We talk with Joellen Anderson, a US Citizen who moved to India to start Peepal Farm with Co-Founder Robin. Peepal Farm is a stray animal rescue, a vegan organic farm, and a low impact farm stay. It is the home we have built in the Himalayan Foothills to accommodate recovering injured stray animals, people who want to do good work, and an organic garden to provide a little bit for all of us. Instead of putting in a swimming pool, we built a cow shed. Instead of a media room, we have a clinic. Instead of having master bedrooms, we made rooms for those who want to come here and experience a simple, sustainable, and purposeful life.
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Jo Ellan is a co founder of People Farm, a stray animal rescue center and vegan farm in the north of India. There they rescue stray dogs, cats, cows, horses and other animals who are injured on the street. They also farm organically and humanely, have a product language employees, local women and host volunteers and guests to involve and inspire people with their work. Joel and originally hails from the U. S and has been living in India for six years now. Hey, Joe Allen, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. I’m so glad you came on. So why don’t you tell us about you and your background gets just such an interesting story? I am an American citizen who has no living in India. Ah, animal rescue and organic farming in Dharamsala, which is in the north kind of at the foothills of the Himalayas. So we are an organization called People Farms, and we kind of based everything else of an ethos of do minimal harm and reduce your consumption to the point to the bare minimum that you can. So that way we reduce our impact on our suffering footprint, as you call it. Now, one of the things I think is really unique about you is that you are a U. S. Citizen. You’re in India, right? And doing animal rescue, which is clearly your passion. But how is it different? Great. How are things different for animals in the in India versus in the U. S. Uh, for the animals? That’s just, um, it’s very different. I mean, there’s not really so much of the culture of pet ownership here. So when it comes to dogs and cats and things, it’s a pretty relatively new concept to be keeping these animals in your home on. When it comes to farmed animals, it’s, uh, it’s pretty much the same move anywhere else in the world where the animals air, you know, used as tools on DSO when they ceased being useful. Their treatment is not necessarily guaranteed to be very good, even with cattle, which, you know, I think there’s this big fallacy that in India, people worship house, um, and that they’re all treated really nicely. So dairy in India, India is not a problem, But that’s just definitely not the case. Also, I think in India you see cases of neglect to the point that you would not see anywhere in the U. S. Are very, very rarely in the U. S. It would be considered extreme. Um, and it’s pretty commonplace here in India to find cases like that which have just not be treated and go on for months or even years, sometimes in in pretty terrific pain. So definitely some unique challenges. So what drew you to India? Uh, well, I never actually had this look, the feeling that India would be the place I want to go. Um, I traveled more in Latin America in in the past, and, uh, I felt much more at home in that kind of, uh, the regions. But when I was in us right before starting this, um, I met Robin, who’s one of the co founders here. Andi and I really got off really well straightaway. I mean, we’re both very, very similar in terms of to the point where we annoy each other. You know, only one of us could be this, you know, But only one of us has to be bad at paperwork. But But we got along so well and we have such similar ideas how we wanted to move forward. We’re both looking for kind of the next project, about how we could help others and specifically animals. I think we’re both drawn to animals or both Vegans. And we’re both of you, considering that. And he was planning on coming to India, and he grew up in Delhi. So he was planning on coming back to India to help in Oroville, which is in the South. There was a woman running a shelter there, and she had 50 dogs and was running the place basically, alone on this is a 65 year old American woman. Um, and the person who is supposed to be running the place was embezzling all the funds and was nowhere to be seen on. There was a lot of bad blood between these two. So it was a really, really tense situation on Gwen. Robin visited before he met me. He was like, This is not acceptable like this woman and these dogs really need help. So he was already planning on coming back, and that’s when he met me. And I kind of invited myself Nice. Now, so tell us a little bit about people farm and kind of maybe start just with the name and how you guys came to found this. So people farm is a jury. Animal recovery center is what we call it, which is basically a rescue centre. Were re rescue dogs, cats, cows, horses. Um, we even have a monkey right now who’s here