The Farm Sanctuary
Growing up, all I wanted was a cow. Family members would so often hear of my desire to have a cow in my backyard, moseying around. I wanted to live on a farm. To always have animals around me. Not to use them for a profit, but to pet, wile away the hours, and lull in the grass. All the while, dreaming up this utopia, I ate hamburgers, chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and that holy of holy, the Thanksgiving turkey. I never saw the meal on my plate as my beloved imaginary cow that was strolling the back yard at 106 Angelo street. If there is one ultimate truth about the way people eat today, it is that we are cut off from our food. It just arrives nicely cut up, de-boned, de-fured, de-feathered, bled and sometimes already stuffed with onions, carrots and celery. We are detached from the whole process. This is not the hunting and gathering days where you killed, skinned, disassembled and cooked the thing, while your children watched, learning the skills of survival. We blindly accept that our food has come from “somewhere” and we eat it. I sure did. Jon and I were watching the morning news during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and a news anchor was feeding wild wolves. She was throwing what was obviously cow or pig parts (whole legs, etc) to wolves that wander a nature preserve in Canada. Her comment went something like this. “Oh my, this is disgusting, its a cow.” Well, sweetheart, so is the rib-eye you will probably eat that night, only you still can’t tell that your small petite fillet of beef was once attached to some other muscle, bone, nerves, brain, being.
A year and a half ago, I read Eating Animals and have been a vegetarian since. This book opened up my eyes to factory farming and what happens there so that your pork chops can arrive glistening pink to your grocery store. Jonathan Safran Foer cites many studies and books, writes many companies and complies a great book. I would like to share a bit here. These comments (as cited by Foer) come from Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz. Eisnitz interviewed dozens of slaughterhouse workers and every single one admitted to abusing animals. She continued to visit slaughtershouses, because she desperatly wanted these cases to be the exception, but sadly she found out they are more the rule. These may be hard to read, but you eat it, so you might want to at least know what has happened to it.
“Sometimes I grab it [a hog] by the ear and stick it right through the eye. I’m not just taking its eye out, I’ll go all the way to the hilt, right up through the brain, and wiggle the knife.”
“I’ve seen guys take broomsticks and stick it up the cow’s behind, screwing them with a broom.”
“I’ve drug cows till their bones start breaking, while they were still alive. Bringing them around the corner and they get stuck up in the doorway, just pull them till their hide be ripped, till the blood just drip on the steel and concrete. Breaking their legs… And the cow be crying with its tongue stuck out. They pull him till his neck just pop.”
Foer also recalls a story from a worker who cut the front of a pigs snout off, like a piece of bologna (the workers words not Foer’s), then rubbed salt on the snout. While the pig was writhing in agony rubbing its nose on the ground, the worker put salt on a poker, and shoved in in the pigs rectum. All while thinking it was pretty hysterical.
Ten billion animals are slaughtered each year for human consumption in the US, and again, these stories are not rare, or exceptions—this is a typical day at a slaughterhouse, after the animal survived a miserable existence on the factory farm lot. Standing in its own waste, sores on it’s ankles, eating an unnatural diet and pumped full of antibiotics because they are in such unsanitary conditions. These antibiotics then end up in the meat people eat. I could not, after reading Foer’s book, continue to eat meat. Hopefully some of these stories may prompt some readers to just pick up Eating Animals and see what it is all about. What, if anything, are people doing to help these animals, beyond becoming vegetarians, vegans, or writing books?
The Farm Sanctuary (in Watkins Glen, NY and Orland, CA) was created to save, rescue, and rehabilitated animals from factory farmed situations. It’s most important job however, is to educate people on what the animals went through prior to arrival. The animals are “ambassadors” for their species. Gentle and loving, they have learned to trust humans after being treated like garbage by humans. You are free when you visit to cozy on up with the animals as you learn their stories. When I learned that the farm was mere miles from where I grew up, I knew that I needed to go. Jon and I headed out on a rainy day to meet these ambassadors, and learn their stories. We met rescued veal calves, pigs saved from the Iowa flooding, bunnies rescued from a “would-be” dinner after they were test subjects at a university, Apollo an awesome turkey who had been de-clawed, de-snooded, de-beaked (a truly painful process that happens to birds that live in close quarters where a searing hot blade cuts their beak off while they are fully awake with no anesthesia) and many other beautiful, sentient beings.
Ah, and there lies the problem. Sentient beings. These animals feel pain and pleasure. They worry for their young, they plan escapes and rescues when they feel threatened. Cows are known to panic and cry out when at the slaughterhouse.
They have also escaped slaughter and led people on chases for miles. Momma pigs have been known to unlatched gates to be with piglets squealing in terror. These animals feel, they love, they mourn. They are what is also on the dinner plate. If you take anything away from this post, please educate yourself on where your food comes. You are a consumer and are entitled to know this information, except it is mostly hidden from you. Factory farming and giant slaughter facilities are miserable for the animals. It is more than likely that your food has been kicked, spit on, urinated on, electrocuted alive, stabbed alive, snout cut off alive, broom/electric poker shoved in rectum/vagina, scalded alive, and killed for meat even if it was a “downer” (all though at the current time, Obama has banned the use of downers in meat for human consumption). And yes there are regulatory bodies (USDA, FDA) but you would be very disgusted at the lax laws about what is acceptable for consumption, and you must remember, at a typical chicken processing facility, there is one inspector there watching millions of birds go by in a typical day (sometimes a bird a second).
This trip was very important to me. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I wore my “Bacon had a Mom” shirt, made by Herbivore Clothing Company for the occasion! I can now look back at my 10 year old cow-wanting-self, and say “it’s ok, in 17 years you will respect that animal enough to not let it suffer, and not allow it on your plate.”