USDA Broadens Ban on Downed Cattle Slaughter to Include Calves

By: Gene Baur

The Obama Administration has published a rule to strengthen federal regulations and prohibit the cruel treatment and slaughter of downed calves,  broadening its existing ban on slaughtering downed cattle to include calves as well. This is important because calves, especially those from dairy farms who are taken from their mothers at birth, are frail and susceptible to illness and disease.

Frail calves, sometimes just hours old, are sent to livestock markets where they often succomb to illness and disease. Many of the newborn calves who are sent to stockyards are the offspring of dairy cows. The cows must be impregnated and give birth in order to produce milk. (Feel free to distribute freely for not-for-profit use, but please credit Farm Sanctuary. If you are media and are in need of a high-resolution version of this image, please contact us requesting the file “S7,14a_300_1”.)

Frail calves, sometimes just hours old, are sent to livestock markets where they often succumb to illness and disease.

Agribusiness had been allowed to truck sick and dying calves to slaughterhouses in order to profit from their slaughter, but this will now be prohibited. And, besides preventing the suffering of debilitated young calves during transport and at the slaughterhouse, this policy also provides an incentive for farmers to take better care of their animals in order to prevent them from becoming downers in the first place.

This is a positive development, which represents another incremental step towards lessening the suffering and abuse of downed animals (i.e. animals too sick even to stand).

After Farm Sanctuary’s rescue of Hilda, a downed sheep who was left on the “dead pile” behind Lancaster Stockyards in 1986, media exposés about downed animal abuses in the 80s and 90s led the USDA to start a surveillance program to monitor stockyards. The Agency even tried to prosecute stockyards for mistreating downed animals, but that effort ended when a court ruled that USDA had no legal authority to address animal welfare at stockyards. The law (i.e. the Packers and Stockyards Act) required stockyards to provide adequate care to maintain the economic “value” of the animals, but if an animal was discarded and considered to have no economic value, stockyards were legally allowed to leave them to suffer and die with impunity.
tumblr_leme0sf7761qb7khho1_500In the 1990s, we broadened our effort to address the abuse of downed animals at slaughterhouses, in addition to stockyards and auctions. The primary federal law addressing farm animal welfare in the U.S., ironically, is the Humane Slaughter Act. The USDA has a notoriously poor track record of enforcing this law, but it has adopted some positive positions regarding downed animals over the years, usually because of pressure.

In 2001, Farm Sanctuary brought a lawsuit to end the slaughter of downed animals for human food, citing animal welfare and human health concerns, including the threat of mad cow disease. The USDA denied the existence of mad cow disease in the U.S. until December, 2003, when mad cow disease was confirmed in a downed cow in Washington State. After that discovery, our lawsuit was settled in 2004 with the USDA agreeing that downed cattle would not be used for human food and banning the delivery of downed cattle to slaughterhouses. But the meat industry was able to insert a loophole during the regulatory process, which prohibited downed cattle from being accepted at the slaughterhouse, but strangely allowed cattle who walked into the slaughterhouse but then became downed afterwards to be used for human food. In 2008, an exposé showed a southern California slaughterhouse exploiting this loophole, and violating federal and state downed animal regulations and laws (California enacted a law to restrict the abuses of downed animals in 1994), which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. Once again, a light was shined on downed animal abuse, and the USDA was compelled to tighten its downed animal rules.

We are encouraged to see how much progress has been made, and look forward to seeing no downer policies extend to pigs and other animals as well. We and our colleagues in the animal rights community will keep the pressure on.

opie before and after

Once discarded as a downer, Opie survived and went on to live a long and happy life at Farm Sanctuary. (Photo at right by Jo-Anne McArthur/WeAnimals)

North Carolina’s ag-gag law is an affront to human decency

By Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary President & Co-Founder

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In 1986, while investigating Lancaster Stockyards in Pennsylvania, I found a living sheep collapsed among the carcasses of the stockyard’s “dead pile.” She was a “downer,” an animal too sick or weak to stand, and she had been left there to die. She was the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary, then a fledgling advocacy organization. We named her Hilda, and we shared her story, illustrated by a photograph of her lying on that dead pile.

