Something to Crow About! Miyoko Schinner on Farm Animal Adoption

Miyoko Schinner with her rescued chickensVegan cheesemonger, chef, cookbook author, and television host Miyoko Schinner has spent the better part of the past three decades promoting delicious, decadent, and healthful plant-based foods. But did you know she’s also a chicken rescuer? The founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen recently opened her heart and home to two roosters (Satchmo and Bird) and Bessie hen, whom she adopted through Farm Sanctuary’s Farm Animal Adoption Network.

Who was the first farm animal you adopted and why?

We started adopting hens about six or seven years ago. Our first was Snookie — she’s still around, and is the smartest chicken on the planet. It was actually my husband’s idea to adopt chickens, and he took a chicken class, so we would know what to do. We had the room, and we’ve both always had this little secret desire to surround ourselves with different animals. (I’ve actually fantasized about it.) We’ve rescued chickens from hoarders, factory farms, and so-called “free-range” farms. Until now (we just moved to a farm from the ‘burbs), we were only allowed to have hens, so that determined the species we adopted. We are hoping to adopt larger animals once we get settled into our house, get the barn ready, and learn a bit more about the needs of the different species of individuals we might adopt.

What differences and similarities do you see between companion animals and farm animals?

I didn’t know before we started adopting chickens how complex their vocabulary was. Since then, I’ve learned the meaning of their different sounds and how they communicate to each other to warn about predators, to announce the laying of an egg, to tell others when they’ve found a tasty treat. We underestimate the ability of farm animals to have language just because it’s different from ours or our companion animals. While many of the chickens we’ve had don’t seem inclined to cuddle up, we have had some individuals (Gloria, Amazing Grace, and others) who follow us around, jump into our laps, want to be stroked. They are as different in personality as any humans or companion animals. We just lump them all together as chickens because most of us don’t have the opportunity to get to know them.

What do you see as the long-term implications people should consider when adopting farm animals?

I think it’s important to know what you are doing. Different species have different needs, and it’s important to know what you’re getting into! Make sure you have the time, patience, and resources to care for them. I don’t have experience with species other than chickens, so I’m not an expert. But I hope to be!

Beyond adopting farm animals in need and making delicious plant-based foods, Schinner also helps animals by giving back to animal protection charities! Miyoko’s Kitchen donates 1% of online sales to a different nonprofit each month (through November, it’s Farm Sanctuary!). In December, the company will double that donation to the nonprofit that receives the most votes in its online poll! Please vote now to help Farm Sanctuary!

Presenting Anna & Maybelle Stewart

Tracey Stewart with adopted pigs Anna & Maybelle

Tracey Stewart with adopted piglets Anna & Maybelle

Life doesn’t get much better for a pig than it is for Anna and Maybelle Stewart. Their adoptive mom is animal activist and Do Unto Animals author Tracey Stewart. Dad is none other than Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show.” Their new parents make sure they have plenty of fresh straw to nest in, a spacious pasture to run and play, and healthy food to eat — even spoiling them with the occasional treat. Tracey, Jon, and their two children treat Anna and Maybelle like a part of the family — and they are quickly becoming just that.

How did two pigs who were just months ago destined for slaughter become part of the Stewart clan? Sit tight, because it was a long journey to this happy ending.

Rescue from the Roadside

When an animal activist named Julie Robertson gazed out of her window while driving a busy road in Georgia, she was certainly not expecting to see two rogue piglets trotting along the highway. But that is exactly what she saw in the summer of 2015, when she first spotted Anna and Maybelle. The piglets were visibly terrified, confused, and exhausted. Anna was limping along with an injured leg, and Maybelle’s infected eye didn’t make their journey any easier. It was clear that these two little pigs needed to get to safety —  and fast!

Rescue piglets

Maybelle and Anna shortly after their rescue from a roadside.

Anna and Maybelle were so frightened that it took Julie two days to catch them. Eventually, the girls were so hungry that they allowed Julie to coax them into a crate with treats and whisk them to safety. When the pair arrived at her house to a nest made out of blankets. Finally safe, the little pigs were so worn out from their ordeal that they headed straight for the cozy pile and were snoring almost instantly.

Where did they come from?