for recovery. So basically, any animal in need that we’re capable of helping Lee will try to help them. Um, So the farm portion, uh, is all, like, organic on, and we use manure from the rescue cows that we have. Um, and the idea behind it is to try and farm in a way that causes minimal damage because industrial farming, if you look at the way that things are done in an industrial farms, even when you’re eating vegetables, then number of animals being hurt and killed in that in that process is extreme in the most humane way possible, even to the point where, instead of digging the soil up every season so we don’t ever take a plow through the farm or dig it up, we just put layers of mulch and manure on top. Um, and that breaks down to form topsoil. And as long as you don’t step on it, then that means you don’t have to dig it. And it isn’t being better for the plants anyway. And then you also don’t kill all the bugs in the worms and everything that they’re living in the soil or anything nesting on the ground Very here. Yeah, Beyond rescue and the farm. We also have a farm. Stay where people can come stay at the house and they pay a minimal amount. Um, and it covers their food in the upkeep of the place. On dhe, they get to interact with the animals either as volunteers or just visitors looking after the animals that can work in the farm. Um, talk with us that at the table and have dinner with us and everything and it really kind of involved people more on brings in a little bit of income as well for the animal rescue. And then the last part is the product which they’re all begin. Obviously, that’s kind of who we are and resource things locally as possible. Some of it is stuff that we source right here from our farm. Some of it we get from the farms around, and some of it we have to go a little further abroad for, um but, you know, everything resource as close as possible. And then we hire local women from the village to come in and make the products and package things, and then we sell it locally as well as online. Um, and all the proceeds from that goes straight to the animal rescue. Wow, that’s really cool. So, how many years have you been doing this? Now? We broke ground on construction in December of 2014 about four years now. Very cool. And I’m sure it’s grown then over the years, Yeah. I mean, when we started, it was just basically doing construction we brought for for dog Buddha from Delhi. We already rescued there because before this we were doing stray dogs, sterilizations and a little bit of rescue in Delhi, where we were creating Pops of Delhi that didn’t have puppies, which, you know, it’s a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of Delhi. But for those dogs, it definitely helped. Um and so the people who are feeding those dogs, that helps a lot. So we brought the five dogs with us, and then, yeah, we just started construction. We went to the place in the next village, got to work. And then, of course, you know, within two weeks we had more rescues way were stringing tarps up. And we’re like, Okay, we have you’ll like, Does anyone know how to handle a mule? I don’t know what to do with a mule. Uh, we just really had to learn kind of as we went. But that’s always how we do things. So, yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun and a good opportunity to learn, like you’re saying, because you’re not gonna certainly know how to handle every situation. The after. Sure. And I think that’s kind of another thing about rescue in India as opposed to the U. S. I mean, it’s not all negative, right? You see, you seem much more intense suffering. But, I mean, you can do so much more because it’s not like we have built this place to code. You know, we didn’t do any paperwork. We didn’t hire a contractor. We do it on a napkin and got started, you know? So it’s like you don’t have to go through all of the major hoops that you have to jump through in the U. S. Or Canada or any of these places. Thio really start something, and that’s pretty unique and give you a freedom to do sort of these alternative things, like the number of permits I’d have to have to run. This place in us is insane and, like, the amount of paperwork I have to do every month is I don’t even want to think about it like that’s not kind of how I operate anyway. So in that sense, India’s kind of perfect for people like Robin and May who, you know, don’t do the paperwork, things that will e able to just jump in and help without having to deal with all the administrative stuff that goes with it? Absolutely. And I mean, you know, that hasn’t drawback for for someone who has the right intentions and who really wants to do it. Well, it’s so much easier in it, so much more liberating. You can explore all your options and really kind of try and experiment with things without having to worry about all the red tape and making sure it’s done X and X way, you know? Yeah, I was curious. I mean, what advice would you give to somebody that is listening to this and and wants to make a difference and help out in India? If they’re listening to this, where