Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Visiting Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY

On Thursday, August 18th, 2011, we visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY.  Ever since reading about Farm Sanctuary online, I've wanted to visit.  Little did I know that this experience would be a contributing factor to my decision to adopt a Vegan diet.

We entered the large barn marked "People Barn" and waited for our tour in a very informative space.  There were lots of boards with details about some of the animals that they have rescued, health information regarding a vegan or vegetarian diet, displays showing how the mistreated animals are generally kept at factory farms, plus information on how to get involved to help.  There was also a nice store (that we stopped in after the tour and purchased many items!) and a friendly cat walking around that I befriended.

Farm Sanctuary is such an amazing organization that rescues abused and neglected animals, mostly those from factory farms that are on the verge of death.  It is so incredible that this sanctuary exists with hundreds of rescued animals on hundreds of acres of farm land.

We watched a short movie about the history and reasons why Farm Sanctuary exists.  We were told about Hilda, the first farm animal rescued that started Farm Sanctuary.  Hilda was a sheep who was left for dead in a pile of dead animal carcasses at a factory farm.  Everyone thought that Hilda had died, but she lifted her head and looked right at Gene Baur, the co-founder of Farm Sanctuary.  After rescuing Hilda, it was discovered that she had only collapsed due to the brutal transporting conditions and did not have any injuries or illnesses.  Hilda made a full recovery and lived out a happy and peaceful life at Farm Sanctuary.  She passed away from old age in 1997 and is buried in a beautiful garden with a wonderful memorial plaque so we can all pay tribute to this brave creature.

We started our tour around the farm to visit most of the animals that live at Farm Sanctuary.  Our tour guide was great at introducing us to the animals, explaining & answering all of our questions, and she was very cheerful all around!  We first visited the cows who had a huge pasture to walk around in, munch on grass, or just lay in the shade.  All of the animals on the farm have a great quality of life with many choices on where to go based on how they were feeling, if they wanted to socialize with the guests to the farm or be left alone.  They are very well taken care of in terms of food, socialization with other animals and people, and medicine.  The cows that we met were very sweet and friendly, and let you walk right up to them and pet them.  I am not used to interacting with farm animals so I found it amazing to be able to have interactions with such gentle creatures as the cows.

Next, we visited many happy goats in their section of the farm.  The goats even had a wooden playground that they could climb on (and many goats were sitting up there!).  They were very friendly and loved to be petted.  As we stayed there longer and longer, more goats decided to come out to greet us.  One of the goats had lost part of her ears due to frostbite and was missing part of her leg.  She had a prosthetic leg that she could walk around on, but she preferred to walk around the farm without it.  It is nice that the animals have nothing forced upon them and are given the choice to move about freely as they choose.


Next, we visited the turkeys and the chickens in one of the chicken coops.  What interesting creatures!  I had never interacted much with turkeys or chickens in the past but it was incredible to watch them kick up the hay and move around their home.  It was so sad to see that their beaks and toes were trimmed back from their days at the factory farm.  At least there is some comfort in knowing that they will live out the rest of their lives happily at the farm.

One of these gorgeous turkeys had it made in the shade on this warm summer day!  He was sitting underneath a big blue umbrella with plenty of water to drink on the comfortable grass.  There were some larger chickens in this area as well.  In November, Farm Sanctuary holds an event called "Celebration FOR the Turkeys" which sounds amazing!  From the website:

At Farm Sanctuary’s annual Celebration FOR the Turkeys at our New York and California Shelters, guests are invited to visit with cows, pigs, chickens, and other rescued residents and participate in our beloved Feeding of the Turkeys ceremony, where turkeys are offered a feast of pumpkin pie, stuffed squash and cranberries. Guests on both coasts will also indulge in a delectable vegan holiday meal of their own and be inspired by presentations from special guests.
I wish I could attend! 

We also walked past some ducks and geese.  We weren't able to interact directly with geese as they can sometimes not be kind to visiting humans, but we could see that they were very well loved.  There was a big pond that they could swim in, a grassy patch to enjoy and a barn to live in.  These geese were certainly enjoying the warm summer day in the pond or the shade.

Then, we visited the pig barns!  What relaxed, gentle creatures!  These pigs were laying on piles of hay, mostly sleeping or laying with their eyes closed.  We were able to pet one of the pigs and its skin felt so rough to the touch.  It was comforting to see that these pigs were indeed very content on the farm!

A very inspiring quote written on a board along a path at the farm.
After the hour long tour, we were given free vegan ice cream bars and I purchased many items from the gift shop!  I bought a t-shirt, a necklace (that says "veg for life"), the Farm Sanctuary book, some postcards, a patch, and a magnet for our fridge.  We also donated some money to this amazing and wonderful safe haven for animals!

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