A factory farm bred Louie, Andi and Jordan to eat and grow, but when the turkeys see people at the Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge, the food loses its attraction.
“If we’re out in front of the house, they’ll all be over here in the corner, staring at us,” said Lenore Braford, the refuge’s 29-year-old founder.
Now in its third year, the 20-acre, nonprofit in northern Chatham County is adding new spaces for animals rescued from factory farms, abuse or neglect and families that can no longer care for them.
The first in a series of events will be held Saturday at the AIANC Center for Architecture and Design in Raleigh. The fundraiser, to benefit a $100,000 campaign for rescued goats and sheep, has the promise of a matching grant up to $25,000, Braford said.
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The money, in part, will build a two-story barn with a hay loft designed by Braford’s husband Paul Drake, an N.C. State University architecture graduate student; the barn will be his final project before graduating in May. Drake volunteers at the refuge, using skills he gained building Habitat for Humanity homes.
Last year’s campaign raised $12,000 to build a hen house with flexible spaces and walls that can be cranked up like garage doors, depending on the weather and time of day. It was built with the help of more than 30 volunteers and could be expanded with a second row of pens.
Animals that just arrived or are sick are kept in a separate pen. The 15-acre pasture is thick with sweet grasses, and Braford said she would like to build a pond for ducks and geese, space for cows, a memorial garden and orchards, where visiting students can pick fruit.
They worked with the county to establish the refuge, which could take in roughly a hundred animals, said Braford, an Ohio native has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. About 25 regular volunteers work a few shifts a month, but they can always use more and have been talking with N.C. State University, she said.
“I wanted to make sure that we had the funding to do things right, and we were good with the county and everything had been researched,” she said. “The last thing I want to do is bring in animals and then have them not be able to be here anymore or not have the funds to feed them.”
The United States raises and slaughters nearly 10 billion animals every year, according to a 2013 report from the Pew Commission and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
Without rules to protect their welfare, many live in conditions so crowded, they can’t get up or turn around, the report stated. Others are altered – beaks and toes removed, for instance – without anesthesia, and fed mixes with hormones to promote growth and antibiotics to prevent disease.
Braford said they want let people know what’s happening, what they can do and why a vegan diet is important.
“I just felt like it’s not right how we do that to these animals and was really saddened by that. There are billions of animals in this situation, and they’re hidden from us,” she said. “I felt compelled to do something.”
Louie, Andi and Jordan were left on the doorstep of the nonprofit group Farm Sanctuary in New York state, Braford said. Now 6 months old, their beaks are clipped and their bodies hug the ground when they walk, a result of breeding for larger breasts and smaller, weaker legs.
The laying hens next door – affectionately known as “the girls” – also were debeaked. They were among 3,000 hens released from a battery-cage farm last year to the California-based group Animal Place. Battery cages are small, metal and typically stacked in warehouses.
Other animals come from good homes but were given up because of zoning rules or neighbors’ complaints, Braford said. That’s what happened to Robby the Rooster, who couldn’t stay with his Carrboro owner because of town rules.
Cary resident Erin Loftus met Braford when they volunteered at Carolina Tiger Rescue and visits her refuge regularly to feed the animals, clean stalls and just hang out. It’s important that abused animals learn to trust humans again, Loftus said, and the refuge is doing good work.
“They’ve just really gotten something wonderful off the ground here,” she said. “I try to imagine 20 years from now what it could be like, and it’s probably going to be amazing.”