Winning Compassion for Farmed Animals - Jenny Brown
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

Jenny Brown Interview from Veganpalooza 2013
August 2013

Downloadable PDF

Jenny Brown is a longtime animal advocate and co-founder and director of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in Woodstock, New York Ė one the countryís most recognized and respected sanctuaries for farmed animals. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals. Jennyís story and the work of her sanctuary has been featured in the New York Times, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, New York Magazine, HLNís Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, and more.

Veganpalooza Jenny Brown sanctuary

DR. TUTTLE: Welcome to Veganpalooza 2013. This is Dr. Will Tuttle, your co-host for Veganpalooza. Iíd like to thank you for joining us, and I want to thank Jenny Brown for being our guest on Veganpalooza. In this time slot, we have Jenny Brown, whoís a long-time animal rights activist and cofounder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in Woodstock, New York, one of the countryís most recognized and respected sanctuaries for farmed animals. She previously worked in film and television until she went undercover in Texas to film farmed animal abuse. That experience led her to dedicate her life to helping farmed animals and to raising awareness about her plight. Jennyís story and the work of her sanctuary have been featured in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, NPRís ďThe Diane Rehm Show,Ē and more. Her new book, The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals was awarded Book of the Year in 2012 by VegNews, and you can read more about her and her sanctuary at woodstocksanctuary.org. So Jenny Brown is really a long-time friend of ours and a well-known advocate, and I just want to highly recommend her book. I just actually have been reading it lately myself. You can order it on Amazon, and itís full of inspiring stories about animals and also about how they can teach us and what we can learn from them, and also how they suffer at our hands for especially food and of course other products as well. So Jenny, thank you so much for joining us on Veganpalooza 2013 and for bringing your perspective, your wisdom, your many years of working directly with animals and with people, educating people about these issues. Itís really an honor to have you with us. Thanks for joining us. Good to have you here.

JENNY BROWN: Thank you for having me. Itís an honor to take part in Veganpalooza.

DR. TUTTLE: Iíd like to go ahead and just start out and ask you if you can shed a little bit of light on what led you to open a sanctuary for farm animals. I know that is a really difficult thing to do, and it takes an enormous amount of energy and commitment. Itís such a challenge. So what led you to actually do this?

JENNY: It goes back to when I was ten years old, a little girl, and I was battling cancer, lost my leg due to cancer. During that time growing up in the South in a Southern Baptist Christian family in Kentucky, I never questioned on my plate, I never even thought of the meat on my plate as animals. I think many of us have had that experience. I had a relationship during this time, during two and a half years when I had cancer, with a cat who I named Boogie. Growing up in church, I was told that only humans have souls. Animals donít have souls. As a ten-year-old child forming this relationship, this bond that I had with my dear friend Boogie, who was part of my life from the time I was ten to 28, and my relationship with her told me that I needed to start questioning things because if I had a soul, then something was wrong with God up there because it doesnít seem right that animals donít have souls. How could we be the privileged species? It didnít seem right. So that was what planted the seed.

Once cancer was over and I started high school, trying to be a normal teenage girl was very vitally important to me and to get back in the swing of things and to not let my disability be my identity. But like many others, I was still completely, I knew I loved animals, but I did not include farm animals in that equation, nor did I really ever even think of them. Weíre brought up to believe thatís what theyíre here for. I didnít grow up around farms, I didnít see them, I didnít question it. I even got a job when I was 16 years old working at the front counter of McDonaldís. I also worked temporarily as a hostess at a steak restaurant. So it wasnít until I was 18 and I started college, and at college orientation week I picked up some literature and got the shock of my life reading about animals that were used in entertainment and laboratory experiments, in zoos, in circuses, on fur farms, and then finally picked up a piece of literatureĖ this was all PETA literature Ė that discussed how we treat the animals that we eat. Never had that information been presented to me. So that was the true awakening.

