The people at Gentle World, a charitable foundation, are vegans on a mission. Shangri-La is the name of their New Zealand vegan organic farm, and if you ever go there, you’d better be ready for the hard sell. For these lovely people are passionate about compassion. All heart and against cruelty.
Part of the international Vegan Organic Network, the community has two farms. One is in Hawaii and the other in a remote part of Northlands, up at the top of the north island of New Zealand. Community members love the sun and go between the two places avoiding the winter.
Gentle World has been going for 45 years. Light and Sun are the founding father and mother, coming out of sixties California, and in full health, chopping wood and going strong. Birds, Deer, Summer and Butterflies are of a similar vintage, and I loved my brush with counter-culture. The purpose is to evolve, and members change their name once they have sloughed off something more and gone more towards love and light. There are succeeding younger generations. Angel, Doe, Golden, Sky, Magic and little Eden and Soul, for instance.
I’d known the arguments for veganism and understood it was the logical ethical conclusion to vegetarianism. Aside from non-violence or ahimsa, there’s equitable use of crops, greenhouse gases and health. And where I’m working now at Tolhurst stock-free farm there’s a focus on avoiding pesticides and developing biodiversity (more of this in another blog to come). To be vegan is still to be part of the counter-culture; we have 10,000 years of mixed farming mainstream culture. I’m still trying to figure out the implications of a stock-free future. If we don’t eat stock, we don’t need to breed cattle, sheep, pigs and more. No more animals like these in the landscape – ?!
But my experience of country life in New Zealand gave me a gut disgust towards animal killing. Hunting and fishing are much enjoyed. Imported mammal pests are killed all the time – rats, rabbits, mice, stoats, hedgehogs – to protect crops and endangered birds. (At Shangri-la they ‘cage’ the crops to possum-proof them, rather than the usual trap-setting and shooting). Against this background of casual slaughter, it was the week-long anguished moos from the cows whose calves were taken to market that started a turn of heart in me.
Anyway, it didn’t take much for me to be sold once I got to Shangri-la, thanks to Summer. Sun gave me a new name, Dawn. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new dayyyyyy…and I’m feeling good.