With the Animal Sanctuary Compassion Tour in its fourth week, we were happy to enjoy a few days at Grayland Beach; a state park along the Oregon Coast, between Seattle and Portland. From this seaside spot, we made our way further south to Seaside, Oregon, to visit Cecilia Mialon and her 7-year old son Jackson of Veganville Animal Sanctuary.
Cecilia welcomes us inside her home out where we take refuge from the cold mist and sit in front of the warm fire. It feels strange to ask, but one of our first questions to Cecilia is “where are the animals?”
“Our pigs Peaches and Petunia are the only sanctuary animals we have right now,” Cecilia tells us with a warm smile. “We weren’t totally ready for them when we arrived, but we managed to build a temporary enclosure for them at the other end of the property and in a few weeks they’ll have a full acre to themselves.”
Veganville is the smallest in scale relative to the other sanctuaries we have visited so far. Set on 11 acres, only two farm animals call Veganville home. But what Veganville lacks in the number of animals it more than makes up for in its vision for the future.
Cecilia had long dreamed of opening an animal sanctuary. Her journey in becoming an animal welfare advocate started many years ago, after seeing The Cove, a documentary about dolphin hunting in Japan. She was living in Las Vegas at the time and would join protests in front of hotels like the Mirage that used dolphins as entertainment.
The process for hunting dolphins is violent and cruel: wild dolphins are captured, and the “pretty” ones are sold for captivity while the others are sold for meat.
Over time, Cecilia began to question the connection between advocating for one species and advocating for all. She wondered how hunting animals in the wild could be bad, but breeding and then slaughtering animals for meat was ok.
“I realized: suffering is suffering,” she said. “All animals are the same. You can’t fight for one and not fight for all of them.”
Her dolphin activism evolved into active compassion toward all living animals, and the sanctuary idea was born. Then in California, she began to look for the right property to fulfill her vision, but real estate prices and the arid climate proved prohibitive.
So Cecilia and Jackson looked North.
“Oregon always called me,” she says. “As a child, I always loved the ocean, the whales.”
The call became louder when she found the property we were sitting on, which – in addition to having plenty of space to make her vision a reality – was properly zoned for every idea she had in mind.
The first year was a challenge just in getting used to the harsher, colder, wetting climate of rural coastal Oregon and in fitting in in a predominately meat-eating community where hunting is a treasured past time.
Their first winter, Cecilia had to scramble to get enough wood to heat the home for the season, had to get a backup generator for all the times the power went out and had to deal with frozen and bursting water pipes.
But Cecilia’s resolve paid off when Peaches and Petunia unexpectedly came into the picture.
Petunia, a potbelly pig, was initially rescued by another woman who then took in Peaches, a kunekune pig, as a companion for Petunia. The woman realized that her home wasn’t well equipped for two pigs, so she reached out to Cecilia, who took them in earlier this year.
Although she wasn’t entirely ready for them, Cecilia made Petunia and Peaches a cozy home in the barn, and their presence has allowed Cecilia and Jackson to hit the ground running with sanctuary life. They expect another two pigs to arrive before winter and their long-term plans involve taking in more animals once they’ve built the right pastures and shelters.
So what is the big vision that Cecilia has in mind for Veganville? The name offers a clue to what lies ahead.
“I want to be able to offer people a chance to come and stay on the farm and connect with the animals and the work of a sanctuary,” says Cecilia.
“I think if I was a kid and I had that opportunity, I probably would’ve connected the dots a lot sooner. It wouldn’t be so out of sight.”
Cecilia shares a design rendering of the vision for Veganville, which includes a campground, a Bed & Breakfast, a take-out vegan cafe, a community kitchen, and live-in accommodations for volunteers and staff who work on the farm. In addition to the different animal enclosures, Veganville would have a community centre that would offer vegan education programs like cooking classes and workshops, and a community garden where people could grow or harvest their own produce.
In essence, Veganville would become a vegan village!
Before we can say anything, Cecilia admits there is a long road ahead to get from where it is today to where she wants it to be. “It’s a grand vision. I know we’ll get there it will just take a lot of time.”
As a 501(c)3 non-profit, any money made at Veganville goes directly back into the farm. Cecilia and the board members are exploring multiple ways to sustain the farm so that it’s not entirely dependent on donations.
The vision for Veganville is for it to be community-based: built and sustained by community and spreading awareness of conscious living through education.
“Most of what is impacting our environment negatively today is linked to the modern-day agribusiness, and the public simply isn’t aware. Veganville promotes that awareness through an interactive approach promoting compassion towards animals, the environment and their own health.”
Jackson and Cecilia take us outside to meet Peaches and Petunia who are happy to see us and the apple slices we eagerly offer to them.
Before sunset, Cecilia sends us off with some homemade muffins and an invitation to come back any time.
We believe sincerely that we will, and can’t wait to see Veganville grow into the vision Cecilia has for it.
Veganville is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit animal sanctuary for farmed animals rescued and rehabilitated from the factory farming industry and other situations of abuse and neglect. Visit their website to learn more about their work and follow their plans.
This article is part of a series from The Animal Sanctuary Compassion Tour; The Seva Life’s 10,000-kilometer road trip across Canada and the United States to visit and volunteer at animal sanctuaries and raise awareness about compassionate living.