Posted on Jun 16, 2022
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
Father’s Day is coming, and it is time to let our dads know how much we appreciate their hard work, strength, and love. When I think of a dad, I think of someone who is the provider, the protector, and the hero. Huge hands holding ours, deep voice, steady and calm, and his presence made us feel safe. Some dads are funny and fun, or creative and adventurous, but no matter how our dads show up, we all feel better when they are around. That is certainly how our kids think about Jay, Gentle Barn’s co-Founder, who is not only dad to our human children, but to our 200 rescued animals as well.
The relationships between fathers and their children is not just prevalent in the human world but in the entire animal kingdom. Fathers of all species love and ensure their family's survival. They protect their herd or flock, keeping intruders away. They lead their family to the best food, purest water, and safest homes. And even in matriarchal families where the females make the decisions, the dads are the ones who carry out the matriarchs' wishes and back them up. Without that father figure, the females could be taken by others, the family could be driven away from their territories, and the youngsters would not stand a chance of surviving.
In animal agriculture, animals don’t have daddies. Animals are used for breeding purposes only and are rarely allowed to stay with their families. Animals are not allowed to fall in love and stay together and dads are almost never in the picture. Over the twenty-three-year history of The Gentle Barn, we have had many mommy animals when we rescue pregnant moms or moms with tiny babies, but we have only had a few dads. We have taken enormous pleasure in watching the ones we have had interact with their wives and children, and prove over and over again that animal dads love their families as much as human dads do!
In our California location, we are honoring Magic, the father of our horse family and our strong, smart, and gorgeous leader. When Magic was younger, he loved showing off, doing tricks that he taught himself, and being the center of attention. When he was not the center of attention he was agitated and sullen. But as Magic matured, he helped our horse Andrew who needed a friend. Magic discovered that being there for someone else feels just as nice as getting applause. Later Magic took care of Hero when she had no one, and he realized that helping another is actually much more rewarding than showing off. And when our equine leader, Caesar passed away, Magic took over the herd. Today he puts others first, grooms and shows affection for every member of his family, settles disputes and arguments makes sure everyone is behaving, and he leads his crew to pasture at the start of each day, and to the barn for dinner each night. Our horse family fell apart after Caesar passed away, but Magic is rebuilding that family each day with his strength, courage, and giant heart.
In Tennessee, we were fortunate enough to not only save Lolli’s life, and rescue her mom Minnie Mae, but a year later, reunite them both with Lolli’s father, Merlin. If the stereotype is that fathers are just used to procreate and leave, Merlin proves that wrong with his adoration for his daughter and his mate. Just like any family, Merlin spends quiet time conversing with his wife, and much time each day playing gently with Lolli. The trio is always together, eating, playing, exploring, and sleeping in tandem. If there is a loud noise, Merlin goes to investigate. If they are feeling unsafe, Merlin steps in front of Lolli and Minnie Mae to guard them. And Merlin is always gentle with Lolli, carefully playing with her and running with her slowly so she can always keep up and stay safe in her wheelchair. Lolli would be lost without him and after being separated for a year, they recognized each other right away and were so happy to see each other again. Merlin loves his daughter and his wife and deserves to be with his family just like any human father.
Chico is the father of our Gentle Barn in Missouri. Powerful, wise, in charge, and extremely loving, Chico not only takes care of his boys, but they also owe their lives to him. Chico risked his own life to get his family to safety, sacrificing himself so they could live. Chico gives his boys big, wet tongue baths every day, he gives us the very best hugs, and he is healing to all who come to visit. His giant male energy is palpable, and we all feel a sense of calm and ease around him. Chico will play and rough house with his boys, while at the same time lay down and hold still for the smallest of guests. Chico loves his family and would do anything to protect and provide for them; thank goodness they lived, and we get to watch this beautiful family love each other every day for years to come.
Being a father should not only be a human right, and having a father should be a sacred right for all living beings. When living wild and free, each family whether bird, human, horse, cow, goat, or pig, has a father figure who the family relies on for their very survival. In this crazy factory farming manmade world, we have robbed families of their fathers, and fathers of their families. By going vegan, we help save fathers and keep families together. This Father’s Day let’s celebrate all dads, our human ones, the animal ones at The Gentle Barn, and all animals everywhere!