Hilda inspired us to intensify our investigations of Lancaster Stockyards, where we discovered that the mistreatment and neglect of downers was business as usual. We organized a protest, which garnered media attention and exposed the stockyard’s disregard for animal welfare. The public was outraged, and Lancaster Stockyards was compelled to announce that it would humanely euthanize downed animals instead of leaving them to suffer on its premises. By documenting and publicizing conditions at this facility, we were able to bring about necessary reforms.

Were I to advocate in the same way for an animal like Hilda today in North Carolina, I would be committing a criminal act.

Read more at Newsobserver.com

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4 More Reasons to Visit Our Southern California Shelter

There’s no time like the present to visit Farm Sanctuary’s Acton Shelter! Located just 45 minutes north of Los Angeles, our Southern California location provides an accessible, peaceful oasis from city life. Here, we provide several opportunities for guests to interact with our rescued residents year-round. For many individuals, a visit to Farm Sanctuary is their first chance to get to know farm animals up close. Our staff enjoys facilitating meaningful connections between people and farm animals and sharing what living the Farm Sanctuary life is all about.

If you haven’t had the chance to visit our Acton location (or if it’s been awhile since your last trip), here are just four more reasons to visit Acton again soon!

  1. Our New and Improved Visitor’s Center

Visitor Center 1

We are proud to unveil our new Visitor’s Center, located within our courtyard grounds. Here, you can read our educational posters at your own pace and learn more about topics including the impacts of factory farming, our animal ambassadors and the issues they represent, the myths of “humane” farming practices, and animal-free diet alternatives. This is a great way to spend some time before your tour, or to supplement your experience with further information. We also encourage you to take some of our free literature home and share your Farm Sanctuary experience with friends and family.


2) Saturday and Sunday Tours

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Due to popular request, we have expanded our Visitor Program to provide tours on Saturdays in addition to our regular Sunday schedule! This is a wonderful opportunity for guests to build or strengthen relationships with our rescued residents and to learn how you can help farm animals everywhere. Tours will be conducted at 11 a.m., 1 p.m and 3 p.m. both days. Admittance fees are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 4 through 12, and free for children 3 and under, and all funds are used to make our lifesaving work possible. Please visit http://www.farmsanctuary.org/the-sanctuaries/los-angeles-ca/tours/ for more information.

3 and 4)  Kelley and Nina Lambs

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Meet Kelley and Nina, our two newest residents! These girls were recently dropped off at our Northern California Shelter by an anonymous rescuer, who sought to give them the chance at life they deserved. Kelley and Nina were severely ill and in critical condition when they arrived, but are growing stronger by the day at their new home in Acton! While guests won’t be able to pet them just yet, you can watch them bond with one another from outside of their pen. Lambs just like Kelley and Nina are slaughtered for meat when they are just six months old, but at Farm Sanctuary these girls are valued as someone, not something. Visit AnimalsofFarmSanctuary.com to learn more about Kelley and Nina’s story and how you can help farm animals just like them!

We are so grateful for supporters like you who continue to make our lifesaving rescue, education, and advocacy work possible. Thank you for choosing compassion and helping us make the world a better place for humans and animals alike. We look forward to seeing you at our Acton Shelter soon!

Goliath Kills Thousands of Dairy Cows

As 2015 drew to a close, a deadly winter weather system raged across the U.S., lashing multiple states with wind and snow. The storm, named Goliath, claimed among its casualties more than 30,000 cows on dairy farms in Texas and New Mexico. As the Weather Channel reports, it is believed that many of the cows suffocated to death when they were pushed against fences by snowdrifts up to 14 feet high. So many cows perished that farmers have struggled to dispose of the bodies.

Though the immediate cause of death for these cows was a natural disaster, the ultimate cause was man-made. As we saw last year in the massive death toll of the 2015 bird flu outbreak and the Ohio highway disaster that killed hundreds of piglets, the animal agriculture industry’s reliance on raising, transporting, and slaughtering animals on a large scale creates the conditions for large-scale tragedy. Designed to maximize output while minimizing costs, this production model prohibits adequate health and safety measures for individual animals. The cows who died in Texas and New Mexico were kept in large numbers on farms where they did not have access to the shelter, dedicated onsite staff, and individual attention that could have saved them from death in the blizzard.

