Cows, pigs, goats…oh, my! Those are just a few of the animals we were able to visit while at the Farm Sanctuary. During our road trip to Maine, we were able to stop at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glens, NY on the way home to learn about the sanctuary and the many residents.
We took the first tour of the day. I was happy to see a large number of people on the tour with us, even several families. We started our tour in the main building, which includes educational information, a kid’s information corner, and the gift shop.
We began by watching a short video about how and why the sanctuary started. Gene Baur and, his then wife, Lorri Houston started the sanctuary when they rescued Hilda, a sheep, from the “dead pile” at a stockyard. To raise money for the sanctuary, they sold veggie hot dogs out of their van at a Grateful Dead concerts in 1986. Throughout the past 30 years, they have rescued, rehabilitated, and allowed thousands of animals to live out their lives in peace. Farm Sanctuary also has two sanctuaries in California and just recently, Jon Stewart started one in New Jersey that is afflicted with Farm Sanctuary.
The educational video that we watched to begin our tour also discussed some of the horrors that animals face in the factory farming system.
Ben, our tour guide, also gave us a lot of in-depth information about factory farming and the conditions in which animals are raised and then slaughtered for food. For example, did you know that a lot of the beef that is sold in grocery stores is from a dairy cow that can no longer be impregnated and give milk? The dairy cows are in a continuous cycle of being artificially impregnated to produce milk. Also, calves are taken from their mother usually within the first few hours of their life. The female calves are turned into dairy cows, and the males are generally raised and then slaughtered early for veal. It sounds like such a horrible life, even more so after meeting the cows at the sanctuary. The majority of the cows at the sanctuary were used in the dairy industry. Each one of them has a different personality, a different way of expressing affection towards, not only us but also the other cows in the barn. Two of the cows I interacted with seemed to be best buds. They were very protective of each other.
After meeting the cows, we went to visit the goats. Meeting the goats was one of my favorite parts of the tour. All of the goats wanted extra attention! They made sure we knew which parts of their backs and butts they wanted to have scratched. They also gave us loving head-butts. It reminded me of when George, one of my cats, head-butts me as a way of showing his affection. I read that cats do this as a way to say they love you. I imagined the goats were giving us a similar message. As we were leaving the barn, all of the goats stood up and escorted us out and acted like they wanted to come along on our adventure. One goat pressed himself against me as we walked and he let me scratch his head the entire way.
Next, we met some of the resident turkeys and chickens. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I met my first turkey. I grew up in a larger city and never had the opportunity to see a wild turkey, let alone interact with one. The turkeys at Farm Sanctuary are particularly funny. Ben showed us what type of grass they like to eat and how they like the root ends removed. Apparently, I wasn’t doing a good job at removing the roots because several turkeys spit out the grass I picked. When I figured it out, three turkeys surrounded me and wouldn’t let me leave! Honestly, it was one of the best and most memorable parts of the tour for me.
For the last part of the tour, we visited the pigs in their barn. I love pigs! I love their sweet demeanor and their adorable faces. Most of the pigs were sleeping, but I was able to rub a few and help lull them back to sleep. One of the pigs had several disability issues due to the conditions in which she was raised. She was blind, had severe arthritis and was unable to stand on her two front feet. That didn’t stop her. She used her knees to walk around and was able to move about the barn. It was incredible to see her spirit. She suffered a great deal in her life, yet she didn’t let that stop her.
The tour ended, and we were allowed to stroll around the grounds. We went to visit Hilda’s final resting place and paid our respects to her and the inspiration she gave to the founders. It was wonderful getting to know the resident cows, goats, turkeys, and pigs. The stories of their survival are heartbreaking, but ones that need to be told and heard. They are a few of the lucky ones who were able to be rescued and live their lives in the comfort of the sanctuary and their caregivers.
Before we headed out for the day, we decided to have lunch at the sanctuary. We pulled into a side parking lot that was close to the pastures and prepared our meal. Since we had been traveling, we had all of the makings of a Tofurky sandwich and hummus with carrot sticks. When I first turned vegetarian, I didn’t like the taste of many Tofurky products. As time passed and my taste buds changed, I fell in love with all of their products. It is funny to think I only live 40 miles from their headquarters now! I made the sandwich on vegan rye bread with Field Roast Chao cheese and vegan mayo. Rye bread was my grandmother’s favorite, so it brought back many warm memories of her. It was one of the most satisfying meals of the trip. Having just met the turkeys and thinking of my grandmother, I knew my sandwich was filled with love and compassion…which made it taste even better!
I highly recommend visiting a farmed animal sanctuary in your area. You can do a quick Google search to find the closest one to you, or look on the Farm Animal Sanctuary Directory provided by Vegan.com. It can be one of the most eye-opening, inspirational, and fun experience you will have.