I have been following Farm Sanctuary’s work for quite a while now and I am completely enamored with them. Farm Sanctuary is such a wonderful organisation and I believe was one of the first sanctuaries for farm animals. Since Seb and I heard of them, we have supported them by sponsoring animals, usually hens (larger animals are expensive). Our first hen called Wendy passed away about a year ago and we received the most touching heartfelt letter telling us of her last few days in the sanctuary and the impact she had had on those around her. We knew that this place is a special and that we wanted to include a visit to the farm on our once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Having met my dearest younger brother the afternoon before, we drove part of the way to Farm Sanctuary to a town called Vacaville (Vaca is spanish for cow which seemed rather apt given our visit the next day). We got up early in the morning and headed off for one of the farm visits that they do every Saturday morning. As we were walking around the place we were struck with many things.
1. Just how incredibly clean the place was. I was lying on the ground in the pig shed with my head on a pig’s belly and there was no pig poop anywhere to be seen. They told us how with only 600 animals they are able to manage the waste generated from the animals on the farm without having to take it off site or put it in those terrible holding ponds that cause such pollution. I love this!
2. Just how friendly and relaxed the animals were. I grew up in a village near farms so I have seen plenty of farm animals, but I have to say that I was never able to approach sheep or cows. Obviously this is because most farm animals will not have the love and affection and time spent with people that the animals have at Farm Sanctuary so it was so special to see the bonds that CAN exist between farm animals and people given half a chance.
3. How knowledgeable the guides were about the individual animals, their knowledge of farming as well as their ability to communicate with their tour guests (we had some who were NOT yet vegan).
4. I was really astounded as to how big cows and steers are when you get up to them. I was able to get up close with a 16 year old steer called Yugo and I was moved by how huge he was. Such a wonderfully gentle animal with the most beautiful dark eyes.
5. We were all particularly surprised to find out about the care needed for the older animals. There are several animals at the sanctuary who are now middle aged or elderly and there is very little known about how farm animals age and what to do with them when their do. Farm Sanctuary are working with Cornell university to try to work out how best to deal with animals that have arthritis and other aliments considered with aging. I found the fact that no-one knows what happens when animals age is incredible. We have manipulated turkeys to have such large breasts that they can no longer reproduce naturally or cows to produce such a large amount of milk yet we wouldn’t waste the time to research animal arthritus considering animals are nearly always slaughtered when they are still so young.
Here is a list of common farm animals, their natural lifespan and their ‘actual’ lifespan from Humane Facts. Essentially nearly all animals are killed when their are babies. Babies! No wonder we have no idea on how to deal with aliments concerned with getting older.
Natural lifespan: 15 years
Killed for food: 5-6 months
Natural lifespan: 20-25 years
Killed for food:
Cows raised for beef: 6 months
Dairy cows: 5-7 years
Veal calves: 4 months (don’t forget the veal industry is inextricably linked with the dairy industry. What else can we do with the male calves?) Drink milk? Condem a calf. 😦
Natural lifespan: 7 years
Killed for food:
Broiler chickens: 5 weeks
Layer hens: 2 years
Male chicks hatched as byproducts of egg industry: 1 day
Natural lifespan: 10-12 years
Killed for food: 3-6 months
Farm Sanctuary or any other farm animal sanctuary is a great place to take people and your children who want to connect with the animals that might be on their plate and to find out more about factory farming. I love the work they do. Working with politicians to try to introduce laws to help animals. Their promotion of a vegan diet for our health, the environemnt and of course the animals. Their events like Thanksgiving FOR the Turkeys, the documentaries they have made like the heartwrenching Peaceable Kingdom and their incredible rescues. The animals are wonderful ambassadors for their species and highly recommend a visit. I am not sure of an exhaustive list of sanctuaries on the internet, but this list is a good start. or just google sanctuary and your local area. If you want (or you want your child) to connect with animals, consider visiting a farmed animal sanctuary.Petting zoos and zoos generally are not great places to do this as they are exploiting animals not helping them. Most sanctuaries have open days or will do a private tour for a donation. Unlike a zoo, this is one excursion that could change your life and that of your child’s for the better. Who doesn’t want to have a child whose heart is full of compassion and love for all beings?
We also were lucky enough to bump in to the manager of another sanctuary in California called Lockwood Arc and sanctuary for wolves and wolf dogs. Fantastic work they are doing helping war veterans to rehabilitate with help from the beautiful animals from Lockwood.