Farm Sanctuary cattle

Farm Sanctuary Shelter Manager Jill checks on herd members to make sure everyone is doing well in the snow.

At Farm Sanctuary, we are committed to the well-being of each and every animal in our care. Cattle at our shelters have access to warm barns at all times. During the winter, staff members diligently monitor and clear the pathways and outdoor areas our animals use to make sure that no one slips and falls. We also make maintain a caregiver-to-resident ratio that allows us to give individual attention to every animal, ensuring that no one is ever left out in the cold. Such precautions are costly, of course, but they are necessary for any operation that truly puts the animals first. On a commercial farm, where profit is the imperative, this sort of individual consideration is unfeasible; animal welfare and animal exploitation are irreconcilable.

It is not only the farmers themselves who place fiscal considerations above the well-being of individual animals. It is the pervasive view of farm animals as mere commodities that allows this industry to operate at all. Take the media coverage of this tragedy, which has emphasized the economic impact of the fatalities, and the resulting drop in the region’s milk production, on producers and consumers. In a society where we consume the bodily products of animals we never meet, a milk shortage will meet with a stronger reaction than will the deaths of 30,000 cows — sensitive, intelligent beings who, as we do, possessed personalities, desires, and fears.

Winter storm Goliath has now subsided, but another Goliath rampages on. The dairy industry, formidably armed with economic and political clout, exploits several million cows and kills approximately 2.5 million “spent” cows every year. Cows on dairy farms are subjected to a grueling cycle of insemination, pregnancy, and milking that leaves them frail and hurting. Their babies are taken away from them at birth, the females to be raised as replacements and the males to be sold at auction for veal or beef production. This is an industry that separates families, squeezes every cent it can from its animals, and discards those animals when they can no longer be milked for profit.

Farm Sanctuary resident DIane cow

At just five years of age, Farm Sanctuary resident Diane cow was considered “spent” and would have been auctioned off and slaughtered had her rescuer not stepped in to save her. Read Diane’s story at AnimalsofFarmSanctuary.com.

Unlike a winter storm, this giant killer of cows and calves is not going away on its own. Along with our allies and supporters, Farm Sanctuary has been fighting on behalf of dairy cows and calves for three decades, and our resolve is as strong as ever. The first step in this fight is one anyone can take: Boycott dairy products. To find out what else you can do, please follow Farm Sanctuary on Facebook and Twitter and visit us at farmsanctuary.org. Together, we can stop this Goliath.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and Factory Farming

Cattle at a factory farm

You may already know that factory farming creates appalling animal suffering and environmental degradation. But did you know that it also poses a grave threat to our ability to treat serious bacterial infections?

The Majority of Antibiotics We Use are Given to Farm Animals

For decades, factory farms have administered large quantities of antibiotics — drugs designed for the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections — to animals who are not sick. In some cases, these drugs are used as prophylactics, to ward off potential infections. In other cases, the drugs are used to promote growth, hastening animals to their market weight. It is estimated that more than 70 percent of medically important antibiotics, i.e. antibiotics also used in humans, consumed in the U.S. are given to farm animals for non-therapeutic purposes. Worldwide, more than half of all antibiotics used are used on farm animals.

Pigs at a factory farm

The prophylactic use of antibiotics is especially prevalent among intensive farming operations, where crowding, poor living conditions, and a lack of individualized care make animals highly susceptible to infection. The large groups of confined animals on factory farms can become breeding grounds for pathogens, and such zoonotic diseases as salmonella, E. coli, avian influenza, and swine flu have all been linked to the industry. Preemptively administering antibiotics to entire herds or flocks does not eliminate the problem — rather, the practice creates an environment where bacteria can evolve rapidly under the selective pressure of the antibiotics and become resistant to them. By throwing massive quantities of antibiotics at the problem of infection in their herds, farmers are engaged in an arms race they are doomed to lose.

