Located at Dhanotu village in Himachal Pradesh, Peepal Farm is an animal recovery centre that also doubles up as an organic farm that sells vegan products.
Orion was hit by a speeding car and grievously injured near Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. His left leg took a beating and was infested with maggots. Nobody heard the dog’s screams until Peepal Farm found him. The volunteers of the farm then rushed him to the hospital to amputate his leg.
“After Orion’s surgery, we took him to the farm. We dressed his wounds regularly and took him out for a walk every day. Miraculously, he recovered in just a month. Now he is hale and hearty. It’s such a joy to be able to infuse new life into a being,” says Joellen Anderson, Co-founder, Peepal Farm.
Peepal Farm, an animal recovery centre that also doubles up as an organic farm, is located at Dhanotu village in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. The farm treats all kinds of injured animals, from cats, mules, and pigs, to cows and stray dogs. Started by Robin Singh, Joellen, and Shivani Bhalla in the year 2014, Peepal Farm’s objective is to alleviate the pain animals face.
The farm is fitted with an animal clinic, a cowshed, and kennel, all fashioned out of mud-brick, slate, and reused material. So far, Peepal Farm has carried out 591 rescue operations, undertaken 128 sterilisations, facilitated 99 adoptions, and treated 86 injured animals on the street.
One of the main problems Peepal Farm wants to address is animal cruelty. “Cruelty towards stray animals is very common in India. Peepal Farm’s goal is to eliminate this suffering and the human behaviours that cause it,” Robin tells YourStory.
Theresa, an 8-year-old dog got to Peepal Farm with a wounded eye ravaged by maggots after someone threw a rock at her. A bull named King was brought in with burn injuries caused by a passer-by who threw boiling water at him in an attempt to chase him away. A cow called Laxmi landed up at the farm with a fractured leg.
And the volunteers at Peepal Farm care for them all.
“We catered to all these animals and gave them the appropriate medication as well as treatment with the help of veterinarians. We fed them well, bathed them every day, and expressed oodles of love and affection towards them. We are a bunch of 23 volunteers at Peepul Farm who attend to the comfort and safety of stray animals,” says Raveena Sakiri, a volunteer at Peepal Farm.
Peepal Farm undertakes rescue operations within a radius of eight kilometres from where they are stationed.
“As soon as the residents in any of the neighbouring areas come across an injured animal, they call us or send an email. The rescue team immediately heads to the location, and depending on the severity of the wound, they bring the animal to the farm for further treatment. If it’s a minor bruise, it is treated on the spot,” Robin explains.
Peepal Farm also receives calls to rescue animals from places as far as hundred kilometres, like Hamirpur and Dalhousie. In that case, the initiator is asked to drop off the animal at the farm.
If the animal requires surgeries like joint replacement, fracture repair, transplant or skin graft, the in-house veterinarians take over. Justin Keulin and Stella Minnoye, a couple from Belgium, work as veterinary surgeons on the farm at present.
Or they are taken to a vet hospital nearby. “Once the surgery is done, the animals are taken care of at the farm until they heal completely. Later, they are either taken back to the place where they belong or are given away for adoption,” Robin notes.
Apathy towards animals and their welfare is nothing new in India. There are many instances of people inflicting cruelty on their pets, or getting rid of farm animals that no longer add any value. Peepal Farm was started with the aim to reduce the suffering of these animals. Robin was working as a programmer in the US and later started out on his own with E-junkie, an online marketplace to sell digital downloads and goods.
“The turning point for me was when I visited the self-sustained community of Auroville in Pondicherry. That was when I realised that I had a strong desire to give back to society. And I met a person there who was really committed to taking care of abandoned dogs in the area. Since then, I’ve been wanting to do my bit to reduce the ordeal some animals are subjected to,” he says.
He began by initiating a sterilisation programme for animals in Delhi. At the same time, he was on a quest to find a larger piece of land where he could completely devote himself to caring for strays and injured animals. This was when Peepal Farm was born. Shivani, who was Robin’s colleague at E-junkie, and Joellen, who he had met in the US during one of his business meetings, were both equally zealous about the motive, and joined him. The team pooled in their personal savings initially to set up the farm.
Peepal Farm is also an organic farm that adopts sustainable practices. Rice, maize, millets, and potatoes are grown using low-tilling methods within the farm. The farm also promotes veganism by using and consuming items that are not derived from animals or their by-products. Activities like waste segregation, mulching, and composting are practised regularly on the farm to ensure minimum wastage of resources.
The farm offers a full-time volunteering programme that involves working for four hours a day across six days a week. The volunteers are expected to help rescue and care for the animals as well as help maintain the farm.
Peepal Farm facilitates the adoption of animals as well.
And how do they stay afloat? “A lot of money is required for running the farm and treating the animals day in and day out. The volunteers in the farm produce and sell all-vegan products like peanut butter, snacks, spices, and cereals on our website.
The proceeds are used for the maintenance of the farm. We also conduct several cultural jams, events and spoofs across the country in order to spread awareness about the importance of caring for stray animals,” Robin explains.