Summer Travel: A Farm SanctuaryJUNE 7, 2008
- An idyllic setting for a sanctuary farm
- (Christina Russo)
- View the Slideshow
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.
- Music Bridge:
- VS 666
- Artist: John McBain
- CD: The In-Flight Feature (Duna)