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A HAVEN FOR FARM ANIMALS
Nancy A Hey | June 11, 2008 at 07:11 amby
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At Farm Sanctuary, a shelter for abused farm animals in Watkins Glen, New York, unique bonds form between humans and farm animals. This 175 acre farm, nestled in the rolling hills near the shore of Seneca Lake, was founded in 1986 by Gene and Lorri Bauston, a husband-and-wife team who wanted to do something to help animal victims of abuse in factory farms, the farms where they are raised for meat production. So the Baustons established the first farm animal shelter in the country with money they raised selling vegetarian food at Grateful Dead concerts.
Today, the Baustons gladly take people on hay-rides to tour their farm. They tell the history of each animal as they let people touch and talk to the animals.
The pigs love watermelon. On a warm summer day, they will rouse from their naps when someone enters their barn with a bowlful of fresh watermelon slices. They will open their eyes and start sniffing. They are so tame that they will eat pieces out of your hand. Then they let out happy grunts and lick people's hands. Sometimes a pig will even roll over on his or her back as a dog would do, and let someone rub his or her belly.
One pig named Jake was brought to Farm Sanctuary when he was abandoned by a pork producer because he was too small to be profitable. When he was rescued, he was suffering from severe malnourishment and dehydration, and couldn't eat on his own for over three weeks. But now, thanks to the excellent care he has received from the sanctuary workers, he is hale and hearty and can eat that watermelon just as fast as anyone else.
The turkeys who live at Farm Sanctuary also seem to like human company. When people enter their barn, they turn their heads, and then closed in around people. When people touch them, they relax their bodies and make purring sounds like cats.
Most people know turkeys only as Thanksgiving dinner. That's why every November, Farm Sanctuary invites people to send a small donation to help sponsor a live turkey. Then they send the person a photograph of their turkey "adoptee" along with a personality profile of that turkey and a brief history describing how the bird was rescued. Over the past three years, I have sponsored four different turkeys in this manner. I have sponsored turkeys who have often suffered physical mutilation in their former situations, like Fluffles, who has had her beak cut and her toes amputated. Debeaking is a common practice in the poultry industry. Poultry producers cram birds so tightly together for mass production that the birds react to the stress by pecking at each other. The industry tries to stop this by cutting the birds' beaks with a hot iron, as this is cheaper than giving them more floor space. Toe amputation is done to turkeys, because when they are overcrowded, they are inclined to crawl on top of each other and scratch each other with their claws.
Cleo, a chicken whom I sponsored, was born at a grade school in New Jersey as part of a fourth grade science project. She and her six siblings were slated to be sent to a local farm for meat production. But thanks to a Farm Sanctuary member who rescued them, they were able to spend the rest of their lives eating, sleeping and playing at the Watkins Glen sanctuary.
Lorri Bauston says that her lifelong love of animals led her to start this sanctuary for abused farm animals.
"I have been saving animals even since I was born," says Lorri Bauston. "I always had a kid's love for animals, which I never outgrew. At age sixteen, I became a vegetarian, thinking 'If I eat animals called dinner, how can I claim to love animals called pets?'" This sentiment is currently reflected on one of Farm Sanctuary's bumper stickers, which reads: "If you love animals called pets, why do you eat animals called dinner".
"At age 22, I became aware of factory farming," says Ms. Bauston. She met her husband, Gene in 1985 through work for Greenpeace, and they married in 1986 and then started Farm Sanctuary.
"I wanted to start a sanctuary for farm animals, because they are the single largest group of exploited animals," says Ms. Bauston who, with her husband, has gone into factory farms and stockyards to observe how animals are treated there.
Like his wife, Gene Bauston says that he had always had a deep concern for animals.
"When I was growing up, I had a cat who was my best friend," he says. "When he died, I was really broken up. Then I remember one time when I was in high school, my mother cooked a chicken dinner, and I was so repulsed that I temporarily gave up eating meat for a while."