So when I was 18 years old, I became a vegetarian, moved to Chicago to finish out college studying film and documentaries, met somebody while I was waiting tables at the famous vegetarian Chicago diner Meat Free Since í83. It was a wonderful woman that worked at PETA who was there in town to do a protest. Itís a big fur funeral that they do down the streets of Michigan Avenue every year. That relationship and my going out to film that event was really what started my path in getting involved in animal rights. To make a long story short, I did undercover work for PETA in the early Ď90s, some successful missions, some unsuccessful missions. But my first truly successful mission was when I was flown out to North Dakota and got inside of a Premarin facility where horses are being kept impregnated, and their urine is used for a drug that millions of women take in this country when theyíre menopausal. Itís an estrogen replacement, and itís called Premarin. This is a new form of factory farming. So me getting in there with an undercover person, didnít have to break in, there was a door open, and getting that footage, which showed in Canada and the U.S. and the U.K., was life-changing for me. The fact that I realized, ďHey, I can do this. Iím bold enough to go in there and do this.Ē

Years later, my career had taken off. I worked my way up from a lowly production assistant to producing and directing and did a lot of work for PBS and the filmmaker Errol Morris and Discovery Channel and ABC, just did a number of freelance things. But I started to get really disenchanted with the film and television biz. I had started receiving mailings from Farm Sanctuary. Clearly PETA and Farm Sanctuary were sharing lists, which is okay with me. I started getting their information and reading specifically, becoming more engaged with what was happening to farm animals because as a lot of us know, but as many of us donít know, each year in the United States ten billion land animals are raised and killed for meat, eggs, and milk. Specifically, farm animals comprise 98% of all animals in the country with whom we interact directly. That staggering percent does not even include the ten billion aquatic animals. That means that itís only 2% of animals that die in shelters, animals that are used in experimentation, animals dying on fur farms, animals that are hunted. Ninety-eight percent of those animals are farmed animals. So although I love and care about and want to advocate for all animals, the greatest need lies in raising awareness about the mistreatment of farm animals and about the need, the dire need, for a revolutionary shift of consciousness into considering farmed animals and bringing them into our charmed circle of compassion so that we can begin to think about them and to question whatís on our plate.

But to go back, in 2002 I went undercover for Farm Sanctuary. They sent me to Texas to document downed animals, which are those animals that are labeled livestock Ė which by the way I think is highly insulting to them Ė but farm animals that are too weak or sick, theyíre non-ambulatory, and the way they are loaded onto trucks to head to the slaughterhouse. At the end of these days at these auctions, when people have gone home and the buying and the selling and the trading has happened, many of those animals at the end of the day are loaded up onto trucks headed to slaughterhouses. Downed animals are animals that are typically suffering beyond our imagination. They might be diseased with something, they have broken hips, they have broken legs, there are a lot of spent dairy cows. And because farm animals must arrive alive at slaughterhouses to be used for human consumption, the way they get them there alive is truly the worst of human capabilities, that we drag them with chains, you can hear bones crack and pop, theyíre crying, theyíre suffering, itís horrible, just so they can get that last $500 out of that cow. There is no vet there that is determining why theyíre non-ambulatory. So this is also why mad cow disease started making its way in our food system.

But what I saw during that week, first of all, I hadnít become vegan yet. I was starting to understand; I was starting to move away. But the very first day that I was there, I saw an entire truckload of little newborn calves, some of them maybe a week old, some of them still slick from their mothersí birth fluids. Seeing them dragged off that truck, kicked, beaten, one had a broken leg, he was struggling to stand on it, confused, and theyíre just treated and kicked. And the guys working who are doing this are smoking and cracking up. It was just a day in the life for them, whereas I saw indescribable animal abuse. And I was scarred. I left that week, and by the way that footage went to congressional hearings with Gene Baur. The sad thing is the argument is that this could pose problems to human health, and this is a danger to our food production, not the fact that these animals are treated without mercy because people donít want to hear that. They care about whatís going to hurt humans. So that was the emphasis at these congressional hearings. And after years of fighting, Farm Sanctuary finally got the Downed Animal Protection Act passed, and I felt proud hopefully to have been a part of that.

