LOS INDIOS — Anyone driving south on U.S. 77 toward San Benito can see a billboard with the photo of a pig and a chicken, as well as some cartoon farm animals.
The billboard has the name “RGV Farm Sanctuary” on it and a message in bold, black letters, “Be Respectful and Go Vegan.”
Oscar Hernandez, a Cameron County physician who resides in Rancho Viejo, is the owner of the sanctuary and the mastermind behind the billboard.
“The billboard has been up for about two or three months now, and I acquired the land [for the farm] last year in 2018,” Hernandez said.
The reason for creating the farm sanctuary came from years of studying the abuse animals endure in farms and wanting to provide a safe space for them, Hernandez explained.
“Many years ago, I kind of got into animal ethics and the farm factory problem that we have and we don’t see because they hide the truth of how animals are killed,” Hernandez said. “And people have seen the videos and say ‘Oh I don’t want to watch that,’ but we are supporting that industry every time we buy meat. And it’s an industry that is very cruel.”
The RGV Farm Sanctuary is located on 814 Don Felipe Trevino Dr. in San Benito.
It is not open to the public yet, but anyone interested can call Hernandez at (956) 459-6828 to schedule a visit.
“This project is supposed to have different phases. Phase one is having animals roam free. They are not tied down, and we don’t ride the horses or sell the eggs. The next phase would be to build an area where people can stay over the weekend and vegan food trucks can stop by,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez is an animal rights activist and has been a vegan himself for years. He is not only an animal lover but someone who has built a bond with the different animals that live at the farm sanctuary.
He has even named them. Holding a female sheep that carries a bell on its neck, Hernandez explained she was the first animal on the farm.
“I hate to say it, but you always have a favorite one. She is the one that got here first. Her name is Gemma,” he said. While pointing at the goats and sheep that roamed around freely, Hernandez said, “We have a goat named Mr. Chivo, another one named Johnny, a brown one named Cinnamon, and two have been born here, one of them is named Coffee.”
Besides having goats and sheep, Hernandez built a chicken coop where he keeps hens and roosters, as well as two rabbits and two ducks.
Other animals he cares for are four hogs, cows, horses and a donkey.
According to Hernandez, a few of the animals were donated by farm owners going bankrupt.
Others were rescued, like one hog that was about to drown from the floods this summer.
“What happens a lot here in the Valley is that people will raise these animals in their ranches, and they will relatively live a normal life but will get sold after. But these ranches eventually go out of business because they can’t compete with big farm factories,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has found farms and ranches that are getting animals ready to get slaughtered. He then tries to save them and takes them to his farm sanctuary, which is how he got his first animal, Gemma.
He has even built a cemetery for those that pass away, and he allows visitors to bring their deceased pets for burial.
“The day this will stop is when people stop eating meat. I first became a vegetarian and then a vegan, and a lot of people do it for health and others because they don’t like the taste of meat. But for me it is animal ethics,” he said.
Hernandez explained animals mean no harm, and he hopes to get his message across by having people visit the farm sanctuary.
“The point of the farm is not to make profit off of it. If people want to come and see them [the animals] they can,” he said.