As an adult, Gene Bauston became involved with many environmental groups, including Greenpeace, Ralph Nader's group Common Cause, and U.S. Pirg. That's when he became a vegetarian for good.
"I did it because of a convergence of concerns," he says, "consumer fraud, animal cruelty, environmental degradation. Through my work with the environmental movement, I saw that the issue of animal agriculture clearly needed attention."
With the money the Baustons raised from the Grateful Dead concerts, they started their first sanctuary in Pennsylvania, on a piece of land that a tofu farmer lent them. Later, they made a down payment on the 175 acre farm in Watkins Glen New York from money they raised from walk-a-thons.
"The walk-a-thons have been an invaluable resource for us," says Mr. Bauston. "They also helped us start our sanctuary in California."
"The key to the success of Farm Sanctuary has been a lot of hard work," he says. "We've always worked with volunteers, and we've worked long hours." He says Farm Sanctuary gets up to 50 volunteers per year.
He says he started investigating stockyards and factory farms because he wanted to see firsthand how animals were treated.
"The thing I saw which shocked me the most was seeing living animals on dead piles," he says. "I saw male chicks discarded and thrown in trash cans, and later their bodies were spread on fields with the manure pile."
The Baustons have investigated stockyards, public auctions where animals raised for meat are bought and sold. They got one stockyard in Lancaster convicted of cruelty to animals, because the stockyard had a lot of downed animals, that is, animals who are so injured or traumatized by their conditions on factory farms that they are unable to stand up when they are transported to the stockyards where they are held prior to slaughter. An article in a newsletter published by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reported that it is standard practice for stockyard workers to tie "downed" animals to the back of a pickup truck, and drag them to an area where they can be piled on top of each other, making it easier for the butcher to kill them, and also keeping them out of the sight of the public.
Mr. Bauston says he once asked a stockyard owner why the stockyard didn't just have a policy of refusing to accept downed animals.
"The man justified his policy by saying: 'If your wife were sick, and you could get $500 for killing her, would you do it at home, or bring her here?'," says Bauston.
Lorri Bauston says that most humane societies and SPCA's do not take in injured farm animals, because: "Many of they just do not have that much sympathy for farm animals".
It was at a stockyard that the Baustons found Hilda, a sheep who was a downer, whom they rescued and brought back to Farm Sanctuary. Hilda caused a lot of amusement at Farm Sanctuary when she went into heat and started following Gene Bauston around.
"I think she really thought he was her man," says Ms. Bauston. "I was jealous!"
Ms. Bauston speaks fondly of many notable animals who have lived at Farm Sanctuary. They include:
Lightbulb, a duck who was found by artist Sue Coe locked in a small pen in New York City where she was being raised to be eaten. Lightbulb was all skin and bones when Ms. Coe found her. She got her name because one small light bulb in the dark basement shown on her, which was the only reason she was discovered.
Lily, a hen raised for egg production who was found in a corner on a pile of dead birds. "Lily could not even stand for the first few weeks that we had her," says Ms. Bauston. "We had to tube feed her. Then one day, when she recovered, she jumped right into my lap. That really told me that she loved me. It was as clear as a dog's wagging tail."
Jackson, a "downed" cow rescued from Empire Stockyards. Jackson had Yannah's disease, a disease which runs rampant in dairy cows as a result of genetic manipulation, and usually shows up at 6 to 7 years of age. Jackson had to have intravenous feeding for a while because of this disease. A Local delicatessen in the town of Watkins Glen now carries a grilled tofu sandwich called "Jackson's Revenge" in honor of this cow.
Lorri Bauston also gives advice for those interested in adopting animals from the sanctuary.
"Pigs have been genetically altered so much that they have trouble keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer," she says. "Therefore, it's essential to have adequate housing for them. But they are very gentle animals. No one has ever been bitten by a pig at Farm Sanctuary.
"Ducks need lots of water for proper digestion. They really should have access to a pond. You should also feed them lots of grain and fresh greens.
