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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!


Ethics and Your Plate

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Sows in Gestation Crates. Image via Wikipedia

Companion animals aside, the majority of Americans interact with animals on a daily basis primarily through their dietary choices. And in breaking down the numbers, where 10 billion land animals are slaughtered each year for consumption, food ethics and farm animal welfare become a very important discussion to be had in our society – one that affects many more animals than say those found in the nation’s shelters, parks, etc.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is “driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.” Realizing the vastly important role animal agriculture plays in society, a Commission was formed on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) to “conduct a comprehensive, fact-based and balanced examination of key aspects of the farm animal industry. Commissioners represent diverse backgrounds and perspectives and come from the fields of veterinary medicine, agriculture, public health, business, government, rural advocacy and animal welfare.”

By now, most Americans should be aware and concerned by industrial agriculture, an industry that keeps animals concentrated in factory-like warehouses and confined to a point where movement is severely restricted, and the issues it brings to the table. Public health, the environment, animal welfare and rural communities are all effected by the move towards raising animals in these concentrated systems rather than the traditional, extensive, decentralized family farm system.

In their latest report, Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America, The Trust recommends the following solutions to the problems, which you can read more about in their accessible Executive Summary:

  1. Phase out and then ban the non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials.
  2. Improve disease monitoring and tracking.
  3. Improve Industrial Farm Animal Production regulation.
  4. Phase out intensive confinement.
  5. Increase competition in the livestock market.
  6. Improve research in animal agriculture.

Do you think these six objectives, if met, will fix our broken food system?

NMAS recognizes the power of our food choices and the votes we cast (for better companies, values, nutrition…) with our dollars each time we make a purchase. With this in mind, we’re proud to announce the details on our Fall Lecture Series’ Symposium, Ethics and Your Plate: A Conversation on Animals and Food, taking place on Saturday, November 12th at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum. We hope you can join us for this stimulating day that will explore contemporary issues surrounding animal agribusiness through presentations by speakers representing a variety of perspectives from vegan to the “ethical omnivore.”