Antibiotic Resistance Is Dangerous for Everyone

According to Statista, drug-resistant infections are rising precipitously. The site reports that, “by 2050, ten million people are set to lose their lives every year unnecessarily unless drastic action is taken to tackle the problem.” As reported by the BBC, a new report from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has identified antibiotic use on farms as a crucial component of the human health threat.

Infographic: Deaths From Drug-Resistant Infections Set To Skyrocket | Statista
Chart via Statista

The AMR report (PDF) identifies multiple risks created by high antibiotic use, and the consequent evolution of drug-resistant bacteria, in farming: drug-resistant strains of bacteria may be passed directly between animals and humans (primarily farmers); drug-resistant strains may be passed to humans who consume meat and milk from infected animals; and both drug-resistant bacteria and un-metabolized antibiotics may be released into the environment through the animals’ excrement.

Once a resistant strain of bacteria has entered the human population, it has the potential to spread far and wide, infecting individuals regardless of whether or not they have worked with farm animals, come into contact with farm waste, or consumed infected meat and milk. The risk affects everyone.

Chickens at a factory farm

AMR observes that some last-resort antibiotics for humans are used extensively in animal farming. Last-resort antibiotics are those used only when other antibiotics have failed; these highly effective medications are used in this sparing manner in order to limit bacterial exposure to them and thus to stave off the development of resistance. In China, researchers recently found a bacterial gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic Colistin. Potentially damaging to the kidneys, Colistin is used only when a multi-resistant bacteria leaves no other option; due to the worldwide increase in such bacteria, doctors have been increasingly forced to rely on this last resort. Colistin-resistant bacteria have existed for some time, but this latest discovery is especially troubling, because the new gene found by researchers can be easily transferred between different bacteria. The gene appears to have arisen among farm animals and has now been found in human hospital patients.

Factory Farming and Antibiotics Are Inextricably Entangled

The AMR report states: “…we believe that there is sufficient evidence showing that the world needs to start curtailing the quantities of antimicrobials used in agriculture now.” The authors present three proposals for pursing this course of action: 1) establish a global target to reduce antibiotic use in food production to an agreed level and restrict the use of antibiotics that are important for human health; 2) rapidly develop minimum standards to reduce antimicrobial-manufacturing waste released into the environment; and 3) improve surveillance to monitor the problem and the progress toward its solution.

Dairy cows

Though these proposals may begin to address the crisis, they stop far short of a measure that is obvious to any farm animal advocate. Implementing regulations or incentives to reduce antibiotic use in factory farming is treating the symptom, not the disease. The excessive use of antibiotics in factory farming is motivated by the essential nature of the industry, which is based on treating animals as units of mass production. As long as staggering numbers of animals are raised in intensive confinement, these animals will continue to be especially vulnerable to pathogens, and the farms where they live will continue to present a threat to human health. Factory farming is the disease, and ending it is a therapy the world desperately needs.

For all those who view the abolition of factory farming as an extreme measure, the recent reports of accelerating antibiotic resistance should be a wake-up call: The situation is already extreme. We are facing a catastrophic threat to human health, and in these desperate times, the dismantling of industrial agriculture is an eminently sane measure.

Want to make your voice heard about this issue? Sign our petition to urge your elected officials to take a stand.

How You Made a Difference for Farm Animals in 2015

Join Farm Sanctuary as we look back at the miracles you made happen this past year by putting compassion first for farm animals. As 2015 draws to a close, we are reminded that every farm animal is special and deserves a life free from cruelty and abuse.

Thank you for helping Farm Sanctuary be the rescuer, caregiver, and advocate farm animals desperately need. A compassionate world begins with you!

Your support helped make miracles happen for farm animals in 2015! These are some of the incredible individuals whose…

Posted by Farm Sanctuary on Friday, 25 December 2015

Notes from the Frontline: Campaigning for Farm Sanctuary

Farm animal confinement: Veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages

By Dallas Ryan, Farm Sanctuary Intern

I had no idea what to expect. I was in Massachusetts, sent by Farm Sanctuary to collect signatures. The thought of going up to complete strangers and asking them for their support seemed rather nerve-wracking. Stepping outside my comfort zone and doing it anyway, however, led me to quickly realize just how rewarding campaigning and gathering signatures is, especially if done in the name of something you truly believe in.

