Many of us have dreamed of quitting our day jobs and opening an animal sanctuary. But Sepi actually did it!
It’s 2016, and I have just found out that cows have to be pregnant in order to produce milk.
I’m sitting at my corporate job as a lawyer in the property law department in Portsmouth, England, having for all intents and purposes an existential crisis. I look over at my assistant and say, ‘’ Does this mean female cows are abused every year to have their babies, who are then stolen from them, so humans can have a milky coffee?’’ She looks at me, stunned, at this rather bizarre question for a Tuesday morning.
In the following days that thought did not leave my mind and soon afterwards I became vegan. I knew that I couldn’t stop the world from exploiting animals, but I sure as anything wouldn’t be taking part in it.
A new beginning
Unluckily, I was burgled soon after going vegan but little did I know that losing most of my possessions would enable me to find freedom. Being free from possessions was exhilarating. I handed in my notice, called my estate agent and said, “Put my flat on the market – I’m leaving!”
I packed up with my two dogs, tortoise and rescued parrot and left for the scenic hills in the West of Ireland in my old 1983 campervan. I was lucky enough to soon find an empty, cheap farmhouse with land, where I could create a sanctuary for rescued animals.
I started teaching yoga locally to raise funds for the sanctuary and signed up to a university course to study western, ayurvedic and traditional Chinese herbal medicine.
It’s now 2018 and the stables and sheep sheds have been built. Before I even began to look for animals in need of a home, I got a phone call from someone asking, “Are you able to fetch a donkey who is being surrendered by an elderly farmer? She might be in a bad condition.” I raced up in my little car with a borrowed trailer and picked up Poncho the donkey. Excitedly, I welcomed her to her new home. A few hours later, I received another phone call about a young foal separated from her mother and in need of a new family. This foal was a Shetland pony who was being ridden by grown men – and that’s how Tennessee arrived.
So there we were – me, my dogs, a donkey and a pony. The old farm was starting to become a sanctuary for broken hearts and spirits, including my own.
A year after Poncho was rescued, she turned up at the side gate with a baby – a pure white baby donkey. I was so confused and I started crying – it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. When Poncho turned around, I saw the blood on her leg and realised that she had given birth to the white donkey. Unbeknown to myself at the time, Poncho was pregnant when she arrived with me. Donkeys remain pregnant for 14 months and I honestly just believed the malnourished donkey who had arrived the year before was just putting on healthy weight.
A growing sanctuary
Over the next few years, the sanctuary grew and grew. Interestingly, I have never searched for animals who need a home – the animals have always found me. I put out the intention that I am willing to house, care for and love anyone who needs me – and they found their way to me.
Now it’s November 2020 and I have ten chickens, rescued from a battery farm, who arrived in a bad state with no feathers and unable to stand. I added more land to the sanctuary by giving them a quarter of an acre with open space and trees, a 4x4m coop for the night-time and organic feed.
Over the course of three months their feathers grew, they became stronger, and these little dinosaur descendants started to become a little more like themselves. Over the last two years, a further 12 chickens have been rescued.
At the same time, I rescued rabbits from a breeders’ farm and built a large outdoor rabbit run that is frankly bigger than my bedroom!
Fast-forward to 2022 and I am having breakfast with Maggie, a 3-day-old lamb, on my lap. A kitten explores the kitchen who was found sick and hungry on the streets before a local charity handed her over to me. I’m also sharing the house with my three dogs and a hedgehog in my dining room. We’re all eating peacefully while the chickens look in from the window ledge. As soon as I open the back door, the donkeys, ponies and sheep make noise because they know I’m about to go and feed them apples from the apple tree.
For the first time in five years, I recently left the sanctuary in someone else’s care whilst I travelled to Madrid to receive my doctorate in herbal medicine. It was daunting to leave the animals but now I sit here, writing this blog, feeling very content to be playing my part in creating a more compassionate world. Humans and other animals are just so similar. We all have the ability to love, fear, make bonds and friendships, and we all have different characters and personalities.
By Dr Sepi Sefy
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