That week, though, made everything in my life just seem worthless. Iíd been working in film and television for a decade, and all of a sudden, everything seemed so unimportant because my eyes were opened, and what I saw that week was just terrible. And Iím talking about animals with half their faces eaten away with cancer, animals struggling to walk with broken hips, broken legs, babies that were born there and that are just ripped from their mothers and stickers slapped on them with a number. It was terrible. People are walking around there and in the auction ring, and youíve got obese families sitting there licking their ice cream cones while bidding on animals that are being shoved and electric prodded through the auction ring. I had no idea. Most of us have no idea that this is what is happening. But that, wow. That week changed my life. I went on to do the biggest job of my career, and after I was done traveling the world with a German film crew and doing all this fun stuff, I left it all. I said, ďIím going to go work at Farm Sanctuary. Iím going to train them. Iím going to do video work for them. My husbandís a film editor. And in exchange, Iím going to be a part of this world. Iím going to be a part of the change that I wish to see in the world.Ē

And boy, do I think the work of Farm Sanctuary is effective because for me, being with these animals in a place where they are loved and treated with respect and compassion, as opposed to being treated as production units or commodities, is an eye-opener. Itís an opportunity to interact with these animals that you care so much about, that youíre shifting to a plant-based diet, but the realization of them and how intelligent they are and what individuals they are, all that together made up my mind that I wanted to dedicate my life to being a voice for these animals. God knows I love them. I love every chicken out there, every turkey, goat, sheep, cow, pig. Being with those animals at Farm Sanctuary, I just couldnít imagine life without it. I wanted to see and commit myself for a year to working with them in all kinds of weather, sloshing big heavy buckets of water and 50-pound hay bales. If I could do it, then dang it, I can start a sanctuary myself because Iím a firm believer there should be one in every state around the country because sanctuaries are truly places of transformation, and I really want to be a voice for animals, want to introduce people to these animals that they only know as food, and be a part of that change. Iíve just got to do something or Iím going to end up in a padded cell.

DR. TUTTLE: Right. I love your story. Iím sitting here listening to it, and I really have tears running down my cheeks. Itís just so touching to hear the story, how you were changed. Think of that, you were a 16-year-old working at the front of McDonaldís taking peopleís money for burgers, and you couldnít imagine. But I think itís so great to realize that anyone, even people working in McDonaldís right now, could go on to found sanctuaries and transform hundreds of thousands of people to becoming vegans. Itís possible. We never know who weíre talking to. I think itís important to remember that, and to have respect for everyone.

JENNY: Absolutely, and I so wish there had been a sanctuary in my area of Louisville, Kentucky, growing up, or if we had humane education in the classrooms. Thereís such a need to bring about awareness with children because weíre just so disconnected at a very early age due to our indoctrination and our not wanting to ask the questions, not even knowing to ask the questions.

DR. TUTTLE: Itís a complete cover-up, really, is whatís going on. Itís unintentional. Itís intentional, I think, on the part of the industry. We have ag-gag laws, as people know, just doing everything possible to make it difficult for people to actually do what you did, which is to go in there and get footage of whatís going on. Thatís on one side, and then on the other side, we have the consumers who would actually, even if we get the footage, they donít want to see it. They donít want to see whatís actually going on. So thatís where the padded cell comes in, I think. What do we do about this? But youíve been able to actually create a sanctuary in upstate New York, Woodstock Sanctuary. Madeleine and I have been there. Iíve spoken there, actually, and I remember meeting the animals there. Maybe can you talk a little bit about what you said, clearly, first of all, why do you use the word ďfarmed animalsĒ rather than ďfarm animalsĒ? And then secondly, why is a sanctuary such an important part of the vegan revolution? Why are sanctuaries such empowering places in terms of people making positive changes in their lives?

JENNY: First of all, I call them ďfarmed animals,Ē which is truly the correct terminology. No animal is born a farm animal. No animal is born, or should receive the title of, livestock. These are animals that humans farm. Thatís the difference. They are farmed animals. Theyíre not born as farm animals. That doesnít exist. So you see a number of us in the animal rights movement changing that word, changing that phrase and making it more accurate because again it puts them in sort of another category if you look at them as farmed animals, they are forced to be farmed. They are farmed like a vegetable crop. They are farmed like wheat. They are sentient beings that are farmed. So thatís where that difference comes from.

DR. TUTTLE: To remind us of whatís really going on, call them by their true name.

