Animal Writes
1 March 2000 Issue
First Hand Experience

by Onion [email protected] 

From September to November of last year, I was an intern at a place called Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. Farm Sanctuary is a farm where rescued farm animals go to be nurtured and rehabilitated back to health. No longer "food animals," cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, goats, rabbits, sheep and ducks live out their natural lives in peace. They have no "purpose" there; they don't give milk, eggs or wool for human use.

March 20th is the day animal lovers and vegetarians (vegans) unite and speak up for "food" animals everywhere -- the Great American Meat Out. I would like to take this opportunity to enlighten a few readers to the true price of eating meat.

While I was at Farm Sanctuary, I had the opportunity to visit two stockyards and a farm animal research facility. At the stockyards, I saw a piglet with a ruptured anus and other pigs with bloody stumps where their tails used to be. A man who worked there told me and the intern coordinator that those pigs were in a separate pen because they all had something wrong with them. And they were all going to be slaughtered for consumption.

At the calf auction I sat in the front row, not four feet away from dozens of frightened calves being beaten with electric cattle prods. Farmers in bib overalls laughed at the sickly calves, "That one's dead! Throw him on the pile." (The "dead pile" is where downed animals are thrown, left to slowly die of injuries, starvation, or thirst.) Some of them were not even a day old, their umbilical cords still wet and dangling from their bellies.

The female calves were auctioned off to dairy farms, the males to veal farms where they would live their short lives in crates so small they wouldn't be able to move.

I also had the opportunity to rescue some very unique furry chickens. A farm worker and I ran around in the rain, chasing these dirty, pecking chickens. Driving the first load back to the farm, one small hen nudged her way under my arm and into my lap, and there she sat the whole way home. I befriended a beautiful sheep named Lola, and a feisty little goat named Ivan. I sat among turkeys with their toes and beaks cut off, their poor legs bowed under the weight of their fleshy bodies, bred that way to produce more meat. Incidentally, I spent Thanksgiving Day with these turkeys, feeding them cranberries and grapes.

I spent a lot of time in the pig barn, rubbing the bellies of those snorty beauties, just like my dogs back at home. At night I sometimes helped round up the geese and ducks, and helped shut up the rabbits. Every night, in my bed at Vegan House (the intern house just up the road), I would fall asleep to the geese squabbling in their barn, and wake to the sound of roosters (who incidentally cry their infamous "cock-a-doodle-do" all day long).

I became a vegetarian at 16, and vegan at 21 (3 years ago). I already knew why I stopped eating animals and wearing their skin, but my experiences at Farm Sanctuary strengthened my beliefs and deepened the bond I feel with my fellow creatures. I have heard their screams, and I have seen their struggles. And I live with the pain of guilt because I used to be a part of their torment. Now I'm doing everything I can to make others aware of it.

Please, if not for the animals, then do it for your health. Stop eating meat. Try it for a couple of weeks. Eat lots of fruits and veggies and be sure to go to the Chicago Diner a lot! You won't be disappointed.

There are two things I will never forget: one little calf at the stockyards. Crippled to the point where he was forced to walk on his knees, he was beaten with an electric cattle prod until he collapsed in a dirty hallway. From there he was kicked into a stall where he lay panting, wide-eyed, frightened, and crying for the mother he would never see again. The other is a cow named Margie; a black and brown, doe-eyed beauty I befriended at Farm Sanctuary. Whenever she spotted me walking past the cow barn, she would moo loudly, and when I went to greet her, she would stick her massive head towards me and lick my arms. And every time someone asks me why I don't eat meat (or dairy), I remember the tormented eyes of that crippled, broken calf, and the gentle, flirty eyes of my Margie. And I answer, because I have looked into the eyes of every creature I used to eat. I could not live with myself if I ever again contributed to the pain I saw deep in their eyes.

Not eating meat, eggs or dairy is a small price to pay for good health and peace of mind. Not only is my heart healthy, but it is at peace.

For more information about Farm Sanctuary, please email them at:

[email protected] 

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