We can only guess based on past rescues, but we believe Anna and Maybelle fell from a transport truck. Piglets are notorious for squirming their way out of trailers, sometimes falling onto the highway without the driver even noticing. Such a fall can be fatal for young animals, but these two tough girls avoided serious injury, and managed to stay out of oncoming traffic. Most importantly, they managed to stay together, which helped them both survive their scary ordeal.

Anna & Maybelle piglets

Anna and Maybelle love exploring their world together!

If they had remained on the truck, the piglets likely would have been heading to a stockyard, where animals are bought and sold. There, piglets are sold to “finishing operations,” where they are raised until they are just six months old and then sent to slaughter.

Fortunately Anna and Maybelle narrowly escaped this sad fate, and now they will live out their lives splashing in puddles, squealing with joy, and rooting like pigs should!

Becoming the Newest Stewarts

When Farm Sanctuary first heard about Anna and Maybelle, we immediately offered them a home at our rescued animal shelter in New York. And that is where they met the Stewarts.

Anna and Maybelle’s story captured the hearts of Jon and Tracey upon first meeting while they were on a tour of the sanctuary. And soon they had a place not only in their hearts, but in their home!

Tracey Stewart with adopted pigs Maybelle and Anna

Tracey with Maybelle and Anna.

“Anna and Maybelle are a parent’s dream,” says Tracey. “They are cuddly, playful and supportive of one another. They are generous — always willing to offer up their bellies for rubs when you need it.”

And now the real journey begins.

As they regain their health, Anna and Maybelle’s unique personalities are starting to emerge. The friends, possibly sisters, are closely bonded. The girls take great comfort in each other, just as they have since their frightening two days on the roadside.

Each day they are learning to live like piglets: playing, exploring, and even chasing the Stewarts’ two children around the pasture, to everyone’s delight. We can only imagine the bright future and fun that lies ahead for these two pigs lucky enough to be rescued — and by the Stewart family, no less!

Everyone who has met Anna and Maybelle is simply squealing with delight as we watch these “PFFs” (pig friends forever) grow into their personalities. Follow Anna and Maybelle’s journey at The Daily Squeal!

Anna and Maybelle piglets

Anna & Maybelle, PFFs!

Rescue reunion: 10 years later, rescuers visit the pig they helped save

Truffles pig and rescuer

Truffles pig and Denise, who helped rescue her, meet again at Farm Sanctuary.

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Truffles pig is a testament of the healing power of love. This wonderful pig, a favorite of many Farm Sanctuary visitors, will be ten this year — an incredible feat considering her origins. She was raised to live to just six months of age, by which time she would have been slaughtered for meat. Instead, nearly a decade later, she is the matriarch of her sounder, loved and respected both by her fellow pigs and her human friends at our New York Shelter.

During her first few weeks of life, Truffles was removed from her mother and subjected to tail docking without pain relief, both standard procedures on factory farms. Confused and frightened, she was then packed onto a hot and crowded transport truck to travel to a finishing farm, where piglets are fattened for slaughter. Her escape from this fate was fortunate, but not without additional hardships. She fell off of a truck into heavy traffic on Interstate 69 in Indiana, and was bruised and bloody from the fall.

Truffles piglet

Truffles as a piglet at Farm Sanctuary

Fortunately, luck and love were on her side. A young woman was driving in the opposite direction on the way to a concert when she saw Truffles fall and knew that she had to save her. She reached Truffles before any cars could hit her and brought the piglet to her car, where she placed her on a blanket in the back seat. For the first time in her short life, Truffles was safe — and she was on her way to a new life. Continue reading

Videos: Be inspired by these leaders in the animal protection movement

Farm Sanctuary's 2015 Hoe Down

On August 15 and 16, hundreds of animal advocates converged on Farm Sanctuary’s Watkins Glen Shelter for our 2015 Hoe Down. The Hoe Down holds an important place in Farm Sanctuary’s nearly 30-year history, and we think this year’s event was our best yet!

Our speakers focused on topics ranging from effective advocacy to humane education to the lives of Farm Sanctuary’s rescued residents. A major theme: We’re winning! More and more people are becoming educated about the abuses farm animals face, and many of them are making changes to their diets in response. The change is visible. And the industries that profit from animal abuse know it!

Below, view videos of each presentation from the weekend, as well as our Hoe Down Speakers Round Table discussion about where the animal protection movement is headed. (Note to viewers: You will hear cheeping! The speakers’ presentations took place not far from the roosting spots of some of our resident rescued birds.)