JENNY: Exactly. I even want to change our name, instead of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, to Woodstock Farmed Animal Sanctuary, but that gets complicated. So to also answer your question about why farm animal sanctuaries are such powerful places of transformation and the importance of them in the animal rights movement, basically because people come here and they meet, whether theyíre animal rights activists and theyíre meeting the victims that theyíre fighting for, or whether they are the general public and for them, for the majority of people, theyíve never met cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens. Theyíve never met them. Theyíve maybe seen them from afar at a petting zoo, but that would typically be goats or lambs or something, typically not turkeys. Or theyíve seen them far afield while theyíre driving. They may see cows along the side of the highway. But in terms of actual interaction with these animals in an environment where theyíre loved and treated with compassion and kindness, where theyíre not eaten, where they have names and theyíre not a number, thatís a very unique opportunity that sanctuaries have in terms of at least allowing them to meet them and to learn about them as individuals.

We see this every weekend. We get hundreds of people through our doors every weekend, thousands over the course of our open season, which is April through October, and you see the wheels a-turning. Itís almost as if you can see the synapses firing with people as theyíre delighted in feeding 2000-pound Dylan a carrot or an apple, how funny it is that he doesnít like Red Delicious apples, but he likes Macintosh apples. And to not be afraid of this gobbling turkey. Timmy, who walks around, free roams around with other turkeys, heís just so personable, comes up and stands right next to you. You can pet him. I grab him and give him a kiss on his head, and people are delighted by that to see interaction with these animals in a loving way. To watch our caretakers bandage the feet of chickens, out there rubbing salve on a goatís knees, something that we do often with arnica and other joint ailment remedies, itís astounding to people. It opens up a whole new window into a world where itís unlike any other place in the world. Youíre going to a place that is so unusual in that animals here arenít used for any reason. Theyíre not bought and sold.

So again, having people here, having them meet the animals, coming into the pig barn, sitting down with me, rubbing the bellies of pigs, listening to them talk to one another or coming to their name, this is such a powerful experience beyond what a film can do. Itís that one-on-one interaction between individuals.

To me, as somebody that knew I wanted to dedicate my life to animal rights activism, specifically for farmed animals, I learned from my time at Farm Sanctuary itís such a powerful way to advocate for their behalf.

And Iíd have it no other way. I wouldnít just have a sanctuary thatís for rescued animals. We can help so many more animals just by advocating on their behalf along with these fortunate few that are here, well, not so few, weíve got over 200 rescued animals, but theyíre amazing ambassadors to our cause. My husband Doug likes to say that they do all the heavy lifting because theyíre the ones who are so friendly and curious and inquisitive. They come up to people, and people are so delighted because most of the animals here have lost their fear of people. So it gives people that opportunity to not walk into a flock of sheep that dash away but who come at you, who come towards you and are looking for affection, who rub their heads against your legs. Itís very powerful. And at that moment, to talk about whatís wrong with the wool industry, to talk about its connection with the lamb meat industry, to talk about mulesing, to talk about all those things while theyíre with these incredibly lovable sweet animals, boy, thatís a powerful opportunity.

DR. TUTTLE: I think that what you mentioned is especially powerful because you can go to certain types of museums, outdoor museums, certain kinds of operations where they show how people lived in the past, they have the animals there, but itís not within any kind of a vegan context.

JENNY: No, weíve gotten animals from those ďliving historical farmsĒ in fact.

DR. TUTTLE: Yeah, I think it doesnít really teach that. But in your case, when you say you can see the synapses firing, what youíre talking about is people making connections with their minds, but I think thereís also synapses firing in their hearts because theyíre actually starting to feel for animals not just as pieces of meat but as actual living beings. Especially children, I would think, you find are open. But you find adults, too, I guess. Is that right?

JENNY: Oh, absolutely. You just see the wheels turning because to make the connection while weíre rubbing Patsy the Pigís belly, and then to pat her on the butt and show her back leg and say, ďAnd this is where the bacon cuts come from. This is what you see hanging in the deli thatís smoked and cured with the foot cut off and disengaged from the rest of the body. This is where bacon comes from, kids. Right here. An animal just like Patsy has her life taken from her so that you can eat a bacon sandwich.Ē Itís just, people come here and they might just want to see some farm animals, and that sounds like a fun thing to do with their kids, but itís an amazing opportunity to make some really important connections for people about the intelligence of turkeys, or the connection between the veal industry and the dairy industry, to tell people, which is shocking to them. Maybe youíve never thought about it before, but cows donít just magically produce milk. Theyíre mammals like us. So to keep their milk productive year after year, they have their babies torn away from them. To make those connections for them while theyíre here with the animals and theyíre feeding carrots and apples and theyíre loving it, to make those connections, again, for people is very powerful.

