TROUTMAN: How a sanctuary inspired me


I had the privilege to learn about the Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge from Lenore Braford, the founder and interim executive director.

Located in Pittsboro on 45 acres, the Refuge “is a sanctuary for rescued chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, sheep, goats, and cows who come from lives of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.” Braford spoke about the lifelong care provided for each rescued animal, including a natural habitat where the animals can thrive outdoors. She also told stories that moved my heart and mind.

Once, a truck loaded with chickens was headed to the slaughterhouse. But something happened — maybe a bump in the road — that caused a chicken to be tossed from the moving vehicle. I imagined that many drivers hurried past, but one car stopped upon noticing a crumpled pile of white feathers by the side of the road. When this Good Samaritan saw that the bird was still breathing, they carried this hen to the Refuge.

Braford admits that the prognosis was grim. Not only had the chicken suffered abuse during her life, but she had also landed on her head in the fall from the truck, which caused massive swelling. But the Refuge does not turn away animals. The vets and animal caregivers went to work.

For two weeks, they fed and cared for this hen. One of the first signs of recovery occurred when she opened one eye to look at her caregivers. She quickly shut it; later, she opened the other eye. Today, this chicken has some scars, yet she feels the sunshine on her feathers and the dirt between her claws.

I admire Braford and her team's dedication, including their advocacy for “compassionate and health-conscious shoppers.” The task seems daunting. The environmental degradation that results from “factory farming” is horrifying, including animal feces dumped into tributaries and rivers. Communities living near these factory farms suffer from the effects of air pollution, with notably higher cases of asthma among children. Yet, many of these industries have high-powered lobbyists convincing our legislators to privilege profits over human and nonhuman lives.

The Refuge is a sanctuary, which means a safe space. “Sanctuary” also refers to a place of worship where people come to learn and are then inspired to make a difference in the world beyond the walls. Progress may be slow and incremental, but dedication makes a difference.

Remember that tiny chicken who was found on the side of the road? The hen who first opened one eye, then another? Braford and her team named that lucky hen Hope.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church as well as a writer, pizza maker, coffee drinker and student of joy.