Signature-gathering for animals

The author with a compassionate signer!

Whether it was outside the local grocery store or walking on campus, most people have had some sort of encounter with signature-gatherers. The reactions of those walking by are always mixed: Some hurriedly say no, while others ignore.

And then there are those who stop to learn more. Though signatures are our goal, I know our mere presence is making a sizable difference in the public’s awareness – even among those who walk right on by. If, just for a second, I allowed them see something they had never seen or thought twice about before, that is success. For all I know, they could have looked up our efforts online later that day and spread the word during dinner. These types of reminders are important to keep in mind, especially when one finds the job exhausting or when the number of failed attempts to reach people becomes discouraging.

The best and most reassuring reminder of all: why you’re standing there and who you’re standing up for.

For me, other Farm Sanctuary volunteers, and the many others involved in this particular campaign, it’s the animals on factory farms in Massachusetts suffering every day from cruel and inhumane confinement practices. As part of the Citizens for Farm Animal Protection – a broad coalition of non-profit organizations, farmers and businesses, community leaders, and grassroots activists – we are working to enact a ballot measure in Massachusetts that will ban three of the most cruel and inhumane confinement practices used on factory farms: veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages.

Signature-gathering for animals

A concerned Massachusetts resident signs the petition!

All those offering their signatures and spreading the word are helping us make sure calves are no longer taken from their mothers and placed in crates designed to keep them deprived and immobilized for the remainder of their lives.

Everyone signing is helping to protect pigs, highly intelligent creatures who need a certain level of mental stimulation (like humans), from being subjected to gestation crates built only about two feet wide.

And of course, citizens’ support is also helping us ban battery cages and protect hens from being crammed, five or more hens to a single cage, with dimensions that allow each animal less space than the size of a standard piece of paper.

If this law is passed, Massachusetts will join ten other U.S. states that have already passed laws to address these kinds of inhumane practices. The opportunity to save these animals from horrible suffering makes all the hard work involved in campaigning more than worth it. At the end of the day, all I have to do is remember how many animals are depending on me to be their voice and end their suffering. And this is what has and will continue to keep me going, one signature at a time.

Thanks to the efforts of Dallas and hundreds of others, the Coalition was successful in gathering all the required signatures in the first portion of the ballot initiative process. Stay tuned for updates!

Want to intern to help farm animals? Learn about Farm Sanctuary’s internship program.

We Are Not Alone

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Sonny steer at Farm Sanctuary

I turned around and Sonny was there.

I was having a really sad day. I decided to walk up the hill to find my best pal, a steer named Sonny. For five minutes straight, I just hugged him, wetting his neck with possibly a gallon of tears. Knowing I had to get back to work, I finally parted with him and walked down the hill toward the shelter buildings.

After a while, I heard a noise and turned. Sonny had left the herd and followed me. He knew I needed him, so he was there.

Just like us, animals need to feel that they are not alone. During my two decades in animal sheltering, I have witnessed the power of family and friendship every single day. All creatures have a will to live, and friendship motivates them to live their best, supported by and supporting others.

Here are my favorite examples from the past year.

Farm Sanctuary sheep residents Tracey, Louise, Hazelton, Reubie, and Summer

Louise, Tracey, Hazelton, Reubie, and Summer enjoying a beautiful day at sanctuary.

In February, three lambs were born at our New York Shelter. Far along in their pregnancies when they were rescued from neglect, mamas Tracey and Louise (Tracey’s daughter) faced high-risk deliveries, but with the help of devoted shelter staff, everyone made it through. Tracey, who delivered son Hazelton first, supported Louise during the birth of twins Reubie and Summer, calling out to the younger ewe throughout her labor. Tracey also nursed Summer when Louise couldn’t produce enough milk for both twins.

As dairy sheep, Tracey and Louise endured repeated impregnation. Though Tracey was allowed to keep Louise, all of her sons were likely taken away to be sold for slaughter. Hazelton was the first son she was allowed to keep, and she wasn’t about to let anything happen to him. When we introduced the group to our main flock, Tracey immediately began putting everyone in their place, head-butting even the largest males, so all knew that her family was not to be bothered.

