A turkey and about a dozen chickens dined on a smorgasbord of grapes, cranberries, cantaloupe and other fruits and vegetables Saturday at a “ThanksLiving” celebration predicated on the belief that all living things deserve compassion and respect.
More than 200 people gathered in a circle on Indraloka Animal Sanctuary’s sprawling new 100-acre farm to take in the unusual poultry dinner, which was literally for the birds.
None of the sanctuary’s animals will ever end up on a plate, but that didn’t stop the birds from pecking at plates of raw pumpkin and peppers, pausing periodically to accept offerings from children who hand-fed the fowl.
“I feel like if we allow cruelty on any level, we allow it on all levels,” said sanctuary founder Indra Lahiri, who has devoted her life to rescuing farm animals and providing them refuge. “I would like people to fall in love with the animals and to fall in love with themselves, and just see the connection between those two things.”
Saturday’s festivities marked Indraloka’s sixth ThanksLiving celebration, but its first at the new farm that straddles Lackawanna and Wyoming counties near Dalton. The sanctuary’s hundreds of animals, from pigs and peafowl to sheep and mules, will soon be relocated there from its other farm in Mehoopany. Along with the chickens and turkey, a group of four calves at the event got a glimpse of the place where they’ll live out the rest of their natural lives.
“There’s a lot to learn from animals,” said Malachi Davis, a world-class sprinter who competed for Great Britain in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games and attended the celebration. “It allows you to find more of the essence of what life is really about, in terms of equality, peace, connection, love, and that’s what you are seeing right now.”
Davis was joined by American Olympic swimmer Rebecca Soni, who represented the United States at both the 2008 and 2012 summer games. Soni met Lahiri in Los Angeles several months ago and was visiting her sanctuary for the first time.
“I think how we treat anything is how we treat everything,” Soni said. “Compassion is compassion. ... It’s looking another creature in the eyes and seeing that there’s so much more there than what we thought.”
The celebration also featured a nature walk, live music, a vegan lunch, raffle and other activities that Diane Keen traveled from Tompkinsville to enjoy. Indraloka’s call for people to empathize with all living things is especially important in today’s world, she said.
“I think we should always all feel that way about every living creature, and we don’t, and it’s nice to be reminded,” Keen said.
For information on the animal sanctuary, visit indraloka.org.