do they begin? Well, coming as an outsider, I mean, I’ve seen I’ve seen a lot of people who are not from India that come in and do amazing work in India, and I have so much respect. It’s usually women women above 50. I don’t know there’s something about women about 50 in India. They do amazing animal rescue work, but I know that I couldn’t have done this without the help of Robin. Both, you know, because he’s an incredible human and someone that I really connect with and who really understands kind of where I come from on things, but also he’s Indian, he’s local, and he understands how to kind of navigate the lay of the land. And so I mean, I can’t say, you know, like, go out and find an Indian friend, you know, it doesn’t really work that way, but, like that’s, um that was, I think, crucial especially for me, especially moving to India at the age of 23. Um, I mean, that been hugely helpful. To have someone local who really understands the culture and who understands by people react the way they do or the language even has been a huge barrier for me in a lot of ways. If you can learn the local language, go for it. That would be really, really helpful. But also just, I think, finding a good group of people who can help support you because it’s not sustainable. To do this by yourself, I mean, I’ve seen so many people burn out as well, Um, people who are working alone here, uh, it could be really hard, so it could be really frustrating sometimes. So having someone, uh, not just one, maybe, but a group of people who are on the same page of you that makes all the difference. Yeah, sounds like and that’s really good advice, I think, even for people that are not in India, right is going at it on your own can be a really tough challenge. And you need that support structure and that team of like minded people and people that have different skills than you. So you can support each other and balance it out absolutely. And you look at the most successful organizations that maintain over years and years maintained even after the founders are not there anymore. These organizations that start with a really strong base of people who really care and who really invested in it, you know, because you don’t want people who are like Oh, yeah, I’ll help you out You know, because you really need the people who who want to be there and want to do this, and that’s hard to find. It’s not. It’s not an easy thing, but, um, definitely, if you set that intention, I think that that’s more likely to happen, that you kind of just go. Okay, I’ve got that, you know, because it’s hardly ever the one man show. Yeah, that’s definitely true. Now, one of the things you mentioned and, um, I wanted to kind of cover was you talked about this suffering footprint? Can you kind of talk a little bit more about that and what it is and why it matters? Yeah, for sure. So, I mean, you hear a lot about, like, your carbon footprint or your eco footprint, and that kind of thing for the suffering footprint is playing on that. But it’s more about looking at the life cycle of anything that you’re doing or using Andi seeing how you can reduce the amount of suffering it causes. So, you know, I like to use this example because vegans, I think, think that like, we all like to think that we’re so humiliating. And, you know, I went vegan. I’m done with my job, you know, like that. That’s it. But really, that’s just the beginning. Because even if you look at something like a bag of rice, so you have first like the land needs to be clear cut to make the field. So you’re destroying all of the homes for wild animals. And, uh, like I mean there’s lots of rain forests that are being cut for not only rice, but the way and all these things that we use. Um, so you’re clear cutting forests that causes suffering. Then the next step you have, at least in India. Usually it’s a bull and a guy with a plow, and they’re plowing through six inches of mud, which is not an easy feat. It takes a lot of strength, and that bull is usually immensely overworked, Um, and not necessarily well kept. And then oftentimes, if they’re old bulls, they die in the season when they’re when they’re plowing because they’re just being worked to death. Basically, Um, so there’s all of that, then you’re also killing all of the animals in the soil that the plough apples are. All of the ground nesting animals are dying as well, so there’s another thing. Then, once you have the rice, you harvest it and then all of the packaging that you’re using to package that rice. Where is that all coming and usually petrochemicals, plastics and things like this. And that’s a whole nother can of worms of like all of the suffering caused by the factories and the drilling for oil and you know what I mean? There’s a lot there. Then you transport the rice and there’s all of that suffering, not just in terms of like driving on the road and what is being killed. But then the gas it takes to run that truck, the manufacturing of that truck, you know, I mean, it goes on and on and on, and you can keep going into all of these deep layers and see that