Sheep express affection and devotion primarily through physical closeness, which is why you’ll find this family sticking together and sleeping side-by-side at night. For Tracey and her clan, sanctuary means being together.

Romy lamb and Levi goat at Farm Sanctuary

Levi, right, with his best friend Romy

Levi was found loose in NYC after escaping from a storefront slaughterhouse. During his first weeks at sanctuary, he stayed indoors sitting on a hay bale. We feared this behavior arose from health issues, but it turned out that Levi, who had likely witnessed the slaughter of his herd mates, was simply too terrified to do much of anything. Though we approached him with gentleness and care, he could not trust us.

That all changed when he met Romy, a lamb who came to us from a small farm where he was found alone and dying in the cold rain. When Romy was finally well enough to go outside into his yard, Levi couldn’t help coming out into his own adjacent yard to investigate. Within hours, the little goat who had been paralyzed by fear was running, jumping, and kicking up his heels as he played with his new best friend.

Following the lead of gregarious Romy, Levi has become a whole new goat, bravely walking right up to human visitors. His friendship with Romy has transformed him, and his world, once limited to the corner of a hospital pen, has gotten a whole lot bigger.

Calvin, Vince, and Paul Harvey goats at Farm Sanctuary

Vince, center, with his best friends Calvin, left, and Paul Harvey.

Vince had a rough start in life. Born at a goat dairy — a male kid in an industry that has very little use for males — he was used as partial payment to a tree trimmer. But the tree trimmer didnʼt want him either, and went door-to-door in his neighborhood trying to sell him. Things started to look up for Vince when he was taken in by a kind woman who wanted to protect him, but she soon discovered that her little charge was very sick. She contacted Farm Sanctuary, and we were able to get Vince the care he needed, which included antibiotics, tube feedings, and medication for his pain. Slowly but surely, he began to feel better, and he was finally able to leave the veterinary hospital and come home to our Acton shelter. But goats are herd animals; Vince was lonely as the new and only kid at the shelter.

Fortuitously, we learned that a combination goat dairy/sanctuary is phasing out their dairy business to focus on their sheltering work. Though the sanctuary’s operators initially intended to support their sheltering work by selling dairy products from the goats in their care, they eventually realized that this model was not sustainable. Goats, like all other mammals, must be impregnated in order to lactate. That means that goat dairies produce not only milk but also baby goats. The facility had more goats than it could handle.

Enter Calvin and Paul Harvey, the best friends Vince could have hoped for! The trio has become a source of endless entertainment for sanctuary guests and staff. One of their favorite games is bouncing off caregivers who are bent over or lying on the ground with them. Buoyed by the friendship they share and the caring people all around them, the kids are keen to explore and experiment. For these best friends, the sanctuary is the best kind of playground.

Anna & Maybelle piglets at Farm Sanctuary

Anna & Maybelle — the best of friends and sweet as can be! Follow their adventures in their new home at The Daily Squeal!

Anna and Maybelle had likely fallen off a transport vehicle before they were spotted wandering on a busy roadside. Piglets are notorious for squirming their way out of trailers, and they sometimes fall out onto the road without the driver even noticing (this in addition to the countless piglets and other farm animals who end up on the road when transport vehicles crash or overturn); many of our residents came to us after these accidents. Such incidents can be fatal for the young animals, but Anna and Maybelle were lucky enough to avoid being seriously injured in the fall or getting hit by another vehicle. They also had each other, which was surely a comfort during their two frightening days by the roadside. Right now, these piglets’ lives are all about exploration and fun — and each other. They play and dig and run with utter abandon, and they are always together. When separated for even a few moments, they squeal and run to search for one another. When we watch them romping and rooting, we recognize a common joy in simply being alive.

There are so many other beautiful bonds that we’ve seen over the years. It saddens me that the majority of industry-raised animals are deprived of these experiences, but at Farm Sanctuary, we take the time to nurture these ties that mean so much to our animal residents. We recognize that our animal residents share so much in common with us: awareness, intelligence, rich emotional lives. Just like us, they crave companionship, playmates, and a support network — and making sure they have it is a vital part of the Farm Sanctuary life.

