In Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and Nature , Lori Gruen and I provided a chapter called “Groundwork,” which explores the history of interconnected activism and theory. In that chapter, Lori and I describe the appearance in the 1980s of animal sanctuaries as “a kind of activism that directly connected to affect and the ethics of care.”
Today I would like to celebrate one specific sanctuary, VINE Sanctuary, and highlight the kinds of political and philosophical stances sanctuaries like VINE represent.
VINE was founded in 2000 as a chicken sanctuary in the midst of poultry farms in the Delmarva penisula. (I am proud that my first contribution to them helped them incorporate.) Now, it offers refuge to more than 500 animals (including cows) in a region dominated by dairy farms. This LGBTQ-led and explicitly ecofeminist sanctuary has been creative in responding to the needs of other animals and challenging patriarchal, dominant attitudes.
They were the first to figure out how to rehab former fighting roosters.
They continue to rehab roosters and their methods have helped other sanctuaries with their rehabilitation of these victims. As pattrice jones, one of the founders of VINE, points out in “Mothers with Monkeywrenches," in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals
“In cockfighting, the natural behavior of roosters is perverted in order to force them to act out human ideas about masculinity.” Before VINE, each and every rescued rooster continued to be a victim of rigid notions of masculinity because roosters seized from cockfights or from breeds of fighting cocks were always euthanized.
Other gender-based oppressions they highlight include the use of female animals to produce what I have called “feminized protein” (dairy and eggs), and forced reproduction. Whenever meat eaters say to me, “These animals would not exist if it weren’t for me,” I point out that the animals they are eating would not exist if it weren’t for the reproductive slavery of the female of those species.
At VINE, animals make their own choices. If they have the ability, they can sleep in trees. They aren’t segregated by species, so they have cross-species friendships. I want to be there to see the geese who help with rooster rehab and the ducks who sometimes “adopt” juvenile chickens.
All living on site at the sanctuary are lesbian, bi, or trans, and they count LGBTQ folks of all varieties among their volunteers and supporters. I remember how pattrice gave a presentation at the “Their Lives, Our Voices” conference in Minneapolis in June 2010. She said, “I am going to show how global warming and opposition to gay marriage is connected.” And in twenty minutes, in a wonderful tour de force of embodied theory she did. Afterwards, I said to her, “I am still trying to figure out how you accomplished this.” Here she is at the beginning of the talk, highlighting some of the dualisms an ecofeminist analysis is concerned with. (I know it is fuzzy but I was new at using an iPhone at that time.)
VINE knows and explains, “More important than our own ‘queer’ identities, we have been at the forefront of the emerging effort to discover and uncover the linkages between the exploitation of animals and the oppression of LGBTQ people.” VINE also makes connections with other forms of social oppression, because they understand how speciesism undergirds those other forms. They know, too, how social inequality helps to create and maintain the conditions under which animals are exploited.
Of all the important things they do, this building of bridges between the animal liberation movement and social justice movements cannot be overemphasized, as they draw on the ethics of care to be about their work.
There’s a lot more going on in their sanctuary, like sponsoring community gardens and promoting veganic gardening projects of all varieties, but you can learn more yourself, and, I hope, join me in supporting them here. Feed the birds and more!