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Rachael became an accidental animal saviour when she was in her 20s working as a vet nurse. “It’s a hazard of the job. It was really hard seeing animals come in that you know you can help, that don’t need to be euthanized. That’s ultimately why I left. I just didn’t feel like I could make enough of a difference.”

Her first rescue was a bunch of sheep from an elderly widow. “She had cancer and couldn’t look after them anymore. I was on a five-acre property in Darling Downs because I used to ride horses competitively. I said ‘Oh yeah, I’ll have some sheep, mow the grass’.”

 “And that’s when it all started.”

She got to know each of the sheep by name, and came to appreciate their character traits. “I got to know them and I was like ‘Sheep aren’t dumb — they’re actually really smart and they’re actually really affectionate and they’re no different to my dog’ and then it was like a light bulb: why are we doing this to these animals when we don’t need to? Why are they being treated so unfairly, so differently to companion animals? I was like, ‘I think I want to rescue farm animals’.”

Next came Jolly the pig. “He was rescued from a factory farm environment,” Rachael says. The force trauma used to kill the pigs didn’t really work on Jolly. “He was found in the bottom of a skip bin still alive. So somebody picked him up and nursed him back to health and brought him to me. He was our first meat pig and he’s now 350kg.”

She never fails to be amazed at how smart farm animals are. Rachael explains how some while back she was teaching their tiny rescue pup Aubrey to sit. “She got it pretty quick but nowhere near as quick as Freckle the pig. I taught her to sit and she was like, bam! Got it. And then I taught her to shake hands and she got it straight away.”

And while many of us are horrified by the trade in dog meat in some countries, we’ll happily devour a nice crispy piece of pork belly. “Yet there’s absolutely no difference, they’re affectionate and I get down and give them a cuddle and a belly rub and they love it, they close their eyes and they take a big deep breath. So they’re no different.”

Things kind of “snowballed” after Jolly. Rachael, who was already a vegetarian, became a vegan and got much more involved in animal rights. She travelled to Victoria to check out the established sanctuary Edgar’s Mission and eventually, in 2013, moved to the property in Waroona with her husband of nearly 10 years, Dave, and then-baby Phoenix, who is now 12 (little sister Aurora is Nine).


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