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Summer Travel: A Farm Sanctuary

Christina Russo

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An idyllic setting for a sanctuary farm
(Christina Russo)
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The price of gas is soaring, so this summer we're doing the traveling for you -- and you can listen to your radio for free, or for a reasonable donation to your public radio station. Today, another installment in our Summer Travel series.

For some people, baling hay or feeding chickens is work. But for others, it's a vacation. It's fun. If you're one of those folks, there's a farm in Woodstock, N.Y., you would love. But this isn't your typical farm -- don't expect fresh bacon in the morning. Reporter Christina Russo takes us there:

On a sunny afternoon in a grassy corner of a farm in the Catskill Mountains, a two-month-old baby goat named Clover is tottering over toward farmer Jenny Brown.

"What ya doin', my girl?" she coos. "Whatcha doin' little one? How you doin' sweet pea? She is such a dumpling..."

Brown took a roundabout route to the farm. She grew up in the city of Louisville, Ky. But during a debate class in college, she got exposed to radical animal-rights philosophies. She became convinced that animals are individuals who deserve as good a life as any of us. After college, Brown worked in film and television, and in 2002 she went undercover to document conditions at Texas stockyards.

That disturbing footage of "down" animals and cattle left in appalling conditions was used by an animal welfare group to lobby Congress for more stringent laws governing the care of livestock. For Brown, the images she saw had a profound affect -- she decided she didn't want to observe animal abuse from behind the lens any more. Instead, she wanted to help them.

"Seeing how these animals lived broke my heart and made me realize I could continue undercover video," she says. "But it's not very sustainable -- it's emotionally exhausting.

"I wanted to be part of he healing. I wanted to do something for these animals and start being a voice for them, and help as many as I possibly could."

What she did was create the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in New York. It sits on a 24-acre patch of land with red barns, chicken coops and a spread of hay -- plus a lot of lounging, mooing and clucking. There are at least 100 rescued animals -- goats, pigs, turkeys, ducks, chickens, cows and sheep.

Brown gives each animal a name, like Albie, a medium-sized white goat. He was found roaming around Brooklyn after apparently escaping off a slaughterhouse truck. His leg was infected, and eventually it had to be amputated. Brown could relate: She lost her leg to a malignant bone tumor when she was 10-years-old.

"I felt victimized and I felt unlucky, and I wondered why it happened to me," she says. "You know, I have a special bond with (Albie). It's like he and I against the world, and nothing's gonna stop us. I want him to be able to live as normal of a life as he possible can."

Brown has a prosthetic leg and is now working with her own doctor to get Albie one. It's being donated, but would normally cost roughly $7,000. It's arguably a lot to spend on one farm animal, especially considering billions of them are slaughtered every year worldwide. But Brown wants to set an example. And she hopes visitors to the farm will rethink what's on their dinner plate.

"This is where bacon comes from," she says, pointing to her farm's denizens. "This piggy that's nuzzling you and that you can give a belly rub to, or this sweet chicken that you can hold in your arms, she's killed for your Chicken McNuggets that you buy from McDonalds.

"It's a unique opportunity to not get on a soapbox and preach to (visitors), but to allow them to see how sentient these animals are and how capable they are of the gamut of emotions just like your dogs and cats," she says.

And the animals at the sanctuary have the freedom to just be animals. Chickens take dust baths, goats butt heads, cows graze all day, the turkeys just waddle around. And the pigs? They not only languish in great big mud ponds, but get an occasional old-fashioned belly rub.


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Stephen Groskritz

    From Coventry, CT, 09/05/2012

    I feel like a weenie commenting on this some four years after this was written but I just came across this article while browsing through the WOODSTOCK FARM ANIMAL SANCTUARY website. I never realized Jenny's story, the courage and compassion she displays is quite remarkable! I think it's great that some people cared enough about Albie to get him a prosthetic limb, it also seems to me that Mr. Borunda could use a heart.

    By Geraldine Clarke

    From Sacramento, CA, 06/11/2008

    The sad thing is that most animals had that kind of life on family farms before the triumph of corporate agriculture (without the $7000 leg, of course.) That's one of the benefits of the Locavore Movement. A lot of us can now buy our meat from farms where animals have a good life and then are humanely dispatched.

    One thing that vegans never seem to mention is that these animals raised for their meat, milk and eggs would never have been bred, would never have had any life at all if they were not destined for our dinner plates. Since we all have die some time, would you choose a short happy life to never having lived at all? I know I would.

    By Petrina Katsikas

    From Newton, MA, 06/10/2008

    By helping animals, Jenny is helping all creature-kind.

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man"
    -- Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

    Jenny was instrumental in my becoming a vegan 4 years ago and I am loving it! Thank you Jenny and everyone at the farm!!

    By Emma Smith


    Thank you so much for writing about Farm Sanctuary! It is such an amazing organization and more people need to learn about it and what the animals there have faced.

    Thanks again!

    By Kirsti Gholson

    From NY, 06/09/2008

    To respond to the comment that giving Albie a $7000 leg was wasteful and decadent: the leg wasn't bought, it was donated by a prosthetist. Even if it hadn't been donated, showing kindness to those who are at our mercy is never wasteful. Albie, that "common farm animal", is a sentient, emotional being just like the family dog. It's inspiring to see people think outside the box of what it means to be altruistic. Why should humans be the only beings deserving of help on this planet? True compassion is not restricted.

    By Chris Kerr

    From Woodstock, NY, 06/09/2008

    Wonderful segment! In fact, it only skims the surface. Most people have never even touched a live chicken, cow or lamb, yet are willing to dine on them daily. It is unfortunate that in Mr. Borunda's comment he failed to see the importance of strengthening the human-animal bond. By continuing to see a "common farm animal" as different from a dog, cat or other sentient being shows that humans remain selective in their compassion - even though compassion is not a finite commodity. This donated prosthetic leg has warmed many a heart and I suspect the repercussions abound.

    By Alfredo Borunda

    From Chula Vista, CA, 06/08/2008

    I was saddened by this report. Only in a wealthy society like ours would you see the decadence of somebody spending $7000 to get a prosthetic for a goat.

    When you take into account that there are 1.7 million people in the USA suffering with limb amputation (including Ms Brown), it is sad that all those resources go to a common farm animal.

    Rather than glorify this wasteful act, I would have hoped that public radio would publicize the plight of those people that cannot afford prosthetics due to lack of health care.

    By Alison Cole

    From Vancouver, BC, 06/08/2008

    Great article! I have had the opportunity to see Jenny Brown speak and learn more about what she does at Woodstock. What a great place for the animals. Thanks for covering this story.

    By Willow Brown

    From Richmond, 06/08/2008

    I am greatful for Farm Sanctuary! Thank you for taking the time to write about this fab place and I hope more people visit to learn about the emotional lives of farm animals!

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