Little Oak Sanctuary X THE UPSIDE

Monday the 1st of November is World Vegan Day, In celebration of this important day and something that is ingrained in THE UPSIDE’S dna we talked to Kate and James the team at Little Oak Sanctuary in Rural NSW.

Little Oak is a sanctuary for farmed animals located on over 270 acres in rural NSW, around an hour from Canberra, the South Coast, and Goulburn. Kate & James founded the sanctuary in 2013, inspired by “Little Timmy Piglet” a tiny but strong little piglet that they lived with who sadly passed away the year before. Having gotten to know Little Timmy as an individual, Kate & James wanted other people to have the opportunity to see farmed animals as the unique individuals that they are, the name for the sanctuary comes from the tree planted in Timmy’s honour – a little Oak tree. The sanctuary’s mission is to provide sanctuary for farmed animals in need, but also to advocate for animals and this is something they have done with passion since the sanctuary started, through bus and television ad campaigns, open days, private tours, events, printed material and their social accounts. Now home to almost 250 animals, the sanctuary is managed by a dedicated team of volunteers and is funded largely through donations from the public.

Kate and James have shared some stories on the amazing animals that call Little Oak Santuary they home.

1. Lucky Lago
In 2014 the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses received a phone call from a racehorse owner. His trainer had told him his racehorse, a two-year-old, was ‘no good’. It was time to get rid of him. Never raced, a decision was made to send him to the ‘doggers’. This beautiful ‘nameless’ 2-year-old gelding did nothing wrong. He simply wasn’t cut out for horse racing. Many aren’t. In fact, somewhere between 50 and 70% of horses bred for racing are just like “Lucky Lago” (as he is now called).They just aren’t fast enough or have the temperament for horse racing. He is the grandson to Encosta DeLago – his breeding is impeccable. But there are no guarantees in horse racing. He cost $40,000, but now his only worth was the going rate per kilo of horseflesh.
Little Oak Sanctuary was contacted and we arranged to go pick this young boy up.  He was terrified, his whole body shaking when loaded into the horse trailer.  On arrival at the sanctuary and going over him, it was clear through the scars and marks on his body that he had experienced some severely rough treatment, and as a result, he was very nervous and reactive, biting and kicking at anyone who went near him.  With care and gentle treatment, Lucky is learning to trust people again, but his psychological scars will remain for life and he can still be quite unpredictable. He was given the name Lucky Lago as he is, indeed, one of the very few lucky horses bred into the racing industry that makes it out alive.  Lucky still carries the physical and emotional scars of his short time in the racing industry, although these are fading with time.  
Lucky is an incredibly curious, playful personality.  His spirit and love of life make him the very unique character we have come to know and love.

2. James Brown, Jack Black & Barry White

Most people aren’t aware that in order to produce milk, dairy cows are kept almost continually pregnant. Unwanted male calves (known as ‘bobby calves’) are sent to slaughter in their first week of life so that their mothers’ milk can be harvested for human consumption. Barry White, James Brown & Jack black are just three (gorgeous) faces of the 700,000 calves discarded by the Dairy Industry as “waste products” of milk production each year in Australia.  At just four months old their life has been a tumultuous one.

Born into the dairy industry to mothers who only knew them for only five days, these three were destined for slaughter, but found a temporary reprieve through being purchased by a petting zoo.

With the best of intentions and a love of animals, people often don’t realise that the animals in petting zoos, as fragile babies, are often subjected to a lot of unnatural stresses. The stress of being taken from their mothers is often enough to lead to illness in young animals, and sure enough little Barry White struggled through two cases of pneumonia, stunting his growth such that he was the same size as his 3 month younger friends, James & Jack.

Whilst it’s easy to see the appeal of petting cute baby animals from a human’s perspective, the reality from the animals perspective is often a grim one.  These animals face many potential stresses such as travel trauma, mishandling, unsatisfactory care, denial of natural behaviours and then once they start to grow into adults they are sent off to the sale-yards (where their fate is usually a grisly one) and replaced with younger, ‘cuter’ versions.

Arriving at Little Oak at around 4 months old, these little boys were still as gorgeous to us as they possibly could be.  Here they will be valued for who they are, not whether or not they produce milk nor only for their fleeting youth.  These boys will be beautiful advocates for their beautiful brothers in the dairy industry, and for all of those animals exploited in petting zoos.

These boys have endured so much purely because of the demand for dairy products.  The power to make a difference is in your hands, please learn more and choose wisely.

