Sustainable-Skills School Target of Misguided Animal Rights Campaign

Reader Contribution by Natalie Bogwalker and Wild Abundance
article image

Wild Abundance, a woman-led school committed to teaching skills for sustainable living in Barnardsville, N.C., is facing a fierce campaign of harassment from a national misguided animal rights organization.

Misunderstanding of Traditional Skills Leads to Controversy

The national organization responsible for the attacks, One Protest, whose campaigns usually focus on exotic trophy hunting and farming industry animal abuse, has organized a movement against this small, rural school because of a class in which a single sheep will be harvested, for educational purposes and as part of a weekend intensive focusing on meat preservation for small-scale family farms.

One Protest, and its affiliate, the Let Live Coalition, are a troubling example of how a large national organization can pull together lots of resources to mislead the public in an attempt to “make an example” out of a small-scale, local educational business that empowers participants with the hands-on experience to live self-sufficiently.

Natalie Bogwalker, the mother of a 3 week-old infant, director of the Firefly Gathering, and director of Wild Abundance, a school near Asheville NC that teaches  Permaculture Design Courses, and classes on Homesteading, Natural Building, Women’s Carpentry, and Organic Gardening, began receiving a flood of emails and phone calls at all hours demanding that she cancel an upcoming class on ethical butchering. The aggressive vegan activists are waging “a multi-pronged outreach and protest campaign” to “make an example” of Wild Abundance. Some of the calls have even been threatening.

Humane Slaughter of Livestock Attacked

During the class, Cycles of Life: Humane Slaughter and Butchering, which ran November 19-20, 2016, adult students learned how to take responsibility for their choice to eat meat, putting it in the context of cultivating a healthy and spiritual relationship with their food, as their ancestors have done for thousands of years. Wild Abundance appreciates and accommodates vegetarians and vegans, who make up 15-30% of class participants.

Natalie Bogwalker, holding her tiny infant shares, “In order to reconnect with the earth, we have to understand where our food comes from, and we have to build and support a local food system. We hope that Let Live and its parent organization, One Protest can redirect energy toward the source of the mass cruelty inflicted on animals in this country through factory farming, and toward educating consumers about the repercussions of the choices that they make at the grocery store. We should be working together to stop hate crimes, Big Ag, and climate change, not squabbling over personal dietary choices.”

Sustainable Meat and the Human-Animal Connection

Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt, a vegetarian student in Wild Abundance’s Essentials of Permaculture and Homesteading Course shared, “I do not have the desire or the strength to slaughter an animal myself, and so I do not eat them. But if I did, I would do so this way. I would face the life and the death, and I would have Natalie Bogwalker there to teach, guide, and show me the way.”

 “In a grocery-story dependent culture, most people rarely see where their food is grown, and never see the factory settings that mass produce 99% of meat, milk and eggs sold on the market. Humans used to be intimately tied to their food system, and animals were raised and slaughtered on family homesteads. There was a relationship between human and animal, and culture and landscape, a spiritual bond and connection that is being lost today; replaced instead by convenient and invisible food systems that are deeply corrupt, producing meat from animals who are tortured, sick and suffering.”

Biodiverse farming, ethical meat, whole-animal utilization are keys to sustainable food. For example, domestic animals finished on grass have the potential to sequester up to 5 tons of CO2 in the soil per acre per year. Additionally, animals fed diets in line with their biological needs are better able to digest and assimilate nutrients, leading to less enteric fermentation and methane production.

Education about whole-animal butchery enables consumers with budget constraints to access protein that has been left out of the marketplace, and even wasted in the most grievous examples of factory farming. The lack of dialogue and research about farming systems that integrate plant and animal agriculture, and diverse eating has given too much power to narrow agendas. Animals have a place in a dynamic farm ecosystem, and in the ecosystem of our bodies.

Making a Safe Space for Differing Food Beliefs

Emily Bell, Assistant Director of Wild Abundance shares her experience,“Some people choose to eat meat, we want them to have a full understanding of the consequences of their choices. My body, especially during pregnancy, thrives on meat being part of my diet. Others’ bodies may not. I respect others’ choices. I hope that others can respect my choice.

“Some folks might take the class, and when encountered with the gravity of death, might choose not to eat meat. I expect this class will give all the participants the experience to find out what they personally need and what they want to be responsible for.”

For further details, please Contact Natalie Bogwalker at, or text to arrange a phone call at 828-775-7052.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.