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Farm Sanctuary: 25 Years of Making Waves

Farm Sanctuary

Farm Sanctuary's Watkins Glen location. Image via Wikipedia

Before starting the National Museum of Animals & Society, I had the great pleasure of working for a wonderful , precedent-setting organization: Farm Sanctuary. As the nation’s leading farm animal protection nonprofit, they work to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.

While we’ve become a very dog- and cat-centric society, farm animals have been at the forefront of historical efforts for animal protection. Richard “Humanity Dick” Martin, the 18th century parliamentarian from Ireland, passed the first modern law in defense of animal welfare, specifically for oxen, sheep and other pastoral critters. Since then the ASPCA, MSPCA, and other domestic groups gained their footing by targeting the treatment of horses in the city and the incredibly long and tortuous transports farmed animals faced around the turn of the century.

Since its founding in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has dramatically influenced and changed many landscapes in our society. One of the most incredible, in my humble opinion, is that of farm animal geriatrics. Because the majority of farm animals are killed while they are still quite young, Farm Sanctuary – in providing a safe, forever home to their rescued animals – have become the experts in farm animal geriatrics, especially for factory-farmed animals. Their caregivers face and treat on a daily basis the consequences of selective breeding, overuse of antibiotics, and a callous industry that neglects the basic needs and welfare of these animals.

On the political scene, Farm Sanctuary has launched, passed and paved the way for landmark legislation to ensure basic protections for farm animals. In fact, this was how I first got involved with the organization. As a teen in Florida, I gathered more than 8,000 signatures to ban gestation crates, a confinement system for pregnant sows that restricts their movement for the good part of 4 years. (Due to their frequent insemination, sows are in these crates unless they are giving birth, and will be kept in production until their productivity drops off, which is around 4 years.) Pigs in Florida are now protected in the constitution – imagine that! A federal ban is on the horizon for these intensive confinement systems as well as those used for egg-laying hens (battery cages) and calves (veal crates).

But what I think Farm Sanctuary does best is highlighting the emotional world of farm animals. Like us and our companion animals, cows, pigs, chickens, ducks and the rest of the barnyard residents maintain friendships and love interests. They enjoy frolicking, caring for their little ones, and investigating new enrichment in their pastures (mud bath, anyone?). You too can see the sentience and intelligence of farm animals firsthand by visiting a farm animal sanctuary. Thanks to Farm Sanctuary, many similar sanctuaries have popped up in their wake across the country and abroad too.

Farm Sanctuary is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and I was only too glad to be a part of the festivities by organizing the Los Angeles Walk for Farm Animals fundraiser. Taking steps towards compassion for all beings is something we should all embrace. Lace up!

Reflections on AR2011

Wiley, a rescued wolf-dog hybrid met at AR2011.

Wiley, a rescued wolf-dog hybrid met at AR2011.

The Animal Rights National Conference 2011 has now come to an end, and hopefully all participants and attendees agree that it was an enlightening and inspiring event. Personally it was my very first animal protection conference, and I so enjoyed getting to spread the Museum’s message and learn about so many other amazing organizations campaigning to protect non-human creatures.

I learned about the efforts of Shark Shavers, who are working tirelessly to pass AB 376, which would ban the possession of shark fins in the state of California.

I met Christine Dorchak, President of GREY2K USA, an organization devoted to ending the cruel practice of greyhound racing in the United States.

I heard about the mission of the Galapagos Preservation Society, a team dedicated not only to protecting the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, but also to finding humane solutions to quelling the stray dog and cat populations which threaten the Islands’ delicate ecosystem.

I even met Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder of Farm Sanctuary, the world-renowned group which rescues cows, poultry, pigs, sheep, and other farm animals and allows them to live out their natural lives on their beautiful 175-acre sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY.

Overall AR2011 was a thrilling, surprising, and invigorating journey into the world of the modern animal protection movement. I hope everyone who stopped by the Museum’s table was similarly excited to learn about what we are doing to preserve the history of this movement, and to highlight the many facets of the human-animal bond. It was a distinct pleasure to meet each and every one of you who stopped by and chatted with us!

Did you attend AR2011? What were your favorite exhibitors, speakers or panels? Give a plug to your group!