there’s nothing innocuous that you consume. If you are consuming, you are causing pain. And I don’t say that like, you know, kind of depressed because it could be a really depressing thing. When you start examining that deeply, it can be very overwhelming. And Michael, why did I do anything you know? But then the idea behind it is like Okay, so any time you consume your causing suffering, that’s just a given. If you’re alive, you’re causing suffering. But that doesn’t mean like, oh, we should all kill ourselves. It’s like, Ok, so then not only should you reduce your consumption to a point so that it’s at a bare minimum that you can manage, But then Also, you really have to make your life count for something. You have to make it where you’re putting something in the positive as well. Are you reducing suffering for somebody? In our case, we’re trying to do that by farming in a better way. We’re trying to do that by rescuing animals and on a one on one basis. We’re trying to do that by advocacy and outreach and education. Um, where we’re trying to show people a better way than are acting with animals and also teaching them this about suffering footprint like, Okay, you have this life. It’s a gift. It’s a gift on the back of all the beings that you’re causing suffering to. So make it count for something, make it worth something and do something positive with it. It doesn’t have to be animal. Then it could be Children. It could be women could be old people. It could be anybody, you know, But just like making your life count for something kind of makes it So you’re trying to get out of that negative net suffering caused, you know? Yeah. No, I really like the way that you describe that because a CZ you said it. It consume hopeless at times, because everything we do is going to have a reaction. But I like your your pay it forward type of mentality. That says, then you know, try and train balance out the equation, right? Doo doom or good, because if everybody is doing more good, it’s gonna have a dramatic impact. Absolutely. And yeah, I mean, that is the whole point of this is that, um I know that animal rescue especially. But any time you’re trying to help animals, that could be a very overwhelming and sometimes often very depressing kind of line of work. I think a lot of people in this get burnt out really quickly because it can feel like you don’t have any support. It can feel really few tile at times. Um, you know, every time you’re rescuing, there’s another three right there that need help. It can feel like it’s never ending, but keeping this in mind that you are just trying to do what you can, Um and then I think, also combined with what I said earlier about having a support system, having a group of people around, even if it’s not someone who’s right there but someone that you can call and say, Hey, this is how I’m feeling and that they really understand what you’re going through that can make all the difference. Now, what does things look like in the future here? So we’re coming into 2019. So what does it look like for you and for people firms, anything new? Uh oh. There’s always something new. There’s always something coming up right now. We’re really are Doctor just got his training in sterilization surgeries for female dogs. So that kind of right now in the more short term goal is to really be pushing that, um, and try and get that kind of running because, you know, sterilizations are sort of the key to not having to do so many rescues. If you can sterilize as many dogs you can wear, their population goes down and you don’t have as many puppies coming under cars, which is really what we’re dealing with right now. In this season, especially, um, it’s just injured puppies left and right. So if you could bring down the population also, it kind of helps people feel a little bit more compassionate because when there’s lots of dogs, people get a little sort of, uh, detached and sort of numb to it because they just see so much suffering everywhere. But as soon as you bring that population down, that one animal suffering sort of stands out a bit more. So that’s kind of the short term goal is really getting started on that, being like a daily at least kind of activity, you know, we’re doing surgeries. Beyond that are looking at trying to find more long term people volunteers especially. But you know, not just volunteers, but work, exchange and, um, been paid positions. If we find the right person where they’re able to take on kind of chunks of the work, whether it’s a veterinarian, that’s gonna help us run the clinic, or someone who could help with the volunteer coordinating, um, someone who’s really good at media, who could be generating videos and doing photography and things like that. So I don’t have to do some of that, um, you know, just like kind of trying to build the team up a little bit more so that we have more bandwidth to kind of work on. The other problem we want to do where we’re looking at outreach. And how did leverage advertising in a way that helps animals. And, um, so much fundraising being a big one? Uh, yeah. I