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Tribe Animal Sanctuary Scotland

If you’re a vegan living in Scotland, you may have heard about Tribe Animal Sanctuary Scotland, the project set up by the couple behind Tribe tattoo parlours. It certainly receives a lot of love from the vegans I know. I’ve always wondered what it takes to set up a sanctuary, so I travelled out to Carluke to meet John Ryan and Morag Sangster (and all the pigs, cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, chickens and turkeys) to hear about what they are doing and why.

“THEY WANTED TO CREATE A HOME FOR ANIMALS WHERE THEY COULD LIVE OUT THEIR DAYS IN PEACE WITHOUT FEAR OF SLAUGHTER”

As a country girl at heart, I love seeing animals dotting the landscape. But now that I’m vegan, there’s always a pang of sadness when I do. An animal sanctuary is the dream place to see them happily living out their lives, so the prospect of visiting Tribe was an exciting one. It was lovely to speak with Morag and John, but I was mostly hyped to meet the pigs: one of them, Francisco, is a bit of a celebrity. Francisco was adopted after his previous owners realised he wasn’t in fact the tea-cup pig they were expecting. He’s house- trained, but enormous! He still lives inside, with his own bedroom, but roams around outside in the day – he’s quite a character. I gave him a fuss, but he was more interested in whether I had any apples. He didn’t want to give me an autograph, but he did splash me with some mud – same thing really, in pig speech.

On our tour, Morag gave me some insight into the process of setting up a sanctuary. You need land, lots of it, and a way to be able to pay for anything necessary: medication, food and shelter in the winter, plus the general maintenance of the buildings. Most vets aren’t used to seeing such old farm animals, so it’s a learning experience for them too. John works full-time looking after the animals, whilst Morag runs their tattoo parlours four days a week. Morag made it clear that she wanted to be financially sustainable before taking in any animals; cows can live up to 20 years, so it is a huge commitment. It’s also a lot of work for two people. Morag explained they would love to get some temporary accommodation set up, so they can have guests come and help out, but she has found planning permission to be challenging and costly.

Tribe Animal Sanctuary Scotland was only set up 2 years ago, but had been in the planning stage for a lot longer. John and Morag specifically bought the property for the project, and it’s almost at capacity. They wanted to create a home for animals where they could live out their days in peace without fear of slaughter. The sanctuary hasn’t been set up with a business model in mind, but with the aim of providing what’s best for the animals (one of the reasons you can only visit on Sundays). It’s the animals’ home and they are free to come and say hello if they like, or as the older Highland coos do, pay zero attention to you whatsoever. Leonard the turkey took particular dislike to my boyfriend, Leonardo, and decided to stalk him for the entire visit…perhaps he was making it clear he was the only Leo allowed?

If you want to see Leo and Francisco for yourself, it is possible. Morag and John think it’s important for people to be able to see farm animals living out their natural lives. They allow a limited amount of visits, and also organise parties for vegans who have been active in the community. These visits are so popular that they are booked up until Spring next year, so if you would like to see them for yourself, you have to plan ahead! What you can do right now is support this amazing place, either by visiting the Tribe parlours in Edinburgh or Glasgow for a tattoo or piercing, donating online, or buying one of their t-shirts or mugs at tribesanctuary.co.uk

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