter,” they recounted during the filming of Peaceable Kingdom.
But in short time, the Vandersluis’s decided to follow their hearts and left the goat milk business and farming altogether. Instead they went with their calling and opened a small animal sanctuary in Massachusetts. Maple Farm Dairy became Maple Farm Sanctuary, where the sanctuary provides a safe and loving refuge and lifelong homes for abandoned, abused and unwanted farm animals from the meat, dairy and even fur industries. They now have over 100 animals who call Maple Farm Sanctuary their home where they say, “the animals live the remainder of their lives in peace, free to roam and meander the land.”
The goats from their dairy were all happily adopted by the OohMahNee and PIGs sanctuaries, which allowed them to make the transition to building and opening their own animal sanctuary.
The Vandersluis’s now promote a vegan plant-based diet and lifestyle and advocate for extending respect, kindness and compassion for all animals and living creatures. They advocate against animal farming and raising and killing animals for food, and “breeding any sentient being for production and consumption.”
10 billion farm animals are now raised and slaughtered for food in the U.S. every year—a truly incomprehensible number of lives. They are raised in painful and unnatural confinement in factory farms; never given needed veterinary or medical care; crowded together causing overwhelming stress, anxiety and depression; are suffering from sickness, chronic diseases, untreated wounds and injuries — with no care; they are fed an unnatural diet that causes gastrointestinal distress and pain; female animals are forced into constant pregnancies, their babies forcibly removed from them and killed; the female babies born that are kept alive are forcibly impregnated far too young when their bodies aren’t mature or ready; finally, animals are cruelly transported long distances and ultimately slaughtered inhumanely and most consciously in deep fear and pain. Our “meat, dairy, cheese, milk and eggs” have no face, no eyes, no emotions — we only “see” the end product of their arduous life of suffering for us as “industrialized units” for our consumption. We have come to disregard them as feeling, sentient beings just like ourselves, in this unconscious industrial life of ours.
The Vandersluis’s moved in the direction of kindness, compassion, mercy and life — over causing pain, suffering and death for animals. It’s time for all of us to move in that direction too.
About the Maple Farm Sanctuary:
The Maple Farm Sanctuary Mission
Sponsor a Maple Farm Sanctuary Animal Friend
The special story about a special cow Cassie, who lives on Maple Farm Sanctuary
More about former farmers, animal rescuers, animal sanctuary founders, educators, and artists working to create a just and nonviolent future.
(Credit: Supreme Master Television and Animal World Co-Habitants)
From Animal Farmer to Animal Rescuer, Part 1 of 2
From Animal Farmer to Animal Rescuer, Part 2 of 2
Maple Farm Sanctuary, www.maplefarmsanctuary.org
Film: Peaceable Kingdom
Videos: Supreme Master Television and Animal World Co-Habitants