The Cause: Animal Rights Advocate Miriam Jones

Miriam Jones feeds grain to Napoleon, who was brought to the VINE Shelter in Springfield, Vt., when his owner could no longer afford to feed him. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Miriam Jones feeds grain to Napoleon, who was brought to the VINE Shelter in Springfield, Vt., when his owner could no longer afford to feed him. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

The Woman: Miriam Jones, 47, of Springfield, Vt.

The Cause: Protecting farm animals.

The Means: VINE (Veganism Is the Next Evolution) Shelter, a sanctuary for farm animals and birds that Jones co-founded in 2000 and now operates with Pattrice Jones, Aram Polster, Cheryl Wylie and Kathy Gorish.

The Impetus: Jones, a longtime activist in many causes, including gay and lesbian rights, women’s rights and rights for the mentally handicapped, became interested in animal rights in the course of her other advocacy. In 2000, she and her partner at the time moved to Princess Anne, Md., near the Perdue headquarters, with the hope of starting a sanctuary for abused animals.

Back then, chickens were falling from the (Perdue) trucks all the time. Route 13 is a tourist corridor, and it doesn’t look good. People don’t want to see dead chickens all over the road. Most people don’t want to be reminded of what’s behind their plate.

So (we) found a chicken, and we looked at each other, and said, I guess we’re doing chickens. It also made sense because it’s chicken country. And we only had 2 acres, and you can’t do too much with that. So we picked him up, and we thought he was a she, because at that time, we didn’t know anything about raising chickens. ...

When we moved up to Vermont in 2009, our intention was to keep caring for chickens, and we had sufficient room for that. There was a 100-acre parcel for sale across the street, but we didn’t give it too much thought because we didn’t need it and couldn’t afford it anyway. Five months after we moved here, we found a donor who was interested in helping to fund us, and wanted us to think about adding cows to our sanctuary. So we were able to close on the property across the street, and several months later, we built the facility.

Cleaning coops in hundred-degree weather is hard work. It’s not actual farming, but it’s caring for farm animals, so the work itself is hard. For me though, the hardest part is ... none of these animals should exist, as far as I’m concerned. These animals were brought into the world by people who forced them into this world. Chickens come from these horrible hatcheries, except the few who come into the world in the wild. Cows are forcibly inseminated. None of these cows could make it into the world for a minute; they have been forcibly bred to be this way. Sheep have been bred to make thick wool — they’ll literally die from heat exhaustion if we don’t shear them. Every time I do anything with these animals, there is this anger that these compromised creatures are here, relying on us. I wouldn’t want to rely on anyone. I would want to make my own decisions and live my own life and so does everything else. For me, it’s not just a bunch of cute, pretty animals; for me — and everyone has their own reason for doing sanctuary work — it’s about justice. They (the animals) need to be liberated from where they are, and unfortunately, they can’t be just let loose to lead their lives.

Photograph and interview by Sarah Priestap

Pulbished in print on July 8, 2012.


Committed for the Long Haul

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Like most photojournalists, I fairly often encounter activists of various kinds in my work. Whether they are picketing, petitioning or persuading, they are almost always passionate about their cause and eager to talk about it. So when I was asked to consider producing a biweekly photo feature for the Perspectives section this past year, I thought that focusing on activists, …