Deborah Nasmyth

I am always amazed by the unique supporters who make up the Compassion Collective. Among this stellar group is Deborah Nasmyth, a hero of mine. She is a piano teacher, former competitive bodybuilder, primitive cartoonist, wildlife artist, first responder for a local wildlife rehabilitation center, and dedicated animal activist who also founded and runs her own micro sanctuary in Nelson, British Columbia. Wow! The sanctuary offers an Airbnb goat-walk experience, and 100% of the profits help fund the animals’ care. We have been working together since May 2020, and my respect and admiration for Deborah has only grown. Every week she seems to be taking in a pigeon with a broken wing, helping rehab a bat, or writing in a local paper about why we should consider the plight of farmed animals. I am determined to head up to British Columbia for a visit this year or next to experience that magical sanctuary and go on one of the famous goat walks she leads. For now, I am excited to share our recent Q&A.

Q – Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in animal issues.

A – I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes household that was ignorant of animal issues. As a child, I developed depression and anxiety disorders due to frequent nightmares about animal cruelty. As a teen and young adult in the 90s, I started drawing animals because they were always on my mind. As soon as I left home, I became even more aware of how animals were treated in the food system, and I went vegetarian. Then in 2008, I went vegan.

Q – What does being in the Compassion Collective mean to you?

A – I have often lamented that I’m not in a position to make widespread positive changes for animals. What can a piano teacher stuck in a small town do to change the world?! I’d have no idea how to go about it or what to do. The Compassion Collective is the solution that lets me fund high-impact initiatives that are able to make big improvements for animals.

Q – You founded and run Rixen Creek Micro Farm Sanctuary. How did that get started, and what does a typical day look like?

A – In 2017, I saw a local sanctuary hit hard times and ultimately fail. Realizing that our community needed a sanctuary and nobody else was in a position to start one, I decided to try it on a small scale that I could manage and fund on my own. It’s micro, so no chore takes more than a few minutes. There is a simple morning feeding routine and evening routine. Generally throughout the day, when I have time, I putter around the enclosures doing small tasks, feeding some residents peanuts, sliced apples, or special supplements for those who need them. The farm also has some Airbnb cottages and tent pads, so there are often visitors wandering about to chat with who want to know about the animals. I might let the big animals or birds out for some supervised grazing. I’ll often stop to tell Versailles, a turkey, the story of how she was only three inches tall when she arrived. Fortunately, my story and hugs don’t embarrass or anger her too much.

Q – What part of Mercy For Animals’ work is closest to your heart?

A – I try to practice effective altruism. I want to help as many animals per dollar as I can, and I know Mercy For Animals is good at this. Any work making legal or corporate changes for animal welfare that impacts millions of animals is so important. I also think the undercover investigations are important because they show the world what’s really going on, and they can be used in multiple ways to create change.

Q – What is the most important thing activists can do?

A – Lead by example, and never give up. You are the hope for animals! Take opportunities and make opportunities to raise awareness about animal issues and help animals. I’ve never felt that creating debate and conflict with people has been helpful in getting them to change. If anything, it cements them in their ways. But when people see you eating vegan, being healthy, and doing things to help animals—and how happy this lifestyle makes you—they notice, and it can inspire them.