mean, there’s so many different projects and so many ideas that we treated this huge list and, you know, kind of one of those things where it’s like, Okay, we’ll get to that someday when we have we have someone to help with This is that, um yeah, And how How can somebody help me? And if they’re not in India, are there ways that people that are listen to this? They could help you guys out? Yeah, for sure. I mean, especially in U. S. And Canada, I think finding homes because I know that it can seem a little weird. Thio ship a dog across the world to find a home, but the reality is that they are not many homes at all, and even fewer good homes here in India, where people really understand how to keep the dog. Um and then really understand why you should adopt a dog instead of by a dog. And I mean the the number of homes is minuscule And so it’s very, very difficult for us to place particularly female stray dogs here because nobody wants them. So having people in the U. S. And Canada, and they’re just because it’s the easiest place, it’s kind of a cheaper place to send off. So it makes more financial sense for us. Um, having people there, make connections and start finding interest in posting pictures that we have from our website and things of adoptable dogs. And we already have some really amazing people working in Seattle and Vancouver in particular. I don’t know why Vancouver in Seattle seems to be a hotbed for Indian. Straight on people seem to really love them. They’re so, uh, we have a gal melody in Vancouver who’s been amazing. She helped place 55 or six of the 10 dogs that were on the caravan, which is amazing to find that many homes. And she was also her due date with the day after the meet up and she was still there. She just like she gave birth a few days. So she’s not pregnant, just like driving around in meeting us up with us, and uh, that’s just amazing. I and then just of Delhi. The Street Dog Foundation also been really, really helpful. Finding homes for us in Seattle area because she adopted her dog from Delhi obviously, really, is what she named him. Um, he rescued him while she was traveling here in India, which is a feat in itself to be a traveler and like, find a dog and then just be like, Well, I’m gonna say that, you know, like that’s not an easy thing to do because there’s sort of no system like, you know, you have to ask the dog doctor, dog doctor who knows where there’s a dog, doctor and, um but she managed it and he’s there, living there for in Seattle. And now she’s using his story to kind of launch help for other organizations that are trying to place dogs abroad. People like that you are posting in networking and trying to find homes for us where we can be assured that someone doing the screening properly on that end, Um, you know, because I make that phone call, but it’s not the same as having a house check, you know, that would be really helpful. Another thing is always fundraising I mean, it’s, um, like if you can’t do anything else, even $5 donation makes a different system. But here in India, because you know everything costs less. So your money goes a lot farther here, and it’s so needed here because there’s not really much in the way of assistance. I mean, we have some really amazing Indian supporters as well. Uh, but in rural areas, it’s not. Not as easy to do kind of local fundraising efforts. Otherwise people could help, um, media content generation. If someone’s willing to do videos like, I mean, even just being a volunteer for doing that are like, you know, making money means with our dogs and spreading it around. It can really be anything. Um, there’s so many ways to get involved online. Great. We’ll definitely some really good ideas there for how people can help. So it’s been really great to hear about your story and kind of what drew you. There s, Oh, thanks for coming on and sharing that. Is there any family she wanted to mention before wrap things up? I mean, I guess it’s just, I guess, a message for people who want to help animals that it’s like It might feel like you’re alone, but you’re not. There are lots of people who I want to help Ethan, who you don’t even realize are supporting your work. Um, And then, you know, they come out of the woodwork 10 years later and say, Hey, I’ve been following everything you’re doing, and I really appreciate it, and that’s kind of gratifying to have those moments, but like, you know, the in between where they’re not saying it can really feel like no one’s noticing what you’re doing. Um, and that you’re just working in a vacuum. But I think as long as you’re putting your efforts out there for people to see, um, there are people who are noticing and that will support you if you ask. So we’ll have to do with that. Absolutely. We’re one big community, and we’ve gotta help each other and support each other and the good times in the bed yet for sure. Well, Joel, and thank you for coming on. A appreciate you coming on the program to talk with us today. Yeah. Thanks for having me. It was a good time. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.