Fifteen years ago, Tommy Sonnen picked up the family baton passed down from his great-grandfather and did what he was trained to do: raise cattle for beef. From that point onward, Tommy has referred to himself as a fourth generation cattle rancher, living about an hour south of Houston. For more than the last decade Tommy has trotted the path laid out before him, until the woman he married six years ago, Renee King-Sonnen, experienced a connection she never anticipated and pulled him onto her path leading to a completely new way of life.
Once married, Renee, a singer and songwriter, found herself traveling from suburbia to cattle country and adjusting to life on the ranch with her new husband. Daily, she woke up surrounded by 96 acres of beautiful pasture, greeted by horses, chickens, and her favorite: the herd of cattle complete with a bull, protective mothers, and their grazing babies. Renee would join the herd on the pasture, sing and dance with them, and began referring to them by names rather than as numbers (against Tommy's wishes) as they left marks on her heart. After days of bonding with her new nonhuman friends, nothing could prepare Renee for the reality of cattle ranching.
Renee recalls as they were being "trailered up" to go to the sale barn:
"The experience of watching them leave, the mamas wailing for a week, and the absence of their souls in the pasture haunted me. I've cried so many times over this that he has tried to hide the fact he is doing it but I always knew because of the wailing that the momma cows do when they lose their babies and can't find them."
With the heartbreak of this experience Renee woke up. She's now vegan, no longer allows animal products into her shared home, and made it her mission to save the remaining 30-plus in the herd including one bull, calves, and cows, some of which are expecting mothers. Renee is going against the traditional Texan way of life, the life her husband knows, and plans to convert their cattle ranch to a place of sanctuary for not only their herd, horses, and chickens, but other rescued farm animals as well. With the connection made and a desire to help, the dream of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary sparked, which is named after the calf Renee fell in love with five years ago.
Although the love and determination behind the sanctuary are unwavering, it cannot be built on that alone. Renee needs to purchase the cows from Tommy, at an extremely discounted price of $30,000. Once the herd is in her name, the land will be leased to her by her husband for $1 for a year, and Renee will continue working to receive her non-profit sanctuary status. An Indigogo donation page has been set up and already raised over $4,000 in a short period of time. Her story of hope is catching hearts everywhere and industry experts are pitching in, offering advice and help wherever they can. For example, Kip Anderson, co-director of Cowspiracy, is helping to promote Renee's story and Derek & Steve, owners of Happily Ever Esther Sanctuary, have been in very helpful contact from the start. But still, there is much money to raise before Rowdy Girl Sanctuary becomes a reality.
As vegans, we are always looking for ways to make a difference. Here is our chance to play an important role in the fate of this herd and other farm animals! Please considering spreading the word about Renee's mission (Rowdy Girl Sanctuary) and donating any amount at all to this cause. The world needs more vegan warriors like Renee carrying her story of hope, striving to save as many of our nonhuman animal friends as we can. See the links below which explain how you can help make all the difference in the lives of Rowdy Girl and her family.
"Animal rights is a cause, whose time has come! Our barbaric treatment of animals is a direct reflection of humanity's own inner torment and violent nature in the world! I believe that when we draw closer to loving animals and seeing their soul (which they do have), that is then and only then that we will ever be free."
- Renee King-Sonnen
See also: Rowdy Girl Sanctuary donation page. For more of Renee's inspirational journey and glimpses into the lives of the herd, please follow along on her Facebook page: Vegan Journal of a Rancher's Wife. | Rowdy Girl Sanctuary on Twitter | Rowdy Girl Sanctuary on Instagram