Frequently Asked Questions
What is POHP all about?
POHP is a registered non-profit society (official name 'Piece of Heaven Vegan Project Society' - S0070124) operating a farm animal sanctuary, providing opportunities to connect with animals and understand veganism.
We currently offer a permanent home for 47 farm animals. That number will shortly rise to 58, and possibly reach in excess of 65 by the end of the year.
We are solely privately funded, by a core of people who give selflessly and share our purpose. We receive no commercial sponsorship, nor do we have any ‘deep pocket’ donors. We are constantly challenged by the needs of our animals, but thanks to our supporters help, they are well fed and cared for.
On a day-to-day basis, the project is run by Mark, Sharon and Tristan Starmer. We have a volunteer program that boasts of 8 individuals who offer their services without expectation of return. These people are also the core of our donors.
We are not an animal rescue per se. Some of our animals have been saved from immediate jeopardy. Some have been donated by owners who decided not to have them slaughtered. A very small number have been born here.
Our objective is to provide a wholly experiential learning that leads participants to an inevitable conclusion, once they have enough exposure to the animals to gain understanding and acceptance: Living a no-harm existence is the only way forward.
We therefore regard the animals as ambassadors for their kind and encourage visitors to develop a relationship with them, so that they may recognise their individuality and cease seeing them merely as faceless food items.
How is money received by POHP spent?
As well as the day to day funding for immediate necessities (see 'Getting Involved' on the menu option) we have a large number of on-going projects that are necessary for the security and comfort of the animals and ease of operation of the sanctuary. Most importantly, these include extensive (electric) fencing installations to extend our usable pasture areas; and the construction of a large, central, communal barn with power and water. As our numbers grow, we also have an ever more pressing need for a tractor.
The educative aspect of our purpose (see answers below) requires facilities to welcome guests on a long-term basis. We will therefore be fund raising with longer term objectives in mind, preparing for making the sanctuary a destination learning venue. We are currently exploring the purchase of a wide range of relatively low-cost accommodation options, including teepees and yurts. The creation of permanent washroom facilities is key to what is possible.
We require funding for all of these projects.
What is your background and what motivates you?
My wife and I are both semi-retired. I am a former adult education professional with 30+ years of experience. I worked for HSBC in one of their most senior HR roles, developing their executive cadre, globally. When I left, I founded 2 successful international L&D businesses. My resume includes working with the nationals of 58 different countries on 4 continents, writing a business bestseller, and advising the UK government on development initiatives.
My wife, after devoting herself to raising our family, worked as an alternative healthcare practitioner.
We began work in animal rescue in 2003 with dogs. We have provided a lifelong home for 68 dogs so far, as well as facilitating the rescue of many dozens more.
We became vegans 8 years ago and for the past 6 years, have been working towards establishing a sanctuary for farmed animals. Our basic philosophy is that words are cheap, and that knowledge is nothing without action. We are only too aware of the hideous, relentless suffering experienced by ‘food’ animals, so it seems only natural that we should try to do as much as we can to alleviate it.
We are deeply committed and sincere animal lovers. Our whole lives have effectively been turned over to their protection and welfare. We constantly strive to do more, to influence others and to create an impact on their behalf. They are our lives.
How can POHP reduce or promote the reduction of any form of exploitation of, or cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose?
It is our assertion that the instinctive human reaction to other creatures, in our childhood, is one of awe, wonder and a desire to connect. As we grow, of necessity through socialization, we become inured to our own instincts, as the desire to ‘fit in’ and comply with parental, and later societal norms, becomes predominant in our thinking and behaviour.
Modern methods of food production allow us to dissociate from the suffering of other creatures and our minds become trained to ignore the reality of both their sentience and their similarity to us. We lose our sense of compassion and become immersed in a myth of righteous human supremacy, which is in fact based on cruel and unjust subjugation of all that is around us. We assuage our consciences with nominal support for ‘exotic’ animals yet fail to recognise the value in the lives of those ‘domesticated’ creatures with whom we share a more immediate frame of reference.
It is our experience that given the time, opportunity and openness, individuals may relearn what they have forgotten about their natural feelings towards other creatures. We have observed a ‘melting’ of hardness and a reawakening of compassion when people are exposed to what may be described as the ‘humanity’ of farmed animals (what we see of ourselves in them). When people observe, at close quarters, their obvious unique personalities, their overt communication attempts, their desire to interact and their clear emotional range, something shifts within them.
For some, the transformation may be immediate. For others, unlearning years of ingrained habits may take considerable time. We have witnessed those who visit briefly and are excited by the experience but change not one iota. We have had guests stay (locally) for a week, but visit everyday, who have returned to their homes as committed and active animal advocates, with a purpose they did not have before they arrived.
Although unintentionally (if measured by animal numbers) we have already become one of the largest farm animal sanctuaries in BC, the experience gained in my former profession leads me to conclude that with the best will in the world, if our efforts were deployed purely in saving animals, it would be a miniscule drop in an ocean of exponentially unspeakable proportions.
Our POHP is therefore a strategic initiative based upon understanding of how and why people change; and the recognition that large-scale change starts by those who throw the stones in the pond that create the ripples.
If we are able to offer extensive interaction with animals and enough time to expose the personal cognitive dissonance inherent in behaviours, this creates the motivation to unlearn old attitudes. If we also expose guests to a new paradigm about ‘the way things are’, we may effect cataclysmic change in them. As a result of the ripple effect, by influencing one, we may ultimately change many. Many can change the world.
Where do your vistors come from?
Our main catchment area may be regarded as the Kootenays and Okanagan.
However, we have welcomed visitors (making the trip purely to visit the sanctuary) from as far afield as Vancouver Island, Saskatchewan and even Florida.
We have had casual visitors who have heard of us on arrival and visited on ‘the off-chance’, who come from Europe.