Edgar’s Mission is in the business of kindness. The nonprofit sanctuary for rescued farm animals has given hope and a safe home to thousands of animals since it opened its doors in 2003.
It all started with a rescue pig. When Pam Ahern met Edgar Alan Pig 11 years ago, he changed her life. So moved was she by Edgar’s plight and that of his fellow factory farmed pigs that she opened a farm sanctuary 70 kilometres outside Melbourne, named in his honour.
Since then thousands of animals have found refuge at Edgar’s Mission, including the late Frostie the Snow Goat who won hearts and headlines across the globe when he walked for the first time with the help of a tiny set of wheels (borrowed from his similarly incapacitated pint-sized porcine pal, Leon Trotsky).
Ahern and her team are committed to doing everything in their power to give hope to animals like Frostie, for whom Edgar’s Mission is their last hope. They aim to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome wherever possible while also providing animal care, education and outreach services.
Each animal who passes through the sanctuary’s gates, including current residents like Jon Bon Pony, Roger Ramjet, Lady Baa Baa and Little Miss Sunshine, Ahern says, represents a “true story of hope.”
“Stories like dear Miss Marple, a gentle old cow, who brought tears to our eyes and pain to our hearts for the pitiful condition to which she had been allowed to deteriorate. We truly thought we were bringing her home to die. But she did not, the grand old dame flourished in our paddocks.
“Not a tooth left in her mouth, we made her special mashes and allowed her to wander about the house yard. She made so many friends both human and non-human and she touched the hearts of so many.”
Ahern concedes Edgar’s Mission is a lean operation with her and her small team and a dedicated band of volunteers working around the clock – through bushfires, animal emergencies and the daily grind of caring for 300 plus farm animals. With demand for their sanctuary growing by the day, Ahern had to learn to ask for help.
“My father did a really good job in teaching me to stand on my own two feet and to never ask anything of anyone nor rely on them,” Ahern says.
“When I first started Edgar’s Mission, it was just me; me doing all the work and providing all the funding for the sanctuary. So, at first, I felt very awkward about asking for assistance and even seeking and accepting donations.
“But as we’ve grown, I’ve realised that in order to survive and expand, we need the financial support of others. And of course philanthropic support is the main stay of ensuring we can keep on keeping on for animals.
“The most wonderful and reassuring thing is that Edgar’s Mission means so much to so many people who believe in what we have already achieved and what we can continue to achieve. I am humbled by their support and it is very important to me that we acknowledge this wonderful level of support and build relationships with our benefactors.”
Letting the animals do the talking
With 300 plus animals in their care by 2013, Edgar’s Mission embarked on a crowd-funding campaign to help secure funds for a new, larger home.
Communications Manager, Kyle Behrend, says social media was critical – not only to the campaign’s success but also in extending Edgar’s Mission’s reach and building closer relationships with supporters.
“Since 2012 we had deliberately invested our energies in increasing our social media audience,” he explains. “Our approach to Facebook was to try different posts such as animals’ stories, competitions and theme days like #ThankGoatItsFriday.” (Feel the goat joy with Snap, Crackle and Pop pictured left).
“The key was keeping it positive: not focusing on the pain and mistreatment of the animals, but on the joy and hope they brought everyone.”
At the start of 2012, Edgar’s Mission had 5,500 Facebook ‘likes’. Two years later, that number is 110,000 and rising.
The campaign beat expectations, setting a new Australian record for nonprofit crowdfunding and raising enough funds to relocate Edgar’s Mission and its several hundred residents to a 163 acre property near Lancefield in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges.
The Edgar’s Mission team are now working overtime to open the farm gates to public visitors who will be able to walk the ‘kindness trail’ and get up close and personal with the animals.
Though Ahern’s work may never be done, she is adamant that attitudes are changing in Australia and that our relationships with animals are being governed by greater compassion.
“Every day we see this,” Ahern says. “Both through the direct rescue of animals and through our outreach work.
“While every single animal here at the sanctuary comes from a different circumstance they are all united by kindness, because it has been the kindness of a human who has alerted us to their plight.
“I truly believe in the goodness of the human heart, it is something I will never give up on. I believe that when humans are directly confronted with animal cruelty or suffering they will act.
“The fact that we are now having conversations about farm animals and how our food is produced shows people do care. Major supermarket chains are taking animal welfare seriously, mainstream media is constantly running stories about animal welfare issues and the public is not only talking about this but thinking about it too.
“I’m proud that Edgar’s Mission is still going today – despite someone telling me that they’d give me two years, tops, before it would fold. They thought I was crazy for giving up my fulltime paying job and starting a not for profit sanctuary and never charging a fee for any of the work we do.
“But most of all I’m proud of the fact that not only do I live the belief that we can live a happy and healthy life without harming others, but more and more people are subscribing to this view too!”
Meet the residents: trot through the Edgar’s Mission photo gallery here.
//All images courtesy of Edgar’s Mission.