Up North

Turkeys at Nipissing vegan sanctuary have nothing to fear over the holidays

While many people will be sitting down to a turkey dinner at some point over the holiday season, one couple in the township of Nipissing, Ont. is using the Christmas tradition to advocate for the protection of the birds.

Piebird Vegan Farm Sanctuary offers educational tours so people can meet the birds

While many people will be thinking about turkeys as dinner at this time of year, one Nipissing couple sees the birds as friends, not food. (Jason Turnbull / CBC)

While many people will be sitting down to a turkey dinner at some point over the holiday season, one couple in the township of Nipissing, Ont. is using the Christmas tradition to advocate for the protection of the birds.

Yan Roberts and his wife, Sherry Milford, have 27 animals at their Piebird Vegan Farm Sanctuary including several turkeys, where the birds are considered friends, not food.

"A lot of the time we'll do public tours ... where we can have people come over and befriend a turkey, meet them, understand that they are sentient beings," Milford told CBC's Up North host Jason Turnbull.

"Just like a cat or dog, and they deserve that kind of love."

Milford pointed to one of their feathered friends to illustrate the point: Rosie — who Milford said has been at the sanctuary the longest — "is super snuggly," she continued.

"She loves to have a good nap on a human lap and she does purr a little bit like a cat would."
Yan Roberts and his wife Sherry Milford own the Piebird Vegan Farm Sanctuary in Nipissing, Ont. (Jason Turnbull / CBC)

At a time when many birds are being eaten, Milford said she and her husband focus on ensuring their birds' safety, and "respecting their person-hood."

In fact, Christmas Day is a special day for the birds too, Roberts said.

"All the friends here get a little something special on those holidays," he said. "An extra special meal, lots of love from the guests in the tours and the visitors that come by."

"We really try and overcompensate for some of that lack of love out there by living love loudly," he added.

And in case you're wondering what the turkeys' special meal consists of?

"Turkeys love pumpkin pies," Roberts said.