And weíre just so fortunate that we can open our doors and have people come to us. They become sort of a captive audience. We take that opportunity. I even say at the beginning of our tours, ďMake no mistake. This is not a petting zoo. This is the happy ending for these animals. They have all come from abuse, neglect, abandonment, theyíve escaped from slaughterhouses. This is a place of healing. This is their home.Ē I frame it that way so that people understand, in case they didnít read the website or they didnít read thoroughly the brochure or they didnít see our billboard that says ďWhere animals are friends, not food.Ē Let me tell you now, because you have the opportunity to leave, but we hope youíll stay. Youíll meet some amazing individuals, and youíll hear their stories. But I have, for me and the reason Iím put on this Earth, is I want you to know what you donít know so that you can make hopefully more compassionate choices and you can live your own values. And if you say youíre against cruelty to animals, well, brother, sister, you better take a look at this.

DR. TUTTLE: Also I think when youíre talking about the intelligence of these animals, that they can see that, and also they can see the individual personalities, and I think that comes back to what you heard when you were a little kid, that animals donít have souls. That kind of is implying that theyíre not subjects of their lives. Itís very interesting to me as researcher is to see how, not that long ago, is that Whites were proclaiming Blacks donít have souls, and not that long ago that men were proclaiming women donít have souls. So thereís been a long chain of this happening where those who decide who have souls are the ones who basically want to dominate those who they say donít. I think itís very obvious that when youíre at a sanctuary, the way youíre conducting it, where the animals can just be on their own terms, that people see that thereís a being in there. Thatís the key. Thereís a being who cares about his or her interest as much as you or I care about our interest.

JENNY: Weíre all Earthlings who possess the same will to survive, and to remind people that weíre all Earthlings, and then for them to think critically and question. We can say, ďItís always been this way. Weíve always eaten animals.Ē But we can say the same thing about slavery. Weíve owned slaves for most of civilization.

DR. TUTTLE: Itís still going on.

JENNY: Just because itís always been that way does not make it right. But thereís you and I and a growing number of other people that are out there that not only are taking action and being a voice for these animals and growing this movement, but weíre inspiring others to give a damn and to speak. And weíre giving them tools. So many people come here and say, ďI have trouble talking to my dad. He wonít listen to me. Boy, Iíve got to get him here.Ē I try to give people tools as to how to talk to people, or tell them to get them to the sanctuary because Iíll do the work for them. Sometimes thatís truly what it is. People, family members, husbands, wives, itís difficult. But when you have somebody else and you frame it, when itís somebody else thatís talking about it, when theyíre in an environment where theyíre meeting these happy animals, it can be, again, a very amazing powerful opportunity to speak to someoneís heart.

DR. TUTTLE: Itís been great talking to you. We have a little more time, not a whole lot, but I have two more questions that may be of interest to people that are germane to this whole subject. One is that when you mentioned that you think there should be a sanctuary in every state. Can you just talk to the listeners briefly about actually how many sanctuaries there are in the country, and why maybe there arenít more? I know they take a lot of energy and money to run, but itís a great thing, I know, to do. Can you just talk a little bit about that and about the sanctuary movement itself?

JENNY: Absolutely. There arenít enough of us, and for good reason. I think thereís maybe, I donít know, 10, 12 respected sanctuaries that have been up and running for a while, real sanctuaries that have more than, say, 15 animals. Sanctuaries that have an external presence and are active in advocacy and in rescues, thereís really maybe, I havenít done a proper count, but Iíd say 10 to 12 of us.

DR. TUTTLE: With a real strong vegan foundation, too, which is important.

