Posted on Oct 03, 2015
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
We heard about him through several people asking us on our social media if we could help him. The news article explained that ‘Red Box’ was being raised as part of a school FFA project. The project was that the kids would help care for him, feed him, clean after him, halter train him, take him to shows, and on September 23rd he would be slaughtered, so his meat could be donated to a local food bank. The kids were quoted in the article saying, that because Red Box is so gentle and docile, that he would give them [the kids] kisses and was part of their family. They said that it would be hard to send him to slaughter, but knowing that he would feed the hungry made it easier for them.
We immediately had an idea that just might save Red Box and fulfill the project as well. The project the students were working on, was scheduled to come to an end on September 23rd and with his death would only feed a few hundred people for maybe a couple of months. But what if we could do more? What if we could save Red Box AND feed the hungry, every year of Red Box’s life, with contributions from our sponsors of twice as much food? What if he could help heal at risk, inner city, and special needs kids? What if the project could go on for many more years and help thousands of people and the kids, instead of saying goodbye to him? What if the students could continue to love and visit Red Box and let his amazing personality continue on at A New Gentle Barn in Oregon?
We tried to get someone from the school on the phone, but we couldn’t reach anyone, so Jay flew to Portland to meet them in person. They were very resistant to talking with him, as they had been getting angry and threatening phone calls from the animal lovers in the community and animal rights advocates who had heard about Red Box as well. Once they realized that we were approaching them respectfully and calmly, they invited us to speak with them. The principal of the school heard us out and promised us that he would present our offer to the kids and they would decide what to do with Red Box.
That night, while the kids decided Red Box’s fate, we anxiously waited; it was the longest night of our lives. People were praying and meditating, but Red Box was in God’s hands now and there was nothing else we could do. In the morning we felt so hopeful, that these kids would make the loving decision and let Red Box come home to The Gentle Barn. But daylight brought bad news. It seems that the kids decided to go through with their already planned project to slaughter him.
We were sent reeling, so sad, we were devastated. After the initial shock, we realized that the kids made the only decision they could have. They were molded and groomed by the schools program and FFA, to be disassociated from animals and see them as things to be killed. They had never been exposed to loving animals the way we do. They made the only choice they were taught to make.
This is why it is so important that we start a Gentle Barn in Oregon! We need to expose as many children to loving and having compassion toward animals. We have to teach them that there is a different and kinder way, so the next time they make a choice, whether an animal lives or dies, they will be able to make the loving choice. We must be the ones to shine the light, expose people to loving animals, and help them be part of a gentler world.
We need to teach our children to preserve and have reverence for nature, not chop it down. We need to connect children with animals to protect them and help make their lives better. We live in a world where making money, greed, competition, and survival of the fittest seem to be our ideals. We seem to have lost real family values, kindness and reverence. The result is a world where we are separate. Separate from the environment, separate from other animals, separate from other countries, and ultimately separate from each other. This separateness is leading us to global warming, deforestation, cruelty, suffering, hunger, pollution, illness and destruction.
The answer, the only answer is unity. When we realize that we are all the same, all one, when we help each other, when we have respect for others and for Mother Earth, we will start to turn things around. This is something we must teach our children.
A community of children raised Red Box, with kindness and love and he grew to be gentle, affectionate, and part of the community. He had a real chance to dedicate his life to healing, loving, inspiring, and giving strength to people. His life and the legacy that the children started could have done something really special. Instead Red Box’s life ended and we all lost our opportunity to practice unity, to practice gentleness.
Bullying is a crisis in this country, where kids believe they have the right to harass and teas other kids who look, act, behave, or seem different. We need to address that with the same concept of unity. No matter how we look, act, what we sound like or act like, inside we are all the same. Once we help children understand the concept of oneness, we can help them stop bullying. But do we extend that to only children? To white children or all kids? To people who speak English or all people? Do we extend that to animals? Only dogs or house pets or all animals? Those are questions we need to start answering if we stand a chance of sustaining the environment, of maintaining health, and establishing community and peace.
We mourn the death of Red Box because he represented a kind choice the children could have made. He represented the unity and peace we so desperately crave. He represented the end of bullying and the beginning of oneness. Red Box represented hope, and a piece of that hope died with him.
We will build a Gentle Barn in Oregon and expose children to the intelligence, the affection, and the value of animals. We hope to share experiences with animals and with nature that connects all of us to the environment, to animals, and to each other. We hope that with that experience and exposure, the next time there is a choice of whether someone like Red Box lives or dies; we hope the outcome would be different. We can create a kinder, gentler world. We can have more respect for nature and the environment. We can connect to and respect our animal neighbors. We can end bullying. We can be loving, healthy, and peaceful.
In Red Box’s memory, we can!
Read the article: Nonprofit’s attempt to purchase FFA steer spurned