Every year young people throughout the country raise farm animals as part of programs like FFA and 4-H. Their projects typically end at state or county fairs, where they must auction off the animals they have cared for, knowing that their companions will soon be slaughtered.
But this year was different for one FFA member, a high school student named Lynette. The teen reached out to us in a desperate effort find a home for Peanut sheep, whom she’d raised for the program.
Lynette is certainly not the first FFA or 4-H participant to have bonded with her project subject and reached out to Farm Sanctuary for help to save the animal with whom they bonded over time from certain death. It was this empathy that inspired Lynette to urgently seek refuge for Peanut. She had named him, played with him, halter-trained him so they could go on walks together, and talked to him like a friend. Selling him for slaughter became unthinkable. To Lynette, Peanut was someone, not something.
Lynette kept Peanut instead of taking him to auction. Her family bought him from the program and housed him on her uncle’s property. That placement was temporary, however, and Lynette’s search for permanent placement wasn’t turning up any suitable homes. Her father gave her an ultimatum: If she didn’t secure placement for Peanut by May 22, the sheep would be sent to slaughter. On May 19, Lynette got in touch with us.
Though we didn’t have room at our shelters to house Peanut permanently, we were able to find him a wonderful home at Sanctuary One in Oregon. We did have the pleasure of welcoming Peanut to our Northern California Shelter to stay while preparations for the transport were underway. Lynette was relieved that Peanut would have the good life he deserved.
It is worth noting that FFA does not focus exclusively on animal agriculture. Its many programs include placement in agricultural jobs, internships, experimental work in agriscience, horticultural projects, and crop projects. Livestock projects are, however, very popular, and every summer we receive calls and emails from people seeking to spare project animals from auction — both from the participants who have changed their minds about the project and from others who have met and connected with these animals. Over the years we have helped place several animals from FFA or 4-H projects.
One of those animals is Sophie, who was raised by an FFA participant and slated for auction at a local fair. While awaiting this fate, Sophie and other FFA pigs lived in a small concrete pen without bedding or comfort of any kind. Most developed sores, and all were constantly harassed by flies. The pigs had also been subjected to ear-notching, a common industry procedure in which pieces of the ear are cut out, without anesthetic, for identification. Thanks to a change of heart, this grim life did not come to a grim end for Sophie. Disillusioned with the project, the young woman responsible for Sophie decided to find a home for her instead. This sweet pig now lives at our Southern California Shelter.
Another livestock-project survivor is Stefan, who was raised by a teenaged 4-H participant from the time he was four months old. During the lead-up to the county fair where he was to be auctioned off, the handsome steer was featured in a newspaper article about the event. Seeing his picture, a Farm Sanctuary supporter was moved to intervene and arranged for Stefan to come to our Northern California Shelter instead of being sold for slaughter. When Farm Sanctuary staff members arrived for pick-up, the teen’s mom asked how long Stefan would stay at the shelter. Our staff told her that he would remain there for as long as he lived, which could be about 20 years. The mother and daughter were thrilled to realize that the little calf they had cared for would enjoy such a long, full life.
Peanut joins these and other lucky animals given a chance to live after their caregivers recognized that these unique individuals were so much more than projects. We’re so pleased not only to have helped a lovable sheep reach lifelong sanctuary, but also to see a young woman standing up and owning her change of heart.