“Can I ask you to think about what is on your plate and how it gets there?”
Pam Ahern, who has loved and rescued cats and dogs from childhood, is considering attending an anti-fur rally in the 1990s. She confides with one of the rally organisers that she eats meat and asks would that be okay.
Pam received the above response along with an encouragement to join.
Pam notes that the rally representative could have been mean to her, or belittled her, saying something like, ‘Meat is murder’. Instead, Pam went along in her leather boots and woollen skirt to the rally and had a chance to become curious about the impacts of her choices.
She soon came across the seminal book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. Peter describes a situation where he is at a local RSPCA in England and is invited to have a plate of ham sandwiches, which he thinks is odd. That prompted Pam to be kinder to all animals she interacts with and she became vegan overnight.
That initial invitation Pam received more than thirty years ago would inform her on how to operate Edgar’s Mission.
Edgar’s Mission is a 153 acre animal sanctuary founded almost twenty years ago by Pam, who is also the Director. It all started with one pig: Edgar. The sanctuary now has roughly over 400 animals and offers free tours for the public with nearly 150 tours offered last year.
The journey Pam took with the sanctuary was one of wanting to create a kinder world for animals and doing it with kindness, encouraging people to think about the impacts of the choices they make.
Pam believes in the goodness of the human heart, that rarely does anyone set out to harm animals. People want to show care, with the initial reaction being empathy. It is that society and culture have put filters in our capacity to care.
“One of the great determinants of our society’s ethical progress is our ability to embrace those we consider different,” Pam says.
During the tour, people get to meet the animals, with a chance to interact with the residents if the residents so choose. For visitors to see the animals as individuals, with their own unique personalities and stories, and not as production units allows for the possibility of joy to spring in the visitors. There is no shaming or belittling people. The sanctuary accepts people from where they are at.
As Pam informs the School groups that connect with Edgar’s Mission: “I do not want you to believe a word I say. I want you to think and arrive at the answer yourself. If it resonates with you, run with it, if it doesn’t then you get an hour off school.”
Animal agriculture farmers have contacted the sanctuary looking to rehome animals, planning the journey to leave the industry. Pam reflects when that is how you feed your family or when farmers have a family history of farming, it takes them a lot of courage to address those concerns.
What Pam, and her team of staff and volunteers, offer the world through Edgar’s Mission is a gift to the resident animals, the rehomed animals, as well as the kin of these animals who are “forgotten in care and kindness, forgotten in legislation, and forgotten in the choices” made. The sanctuary sees the animals at Edgar’s Mission as ambassadors to their less fortunate kin.
The passing of an animal can hit the community hard. They gather, tell stories of that animal, and build resilience in the knowledge that that animal got to sanctuary, they have a name, they are loved and are mourned. The animal did get to know kindness, even though they may not always have recovered from their injuries. For Pam knowing that sanctuaries like this exists is something to rejoice in and is where she holds the hope in her heart.
Starting and sustaining the sanctuary has been a monumental work of love. Pam took the plunge and got to work partly because she did not want to get to 85 years of age and ask herself ‘What if?’. Pam says she has always been a worker and takes inspiration from the idea of ‘If it is to be, it is up to me’.
Undoubtedly, it takes courage in your convictions to persist in such a huge endeavour. Refreshingly though, Pam says that if you love what you do, it is not that hard. Additionally, she builds her resilience by being in nature, walking, being still, and being curious like a child, learning and reading from her shipping container full of books.
Perhaps her greatest motivation comes from why she helped build Edgar’s Mission – to bring greater kindness to animals. Perhaps society’s moral compass will be the greatest guide when “compassion is our compass, as we exercise kindness for all – animals, people and the planet.”
Please tap to: book a tour, volunteer, book a school visit, meet the animals online and see their antics, shop for clothes and books, sponsor an animal, make a donation, or follow Edgar’s Mission on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok.
Suresh Ruberan is a youth worker and is studying a Master of Social Work. He is passionate about social justice and working towards equity for the vulnerable and/or oppressed. He believes in a care-based society that offers time and care to human and non-human animals is essential for the well-being of the world.