Gene Baur

“[T]o me, being vegan is really an aspiration to live as kindly as possible.”

Gene Baur at Farm Sanctuary's Hoe DownGene, Farm Sanctuary’s co-founder and president, has been called “the conscience of the food movement” by TIME magazine. For 25 years, he has traveled extensively, campaigning to raise awareness about the abuses inflicted by industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system.

His latest book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day, delivers five tenets for maintaining and sharing a compassionate, vegan life. His previous best-seller, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, was published in 2008.

Watch Gene’s presentation, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life:

Learn more about Gene’s work by following him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and learn about his upcoming speaking engagements here. Continue reading

Remembering Alexander

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

The first time I saw Alexander was at a central New York stockyard, on a bitterly cold day just before Christmas 2010. There were 300 newborn dairy calves on sale that day. Confused, terrified babies wailed for their mothers, and adult cows called back, all separated and unable to comfort each other. I was hoping for the chance to save a calf who had collapsed on the loading dock before even making it to the auction floor, but I was told I had to wait for the sale to end in case he stood up and could be auctioned off with the others. During the calf sale, the auctioneer offered me a second calf who was so small that no one would bid on him. Then there was another calf, a big guy, who received no bids because he was wobbling, falling down, and rolling his fetlocks. He was offered to me as well. That was Alexander.

Rough Start

I had expected to rescue only one calf, but at the end of the day I had three sick babies in the back of the shelter’s CRV. Exhausted, the boys slept as I rushed them to Cornell University Hospital for Animals.

When we arrived, the hospital staff ran blood work. Lawrence, the calf who had collapsed on the loading dock, was in renal failure. Blitzen, the tiny one, had pneumonia. Alexander, nicknamed Goliath by the staff because he was so large, was septic. His umbilicus had not been properly cleaned, and he had not received enough, or any, of the immunity-boosting colostrum his mother’s milk would have provided. Together, these circumstances resulted in an infection that spread to his left stifle, which is the joint that connects the femur, patella, and tibia.

Alexander shortly after his rescue

Though Alexander was started on treatment immediately, he contracted severe septic arthritis. He had to stay at the hospital for 48 days, undergoing multiple surgeries. He left with a guarded prognosis: though he was healthy at the time of discharge, his vets believed that his legs would break down as he grew. Continue reading

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t “Rescue” Animals by Buying Them

Rescue ducklings

Three ducklings recently rescued by Farm Sanctuary after being purchased from a hatchery and shipped through the mail.

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

In early September, we welcomed three ducklings to our Northern California Shelter. These youngsters had survived two days in the mail after they were purchased from a hatchery. The buyer, a vegan, had the best intentions: He wanted to prevent the ducks from being purchased by someone who would raise them for meat. But his method was flawed.

Peril in the Post

When their purchaser was unexpectedly hospitalized and unable to pick them up at the post office, the ducklings were at risk of being shipped back to the hatchery. Hatcheries are not farms; they are designed only to hatch and immediately ship birds, and there is no place to send back chicks, ducklings, or poults.

Like millions of baby birds purchased every year for backyard egg and meat production, the newly hatched ducks endured a traumatizing trip through the mail in a simple cardboard box, with no temperature control, no food, and no water. These three were sent to fulfill an order for only two ducklings; the hatchery automatically included a replacement duckling in case one didn’t make it to the destination. This tells you both how common it is for mailed birds to die in transit and how little the hatcheries care about the safety and well-being of the individual animals they sell.

Rescue ducklings

Like millions of other baby birds each year, the ducklings were shipped thousands of miles in a simple cardboard box.

Despite the grave risks of shipping animals through the mail, this practice is completely legal in the case of those classified as poultry. By contrast, transporting a cat or dog in this manner is illegal, and, as a 2011 case in Minnesota demonstrated, can result in criminal charges. Continue reading

Coalition to USDA: Step Up Enforcement for Farm Animals

Pigs in a slaughterhouse holding pen.

Pigs in a slaughterhouse holding pen.

By Bruce Friedrich, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Earlier this month, Farm Sanctuary joined forces with five other nonprofits — Animal Legal Defense Fund, Compassion Over Killing, Farm Forward, Mercy for Animals, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — in submitting a 38-page petition for rulemaking to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), calling on the Agency to stop almost entirely ignoring the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act (HMSA).