"Sheep are very gregarious animals, so our policy is that people who adopt a sheep from us should adopt at least two. Sheep have been genetically altered to be heavy wool-producers, therefore they need annual sheering. Just be sure they are sheered by someone who knows how to do it right. Improper sheering can cut sheep's skin and really hurt them. They also need periodic hoof-trimming, and they should be kept in a fenced-in area, because they have no natural defenses from predators.
"Chickens and turkeys, because of genetic engineering, also have no natural defenses against predators. For example, turkeys can not fly at all.
Farm Sanctuary also has an internship program, in which people can work for a month or two in the summer and learn about farm animals. That was one of the ways Karen Davis, a former English teacher who lives in Potomac, Maryland, became introduced to the charm of farm animals when she worked as an intern for Farm Sanctuary for five weeks in the summer of 1988. With her group, United Poultry Concerns, she now works to end the exploitation of domesticated fowl. She has her own chicken sanctuary at her home in Potomac.
"Chickens have a close knit social life and communication system," she says. At her place, for example, there are certain "head roosters", who keep the other roosters in line and protect the hens. But roosters can act altruistically at times too. They find food and make noises to call their fellows.
"It's charming to see how roosters will stand back and let the hens and chicks eat first," Ms. Davis says.
She enjoys watching chickens dust-bathe, which is how they clean their feathers and redistribute their body oils.
"It brings out their earthiness," she says, "and it is a big social event for them."
Her experiences with turkeys have been equally endearing, if sadder in some ways. She has had four different turkeys brought back from Farm Sanctuary: Myla, Priscilla, Wanda and Willow. They have been present at Thanksgiving dinners she has had at her house, as guests of honor rather than as the dinner.
"The myth that turkeys are stupid is a falsehood," she says, noting that turkeys are sociable creatures who get along well with people and with chickens. Myla, for instance, once formed a friendship with Muffy, a chicken, and the two would preen each other.
"Myla was also very sensitive to Priscilla, who was a very brooding turkey," Ms. Davis says. "She (Myla) would nudge her away when she thought Priscilla might get into a fight."
Unfortunately, all of Karen Davis' turkeys have since died of diseases caused by their prior situations on the factory farms. Myla died of septicemia, a blood infection which she probably caught through the debeaking. The others died of respiratory problems, which are common in turkeys because of their unnatural weight gain. Their lungs can't grow in proportion to their weight, so they have trouble getting enough oxygen. They also suffer from breathing ammonia fumes from all of the excrement in their overcrowded sheds on the factory farms.
But Ms. Davis still has many of the chickens who have been rescued. These include Lily Flowers, Vicky Flowers, and Annabelle, all of whom were found after they had fallen off poultry trucks.
Ms. Davis' friends Lynn Halpern and Dave Welch have also adopted animals from Farm Sanctuary. They both do contract work for NASA. Ms. Halpern is a computer programmer, and Mr. Welch is an engineer. They have turkeys, chickens, goats, sheep and rabbits at their estate in Frederick, Maryland. They made their first visit to Farm Sanctuary on Labor Day of 1993.
Mr. Welch and his wife have three hen turkeys, Abigail, Hester, and Benjamina. Abigail is especially friendly. She comes running toward people when they enter the yard, and fluffs her wings.
Abigail, Hester and Benjamina were in a group of 126 turkeys rescued by Farm Sanctuary after they had fallen off of a truck onto the highway. Farm Sanctuary advertized the turkeys for adoption to anyone who would promise not to eat them. That's when Mr. Welch and his wife adopted the three. Each of these turkeys had three toes removed by the poultry producers.
Mr. Welch remembers how well the turkeys fit into their new setting.
"There was much social interaction with the chickens," he says. "When the turkeys arrived, the chickens stayed more in the yard than they had before. The turkeys are very responsive."
He recounts one time when the turkeys wandered into his neighbor's yard.