JENNY: Yes. That is very important. But this is hard work. This is really hard work. And you get into this because you care. And then when youíre stuck in a position where you canít help an animal, youíve got no room, or theyíre across the country and itís just completely unfeasible to transport them because youíve got to get licenses to transport animals state to state to state if theyíre considered livestock. They have to have vaccines and ear tags and all kinds of crazy stuff. So to have to say no is horrible because you know that by you saying no, that could mean the end of that animalís life. To not have enough room, or to lose precious friends, precious animal friends that youíve known and loved for years, and who you canít save. They get diseases in their old age. They have liver failure. They get a variety of other things. We have a little calf right now who we love so dearly. She was one day away from slaughter. She was brought here by a caring woman that was involved in this farm in some way. She had an infection so bad in her back leg that it deteriorated a lot of her bone in her thigh and in her hip. Took her to Cornell, one of the best veterinary hospitals out there, but if she doesnít get better in the next six weeks, weíre going to have to have her euthanized because a 1500-pound cow cannot walk around on three legs. Itís so emotional.

Not only that, I only hire ethical vegans, so weíre a bunch of crazy passionate animal rights people. Thatís tough. But also, hereís the biggest challenge in terms of funding. Funding is the biggest thing. There are so many animal charities out there, there are so many people that give to animal charities, but not all those charities or foundations care about farm animals. Itís all about dogs and cats or wildlife or the chimps or the polar bears because itís more difficult for people to give to farm animals if theyíre a part of the problem and theyíre the consumers who are eating them. So the competition for funds is a very real thing. Itís not easy to keep funded. We started, bought this property in 2004. Our wedding was our first fundraiser. We are not rich people. This came out of our pocket. I worked my butt off from day one getting the word out there about the work that we were doing and what we intended to do and we started to do, but I did it responsibly. And I worked at another sanctuary for a year to learn how to do what Iím doing. You canít just visit a sanctuary and maybe stay overnight and volunteer for two days and think that you know all there is to know. Weíre still learning. You shouldnít be taking animals in that you canít afford to have veterinary care for. It makes it very difficult. We never want to be able to say no, and never have, because we couldnít afford a treatment for an animal. I think thatís irresponsible.

So there are a lot of sanctuaries that start up and fail within the first two years. I learned that from Farm Sanctuary years ago. It is a huge undertaking. It cannot be just one person. Iím so fortunate that my husband is my best friend and heís my rock in all this. Heís completely into it as much as I am. So I have a partner in this. I know I couldnít do it all myself. So these are difficult challenges. Unless youíre a very wealthy person and you start your own sanctuary and you donít need support from the public or from foundations, you can open your doors. Thatís all great. We need more of you out there. But in terms of people acquiring expensive acreage of land, having the right zoning to have farm animals and to be able to be open to the public, these are all major things you have to look into before you get involved. And to also understand that for me, thereís no way I could have had kids. Thereís no way. Iím 42, I still could. I know, Iím realistic with myself in that I canít do this and be a responsible executive director of an active animal rights organization and shelter. Iíve got over 200 furred and feathered babies out there, so thatís what I focus on.

DR. TUTTLE: Thatís very realistic. Even though obviously these are enormously helpful to the public, and a lot of people go vegan by visiting them or move significantly in that direction, it takes a huge effort to maintain them in the face of the legal obstacles and financial obstacles in our society today, unfortunately. Thanks for explaining that. The other question I was hoping you could address also because I think itís very important, and that is just the whole question of factory farming vs. backyard farming. Thereís a huge movement lately of moving toward so-called permaculture, moving toward having their own chickens, their own pigs, goats, cows, and so forth in their backyards or on their land as some kind of sustainable, compassionate, humane alternative to the evil of factory farming. Iím hoping you can address that before our time runs out.