We did this because the HMSA is grossly neglected by the agency charged with enforcing it, so that animals are being tortured in U.S. slaughterhouses, even though there are USDA inspectors on site who could stop it. This petition is focused on stopping illegal cruelty, and does not imply that there is any such thing as “humane slaughter” — we see those terms as inherently contradictory.

Our petition asks that:

  • USDA’s definition of “egregious” as applied to the HMSA be codified in regulation;
  • USDA ensure that all violations of HMSA result in at least a “Noncompliance Record” (NR) to document the violation;
  • USDA ensure that all egregious violations of HMSA result in at least a plant suspension;
  • USDA refer reckless and intentional cruelty for criminal prosecution;
  • USDA create a structure for closing down the worst slaughterhouses completely.

We are making these recommendations because:

  • Undercover investigations have documented almost unfathomable abuse at USDA-inspected slaughterhouses, abuse that was not caught or cited by USDA’s inspectors in the plants in question.
  • USDA’s own OIG and the Government Accountability Office have both consistently documented lax enforcement of the HMSA, and they have called for USDA to do better. But the agency has not improved.
  • FOIA records from USDA document workers running over crippled animals with construction equipment and electrocuting them in their genitals and anuses, animals running around the slaughter floor with massive head wounds, animals regaining consciousness mid-slaughter, and plants that continue to operate even after being cited many times for inhumane slaughter.

Although our requests involve only small changes to current FSIS policy, they will significantly improve compliance with the mandates of the HMSA if implemented.

You can read the full petition here.

Cow's eyes

A cow looks out from a transport vehicle.

Remembering the Rescue Chickens of Katrina

Rescue chickens of Hurricane Katrina

Two of the 725 chickens rescued by Farm Sanctuary in the aftermath of Katrina.

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. As we honor those individuals — human and animal — who lost their lives in the storm, we also pause to remember hundreds of chickens whose lives were saved.

Katrina and Farm Animals: By the Numbers

725: Chickens saved by Farm Sanctuary in the days following Katrina. All of them were brought to our New York Shelter for care. They had a variety of health problems — some caused by the storm’s aftermath, many simply the result of standard industry practice. Their problems ranged from septic joints to severe digestive issues, from gangrene to broken toes. One had a large head wound; another was found with her eyes swollen shut. Many had gone days without food or water. The sick and injured birds received care ranging from treatment with painkillers, steroids and antibiotics to major surgery.

200+: The number of birds that were taken in by other sanctuaries or adopted by private individuals. The compassionate people who took in these chickens not only provided lifelong care for animals who had suffered so much — they also made it possible for us to say yes to many more chickens in need. (If you are interested in providing a permanent, loving home for a farm animal, please consider becoming a part of the Farm Animal Adoption Network!)

635 million: The estimated number of farm animals being raised for food in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi when Katrina made landfall. Millions of them died.

9: Years that KC, the last of our Katrina survivors, lived after her rescue.

6: Weeks a typical “broiler” chicken lives before it is killed for meat.

The Rescue

Hurricane Katrina chicken rescue

Miyun Park, Kate Walker and Peter Wood pull a chicken from a pit

Farm Sanctuary rescuers — working with other groups — traveled to devastated areas, searching for surviving farm animals in need of rescue and negotiating the release of animals from area farms. Rescuers reported mass graves of dead birds, demolished warehouses confining tens of thousands of birds, and fields littered with dead chickens — and live chickens running for their lives.

Sadly, the industry views these animals as commodities rather than living, feeling beings. “Clean-up” crews were sent to bulldoze damaged buildings, with live animals still trapped inside, and to discard the debris and bodies as trash.

“We saw a massive open grave containing thousands of dead chickens… Shockingly, 21 were still alive, huddled in the corner of the pit,” Farm Sanctuary rescuer Kate Walker later recalled of her experience at a Mississippi poultry farm under contract with Tyson. A tornado spawned by the hurricane had completely destroyed one of its warehouses and severely damaged two others. Working tirelessly, our crew pulled trapped and injured chickens from the wreckage, examined them, and prepared them for transport to safety. Continue reading

Farm Sanctuary’s Susie Coston on rescue, advocacy and encouraging compassion

Susie Coston and Sonny at Farm SanctuaryIt’s no wonder that Farm Sanctuary National Shelter Director Susie Coston is known as “The Farm Animal Whisperer.” She has two decades’ worth of experience running animal sanctuaries, and in her spare time (ha!), she leads our annual Farm Animal Care Conference and mentors others who have started their own sanctuaries.