3. Wooly Harrelson

The Australian sheep industry estimates that more than 10 million lambs die within 48 hours of birth, with an average mortality rate of 25% for lambs up to the age they are weaned.

Wooly Harrelson very nearly became one of those statistics. Born on the back of a ute that was carrying his heavily pregnant mother and her flock to the sale-yards, Wooly, newly born and wet with afterbirth, slipped through the stock crate and onto the road. Notwithstanding the tragedy of the loss of his mother, this little guy had some luck shining on him in that this all happened as the vehicle passed some wildlife carers out on a rescue mission. These amazing souls wrapped poor Wooly up, kept him warm and filled his belly with warm milk.

At Little Oak Sanctuary we know that all lambs are individuals defined by unique personalities and a passion for life, they are most certainly more than mere numbers or statistics. At only 2 days old Wooly already displayed the cheeky, bold personality that we’ve come to know and love.

There is no more innocent being than a lamb.  We encourage everyone to see these little guys for WHO they are not WHAT they are; as ‘someone’ not ‘something’.

4. Charlotte & Portia

Charlotte was born in early September 2018 on a pig farm near Inverell. The pig farmer was shutting down his business and was trying to get rid of the last of his pigs. A man visiting family came across this situation and as the farmer suggested the piglets’ were to be killed if no-one took them, he took one piglet back to his fathers rental property in an inner Sydney suburb.

Although he had the best of intentions, the young man was poorly equipped to cope with a very young, vulnerable piglet, poor Charlotte did not receive the best of care. Left in the rain with nowhere to escape from the wet and fed inappropriate food, she soon developed a chest and skin infection. The family sought vet care for her but many inner city vets would not treat her, until they finally found one who would. After a week of treatment Charlotte’s skin has largely recovered with only the tail end of her skin condition remaining (hence the soothing cream on her skin), but further treatment of her chest required another course of antibiotics.  We believe it was having another little piglet, Portia, that helped Charlotte survive her illness.  The two became fast friends and are still besties today.

As Charlotte is the breed of pig used in commercial pig farming, she is likely to grow into a very big girl, around 250kg or so, but even on arrival at less than 6 kilograms her personality already shone through.  She knows what she wants and it often involves a lap.

Portia was also born on 2nd September 2018, on a different type of pig farm than most people might imagine – one that breeds so-called “miniature” pigs. Not much research was undertaken into the reality of living with a pig prior to Portia’s purchase – although she was very well cared for and loved, her family did not check whether their council allowed people to keep pigs (they don’t, many do not), their neighbours started threatening to harm the pig, and their dogs were causing her some stress.

Portia is indeed a smaller breed of pig than those used in commercial piggeries, but there are no true miniature pigs in Australia – she will still likely grow to 150kg. We are regularly asked to take in pigs purchased on impulse – and we want to take this moment to stress once again that a pig, like any companion animal, is a commitment for their lifetime. Living arrangements may change, work commitments may change, you may have health issues, these things are a part of life and somewhat unavoidable.  Animals in our care rely on us – if you do not have reliable back up arrangements in place, please think twice before taking on any animal, especially a pig

Charlotte & Portia arrived at the sanctuary at almost the same time, at the same age, but from two different worlds.  They became fast friends and are still best piglet friends forever, living their best life running, snoozing and wallowing at Little Oak.

Why Vegan - Why is it important to embrace being Vegan and what are steps people can take to do this?

Being vegan allows you to take your values of compassion and justice and put them into action. We recommend checking out sites like for loads of tips, information, recipes, guides and support, and also getting in touch and helping out with your local farmed animal sanctuary – our community of volunteers have become great friends and help guide and support each other with recipes and being able to talk through any issues or experiences they are facing.

Other resources like Sea Shepard Australia can give you a deeper understanding of how you can protect our worlds Oceans. Sea Shepherd is an international, non-profit marine conservation organisation that campaigns to defend, conserve and protect the world’s ocean. They work hard to protect our seas from overfishing, poaching and environmental waste polluting our seas.

PETA Australia operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any way. PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in farms, the clothing trade, laboratories, and the entertainment industry.

Their website has helpful information on how to make the transition to being Vegan.. Along with ways you can help with animal protection and conservation. You can also download a guide that will take you through the benefits of becoming Vegan.

In celebration of World Vegan Day THE UPSIDE have a Vegan Dahl recipe for you to recreate at home thanks to our friends at PETA. It may feel overwhelming to transition to a full vegan diet, however limiting your weekly meat intake and choosing to include more plant based meals into your weekly diet, you will be making a huge difference to the animals and the environment.