JENNY: Well, what I try to talk to people about on tours is that thereís a lot of very misleading labels: free-range, cage-free, humane certified, all of that. But anytime consumers of meat, eggs, or dairy advocate for humane treatment of farm animals, they confront a really tough paradox in terms of the movement to treat farm animals better is based on the idea that itís wrong to subject them to unnecessary harm. Yet killing animals is the ultimate act of unnecessary harm. So I try to start there. But I also say weíre with the chickens, the egg-layer chickens Ė not the white birds, we call them here, which are the broiler chickens. Itís a terrible name. But I say you might feel better about buying your eggs from Joe Farmer up the road, but know that Joe Farmer bought his sexed female chicks from the hatcheries that grind up 300 million male chicks a year. These chicks never meet their mothers. Theyíre shipped in cardboard boxes the first days of life. And then know this: there is no happy retirement home for those hens. Once theyíre production declines, theyíre all slaughtered. So you have to look closely at it. And know this about your organic milk: there is still calf after calf being torn away from their mothers so that you can drink that milk because theyíre in it for the business, for profit. Why would they let that calf drink that milk? It doesnít exist. First day of life. Thatís how long they get to be with their mothers. So I try to empower people and say I know that you donít know these things. I didnít know these things. But you have to think critically, and you have to look into it and sort of do the math. If we look at it critically, then maybe we can start to ask those important questions.
But from us and from our standpoint, we do not get behind these labels. We donít get behind backyard farming. Weíre the ones that get the calls, several times a week, ďI mail ordered some chicks a couple months ago, and a couple of them are turning out to be roosters. Can you take themĒ This is a constant thing. Itís so disheartening to me. And we try to talk to people about thatís why itís a problem. ďBy the way, do you know that those roosters are very lucky that they made it out of their alive?Ē So we at every opportunity try to educate people. We are a sanctuary that somebody will always answer the phone when you call within reason. Depends on how late you call. And we take that time to educate these people, even if we canít take those roosters, and oftentimes we canít. Weíve got over 40 here right now. But to try out best to educate them and to ultimately make sure they understand that we are in a day and age where eating meat and animal products is no longer nutritionally necessary. We have a huge variety of foods out there to eat. So to be a part of taking the life, of taking the eggs, of taking the milk, no matter what, you are a part of the exploitation and the unnecessary suffering and the death of these animals. I always bring it back to cruelty. If you can say youíre against cruelty to animals, if you wouldnít eat your dog or your cat, youíre one of those that do, stop and ask yourself, ďWhat is the difference?Ē
So at every opportunity when people are here or in our outreach events, we drive these points home. We donít sugarcoat it here. This isnít just a happy place of ďThe animals have a happy ending, and weíre all here, and weíre learning a few things about how many faces sheep can recognize.Ē We take that opportunity to give them the most impassioned talk we can because that might be the only opportunity in that personís life where theyíre hearing those things and having somebody share a different point of view with them. So we take it. We take that opportunity, and we donít sugarcoat it, but we donít proselytize. We practice every day in terms of, at least for me, practice being the most effective spokesperson for these animals. Because if I blow it, I might turn somebody off, and theyíre never going to open their heart and mind to it. Theyíll think that weíre zealots.

So I work every day and always in my talks and when on my tours, I work on my effectiveness. I always want feedback. I just want to know what am I saying or doing thatís right. Iím going to move in that direction, Iím going to elaborate on this, but itís not about my anger. And of course, weíre all angry to some degree at whatís happening in the world to these animals, whatís happening in the world in general. But we have to really be aware that this might be the only opportunity to plant a seed of compassion. Even if they donít, if they walk away from that conversation and we donít get any feedback, we hear from people months later that boy, they fought it, but it really opened their eyes. And theyíre not eating animals anymore. So thatís a really important opportunity for us, and it should be for every activist out there to be
10 Veganpalooza: 2013 Vegan World Summit Hosted by Dr. Will Tuttle and Steve Prussack effective with your words, be meticulous with your words, and say only what you mean, and try to be in somebody elseís shoes and remember that most of us, 99% of us out there, we were all meat-eaters at one point in time in our life, and to have a little empathy there.

DR. TUTTLE: Right, thatís so important to understand that. Thank you. This has been really a very inspiring, informative, and helpful conversation weíve been having with Jenny Brown. She is the co-founder of Woodstock Farm animal Sanctuary in Woodstock, New York. Her new book, The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals, again, won the Book of the Year Award from VegNews, and itís available. Thereís so much you can learn by going to their website, woodstocksanctuary.org, and hopefully even visiting there at some point. If you can do that, Iíd highly recommend it. This is Dr. Will Tuttle with Veganpalooza 2013. I want to thank everyone whoís listening for going forth and doing what you can to help live a life of kindness and compassion, health, and blessing others. I want to thank again Jenny Brown and wish you all a wonderful time till our next session. Thank you very much.


Return to Animal Rights Articles