Lauralee Blanchard of the Maui’s own Leilani Farm Sanctuary will be joining Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson as part of VegansAreCool.com’s Vegan of the Year Awards. While Watson puts his hide on the line to save the whales, Blanchard helped save a different kind of creature coming across the Pacific: the pig. A former consultant to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), she helped document the cruel treatment hogs receive when traversing the Pacific for slaughter and consumption.
“Every year, thousands of pigs are shipped alive from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii only to be slaughtered upon arrival,” says Blanchard. “During their one-week voyage, these pigs are forced to endure intensely overcrowded and unsanitary conditions; many suffer stress-related illnesses, injuries and diseases. Those who survive the trip are kept in cages, and then slaughtered. The supermarket chains agreed to stop purchasing pork products from pigs transported live from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii for slaughter, as a result of the WSPA investigation, which I helped document. The supermarkets cited animal welfare as the reason for their change of policy.”
Some of these pigs are also imported for military training practices. Blanchard not only documented the treatment of these animals but rallied the local community and spearheaded a petition on Change.org that has topped 30,000 signatures.
The petition asked Matson to stop transporting the pigs. The company refused, but supermarket chains Foodland and Times Supermarket did stop buying pork from pigs inhumanely transported. While the practice still exists, her activism resulted in a reduction of about 7,500 pigs.
“The entire process, not just the shipping, is inhumane and unacceptable,” says Blanchard. “These pigs [which she says have cognitive abilities equivalent to a three-year-old human] are raised in cruel conditions on factory farms and then trucked across the U.S. continent before being loaded onto the Matson ocean containers. After arriving on shore, they are brutally slaughtered.”
Blanchard also runs a sanctuary for animals that rescues goats, chickens, cats ducks, rabbits, geese, tortoises, donkeys, pigs and a deer. Her farm is currently at capacity, though she does want to expand.
“We work to find good homes for the rescued animals, but most of them spend the remainder of their lives at Leilani Farm Sanctuary,” says Blanchard. “The sanctuary is now at the point where it has as many animals as we can afford to take care of. Our future vision is to fence in additional pasture land in order to accommodate more animals. We are working to raise funds for this project and to help with the ongoing care of the animals. Tax-deductible donations can be made on our website at leilanifarmsanctuary.org. We are also working to expand Leilani Farm Sanctuary’s humane education programs and outreach programs for people with special needs.”
Blanchard believes being a vegan is an important part of her philosophy, and the sanctuary offers assistance for people interested in changing their lifestyle. The sanctuary also offers tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays for $20.
“A vegan lifestyle is beneficial for optimal human health, protection of the environment, and the reduction of animal suffering,” says Blanchard. “The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) resource panel released a report stating that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital if we are to halt climate change and other environmental problems. Adopting a vegan diet is easy and we are happy to help! Leilani Farm Sanctuary provides vegan starter guides for anyone who is interested.”
Another way to get involved at the sanctuary is to volunteer on Monday or Wednesday mornings at 9am. Blanchard needs assistance with barn cleaning, gardening, carpentry, animal grooming, general maintenance, manure duty, window washing, installations, repairs, etc. Chores on a farm are plentiful.
I hear volunteer days do offer a good vegan lunch, and reservations are required. Email [email protected] to participate. Blanchard says she’s elated to appear on the Vegan of the Year list, and is inspired to accomplish even more in the future when it comes to veganism.
“Death at a slaughterhouse is never quick and painless,” she says. “The reality is that over 90 percent of farmed animals in the U.S. are raised on factory farms in intensive confinement. The Animal Welfare Act excludes protection for animals raised for food. There are no laws requiring factory farms to provide animals with spacious environments, clean surroundings, fresh air or sunlight.
“The animals are regarded as mere commodities,” she continued. “They are treated like machines with no concern for their pain or suffering, and are deprived of exercise so that all their energy goes toward producing flesh, eggs, or milk for human consumption.
Factory-farmed animals are fed growth hormones to fatten them faster and are genetically altered through selective breeding and gene splicing to grow larger or to produce more milk or eggs than they would naturally. Their miserable lives end at the slaughterhouse where they are frequently dismembered while still fully conscious.”