Alpacas are not an uncommon sight for a pair of eyes gazing across the Pacific Northwest countryside; Washington and Oregon have the second and third largest alpaca population in the country behind Ohio. Alpacas are a South American species that belong to the biological family of camelid, and are easily confused with llamas. In recent years, alpaca farming has experienced a significant boost due to the selling of fleece, but as evidenced by the numerous emaciated alpacas now under treatment in Oregon State University’s animal hospital, this rise led to certain farm owners not paying enough attention to their alpacas.
For the alpacas fortunate enough to be rescued from the fate of starvation suffered by many, students and volunteers at the Oregon State animal hospital have been saviors, slowly nursing them back to health until they are well enough to roam in the adjacent fields owned by the school. Just a week ago, Shari Bond and Jackie Glover, founders of the nonprofit Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue, began to locate new homes for some 175 alpacas on the verge of starvation as a result of animal neglect. This disheartening development is at least countered by the efforts at the OSU animal hospital, which serve as a reminder that people can do as much good for animals as bad, even if that bad was caused by human hands to begin with.
Potential alpaca farmers are being encouraged to take the incident as a lesson that raising alpacas has to be a deed taken on for the love of the animal, not for financial gain. And really, this is hopefully the way that all farmers see their animals, as creatures that need to be properly cared for before potential profit is taken into account. Sadly though, as evidenced by cases of animal mistreatment in a variety of forms, not all farmers value the lives of their animals for more than just their financial benefit. I’ve discussed the dangers of this mindset before, one that views humans as “above” and entitled, and therefore has the potential to do damage not just to animals, but to the world we share with them. Luckily there are people like those helping the alpacas today, an encouraging sign for both animal lovers and the efforts of northwest universities.