She shared her valuable insight into the lives and care of farm animals and what it’s like to work in the animal protection movement in a recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). Here are some of Susie’s most upvoted responses to Reddit member questions (lightly edited for length).

On encouraging others to live a more compassionate lifestyle:

[Be] patient with others and really [reach] out and meet them where they are. If you are a good cook, unlike myself, inviting people for a very delicious vegetarian/vegan meal and just being warm and positive is a good start. … Everyone has a gift — artists, chefs, writers, storytellers, etc. — and using that gift to spread the message is a great way to contribute and encourage others to be more compassionate.

giftquote2On getting along with meat-eaters, despite knowing the plight of farm animals:

I always feel it is somewhat challenging especially when they seem to talk about it more knowing I am vegan than I think they would have if I were not. I feel you have to meet people where they are, however, since I put my parents, for example, through a bit of hell most of my teenage life — so me showing intolerance to them for not believing what I believe would be a bit hypocritical. I also see that by not fighting with them about it — by still loving people and just being who you are — many eventually change — maybe not completely but in some ways. My parents are eating far less meat, for example!

Susie Coston with turkeys at Farm Sanctuary

On people’s misconceptions about farm animals:

I think it is easy to see them differently because the only exposure most people have to farm animals is when they see them in an environment that is not natural — where they are frightened, where they are overcrowded, not receiving individualize care. We see them here being themselves — happy, sad, funny, etc. When they are not frightened they grieve more outwardly, they play, they are just more comfortable being themselves. … I think there is such a misconception about their sentience — especially birds, since they seem to be harder to relate to than mammals. We see birds — especially mothers arriving with babies, who sleep with a wing wrapped around their child to protect them. It is incredible. Continue reading

The Passing of a Prince

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet


By Alexandra Caswell, Acton Shelter Manager

He was typically the first resident to greet you. No matter how hot the day or how harried the Los Angeles freeway traffic, you would be hard-pressed to enter the hacienda-style gates of our Southern California Shelter without stopping to admire, photograph, and approach the ever-charming and always regal Prince.

He thoroughly enjoyed the attention, of course. One of the most outgoing and friendliest goats of his herd, Prince relished human companionship. He loved Sunday tours and was especially patient with children, standing completely still while they threw their arms around him and gently touched his floppy ears and long horns. He even let children inspect his teeth! He was an exemplary ambassador for farm animals.

Prince goat at Farm SanctuaryPrince was not only adored by visitors but also deeply loved by shelter staff. Every day he would open the gate for caregivers at feeding time (sometimes letting his herd mates out!). He knew his name and would come running when a caregiver called him, especially if they had his favorite treats (strawberries, bananas and molasses). He loved the sun and spent most of his days on his big hillside, playing and soaking in the rays. His was a blissful existence.

But recent months were hard on our friend. Prince had caprine arthritic encephalitis (CAE), an incurable retrovirus that is transmitted to newborn goats through their mother’s milk. He was diagnosed in 2013. There is no cure for CAE, but we immediately started Prince on immune-supportive supplements, and eventually pain medications, to give him a fighting chance at a longer, more comfortable life. All of his medications and supplements were hidden in his favorite treats, and he would run up to us enthusiastically when it was treatment time.

Sadly, the CAE advanced much faster than we had expected, rapidly taking its toll on Prince’s knee joints over the last year. In the end, he lost the use of his left leg, and his pain became untreatable. Wishing to spare our friend any suffering, we made the heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye.

Prince goat at Farm SanctuaryIt was only four years ago that we said hello to Prince. Police officers who pulled over a car for speeding found the two-week-old Saanen stuffed in a bag inside. Prince was seized and brought to the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society. From there we welcomed him to the shelter.

Just as that tiny young goat was gently carried in his new caregivers’ arms when he arrived, so was he surrounded and held by his caregivers as our vet gently released him through euthanasia. Prince was unafraid and left us calmly. He will be missed every day, and our very short time with him will be cherished always.

We have so many stories of caring for and befriending this sweetheart. And we know so many of you do, too. Please share your thoughts and memories of Prince in the comments below.

After all, Prince was someone, not something.