"He (the neighbor) commented on how 'they are much like dogs'," Mr. Welch says, noting how turkeys like to follow people around.
"I hope he remembers that come Thanksgiving!" says Ms. Halpern of that neighbor.
The couple also has two sheep -- a ram (male), Willoughby, and a ewe (female), Emma, two nanny (female) goats, Maggie and Rebecca, and a billy (male) goat, Freddy. All came from Farm Sanctuary. Maggie is very outgoing. She likes to rub her head and horns against people.
"They like attention," Ms. Halpern says of the goats. "They like petting and combing."
Mr. Welch tells of Rebecca's adjustment to life on their farm.
"Rebecca was kind of an outcast at Farm Sanctuary, but since she came here, she and Freddy have become good friends. Freddy will defend Rebecca from Willoughby when Willoughby gets rough with her."
The sheep, although more reserved than the goats, still seek out affection from people, and are certainly not stupid, as many people think sheep are.
"The male sheep wants attention all the time," Ms. Halpern says, something which I noticed when I visited Willoughby in the pen where the sheep and goats live together. Willoughby was found at a 4-H show, and was raised by a Farm Sanctuary member.
When Emma was rescued by Farm Sanctuary, she was a "downer", like the cows in the aforementioned PETA article.
"She was very reserved when she came here," Mr. Welch says. But now, one can see how well she interacts with Willoughby and the goats, and how she enjoys being around people.
There's no doubt that all these animals have brought great joy to the lives of their human companions.
"It is rewarding just having the animals around every day," Mr. Welch says.
Lorri Bauston says she believes the most important thing people can do to help farm animals is "to go vegan". A vegan is a vegetarian who abstains from all meat and dairy products.
"Dairy cows and laying hens are abused more than any other farm animals," she says, "because of the duration of their lives, and the conditions endured during their lives. Egg layers live for up to three years in cages where they can't even stretch their wings. They lose feathers and get sores from the wire cages. And people should know that the veal industry exists because of the dairy industry," she says, stating that the milk industry, in order to keep cows producing milk, has to make the cows pregnant often. Usually, the female offspring of these cows are raised to take the place of aging dairy cows, but their male offspring are used for veal production, where they are chained in tiny crates, and deliberately fed a low iron liquid diet, to make them produce the pale, tender flesh prized by gourmet restaurants. This diet causes anemia and chronic diarrhea in the animals.
The Baustons have always wanted people to come to visit their farm and learn about animals, so in 1992, they had their first "Hoe Down", a two day event where people can tour the farm and meet the animals, listen to people speak about how to care for animals, and have a lot of fun learning country dances. The Hoe Down has since become an annual event, usually being held on the first weekend in August.
At their most recent Hoe Down on August 3rd and 4th, 1996, people got to meet artist Sue Coe, who has two books, "Porkopolis" and "Dead Meat" in which she depicts animals on factory farms. People also learned from Farm Sanctuary's lobbyist, Jo Schusmith Stevens how to influence their legislators to support animal protective legislation, and they learned from educator Zoe Weil how to work with children in the school system to teach them how to show kindness toward animals. Heidi Prescott, National director of the Fund for Animals, taught people how to protect wildlife. Later in the day she lead the participants in dancing the popular "Maccarena", and also taught people a country dance called the "Boot Scootin' Boogie".
"The Hoe Down is a good opportunity to get people together in a vegan environment to learn how to be activists, and to enjoy each other's company," says Lorri Bauston. "People get to look into the eyes of a pig, and they get to ask staff members about the individual animals. That really sensitizes people to how most farm animals are abused."
Children especially enjoy walking around at farm sanctuary and petting the animals.
"It really confirms their inherent love of animals," says Ms. Bauston. "Unfortunately, the schools really try to desensitize children to animals."
If you would like information about Farm Sanctuary, you may contact them at P.O. Box 150, Watkins Glen, NY, 14891, or at P.O. Box 1065, Orlando, CA 95963.
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