The Thanksgiving tables were turned Thursday for a handful of rescued turkeys at the Gentle Barn sanctuary on Sierra Highway where they feasted on home-made vegan pumpkin pie – fed to them by “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson.
“I’ve been an animal rights activist since I was 6 or 7 years old when I got my dad to stop hunting,” said Anderson, who grew up in Canada. She said she realized, “If you complain enough, people start listening, and then they start realizing you might be right.”
Anderson shuns foods derived from animals, and sure enough, Thursday’s pie was devoid of eggs and milk products.
“We love animals, and every Thanksgiving we actually rescue some turkeys,” said Gentle Barn founder Ellie Laks.
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“On Thanksgiving our tradition is a little different. Instead of eating turkey, we bring pie to the turkeys and make it kind of their day,” she said.
Anderson said she got the idea of paying a first-time visit to The Gentle Barn from fellow vegetarian Christopher Ameruoso, publicist for the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals.
“What a lot of people don’t understand about vegetarians and vegans is, they feel like we want the whole world to stop eating meat,” Ameruoso said. “It’s more about being humane to animals. It’s just getting worse and worse as you can see every year, if you look at … how many turkeys are in demand every year and how many – they’re not just killed, they’re slaughtered. They’re tortured. And it’s not a great thing.”
Anderson said being vegetarian also means you’re “really conscious of the environment. Being vegetarian is better than driving a hybrid car. Factory farms and slaughter houses are really bad for the environment, and it’s all bad for your health.”
“I chose to be a vegetarian for humane reasons,” she said. “Once I found out what goes on behind closed doors at slaughter houses, it really didn’t make me want to eat meat anymore.”
Laks said every animal at The Gentle Barn – from de-beaked turkeys and starved goats to enormous, factory-fattened sows and bovines – was rescued from “severe abuse.”
“What makes us different from other rescues is, other rescues do the very important work of rescuing animals and finding homes for them. We concentrate on the animals that cannot find homes – the ones that are so broken, old, sick or damaged that no one wants to adopt them,” she said.
“We bring them in and rehabilitate them. One they’re healed, they stay here for the rest of their lives.”
But they aren’t put out to pasture. Their work isn’t done.
“They help us heal kids,” Laks said. “We work with kids in foster care, on probation, in gangs, on drugs, from the inner city, as well as special-needs kids and adults. Through the stories of the animals and through the interaction with the animals, they find themselves.”
Anderson found herself wanting to replicate The Gentle Barn.
“This is my dream. I want to have a ranch, have some type of rescue facility,” said Anderson, whose boyfriend Jon Rose works with a charity devoted to providing clean drinking water to impoverished communities in South America.
“I finally finished my house in Malibu and I’m going to rent it out and then I’m going to do something like this,” she said. “This is what I really want to do for my future. I don’t know where yet, but what a great idea.”
The idea sits well with Laks, whose 12-year-old facility is looking to expand onto neighboring Sierra Highway property and ultimately hopes to spread to other locations throughout the country.