Remembering Joey

Joey enjoying the pasture

Joey enjoying pasture time at Farm Sanctuary.

This month we said goodbye to Joey, a goat who had called our New York Shelter home since 2007. If you ever visited the shelter, you probably remember Joey. He was usually one of the first members of his herd to approach guests, and he loved attention.

Joey joined the shelter family when he was just six months old. He was found wandering the streets of Brooklyn with a slaughter tag from Texas in his ear, likely having escaped from one of the city’s live markets. These storefront slaughterhouses are notorious for keeping animals in unsafe and terrifying conditions before slaughtering them onsite. Luckily, Joey escaped and found a home where he could be loved without reservation.

It took a while, however, for Joey to warm up to us. It’s likely that Joey witnessed the slaughter of other animals, perhaps even family members, before his escape. When he arrived at sanctuary, he was terrified of everyone. We had to place him  in a special pen with high walls, so he would not jump out. Even when he finally joined a herd of goats, he was so frightened that, on his first day, he scrambled over a fence and wedged himself behind a fuel tank. Thankfully, he was unharmed. It took about six months for Joey to finally realize that he was among friends and truly safe.

That realization transformed Joey. Eventually, he felt so at ease here that when he napped, he really checked out. He was notorious for snoring and groaning as he enjoyed a deep doze. Every time we welcomed a new shelter staffer, intern, or tour guide, we would inevitably get a worried call over the radio about a goat who was “down and making weird sounds.” It was just Joey at peak relaxation.

Joey goat

Joey, with his friendly, outgoing personality, was a special favorite of many Farm Sanctuary visitors.

When he was still young, Joey lived with a group of female goats and became utterly smitten with a doe named Cocoa Bean, who was several years his senior (staff joked that he was into older women). The two slept by each other’s sides every night. Even when this group was integrated with the sheep flock, which was also home to several goats closer to Joey’s age, Joey remained devoted to Cocoa Bean, staying by her side even as old age slowed her down.

In his prime, Joey was huge, one of the biggest goats on the shelter, but he was also gentle. When he first joined the sheep flock, the group was led by Dino, a much smaller goat. We’d placed Dino with the sheep because he was not quite strong enough to contend with the hardier goats in the main herd. Among goats, hierarchy is typically determined through contests of strength, and if Joey had wanted to oust Dino, he could have. But Joey never once made a move on the position, even when Dino was further weakened by geriatric health troubles. Only when Dino passed away did Joey take over the lead. Though he had never felt compelled to fight for leadership, Joey stepped into the role adeptly and became an excellent leader to the herd. When the sheep were on the move, you could count on finding Joey out in front.

From a youth spent snuggling with his sweetheart to maturity as head of the heard, Joey experienced the full arc of life at sanctuary before arriving to old age. As Joey aged, he developed a spinal cord condition that caused ataxia, and his hind limbs gave out when he attempted to rise or walk. The condition gradually worsened, and we even attempted to outfit him with a special cart/wheelchair designed for goats. He was no longer able to run at the front of the herd; he had to follow, ever so slowly, behind. Just as he had once supported Cocoa Bean when her pace slowed, Joey now received support from his friend Clarabell. She stayed by his side on the way to pasture in the morning and back to the barn at night, even though it meant a very long, slow journey each way.

Clarabell and Joey

Joey, front, with his devoted friend Clarabell.

Joey met his changing condition with equanimity, and through the help of the cart and other interventions, we were able to keep him comfortable and happy for over a year after his first symptoms emerged. Ultimately, however, Joey’s condition became more severe and spread to the brain, leaving him unable to rise and, on his last day, unaware of his surroundings. Recognizing that we could no longer provide a good quality of life for Joey, we made the difficult decision to say goodbye and helped him pass peacefully through euthanasia.

Remembering Joey, we think of those funny noises he made in his sleep. In a way, they were the sounds of sanctuary: total trust, utter peace, sweet surrender to the pleasure of being alive and safe. Joey loved his home, was good to his friends, and looked out for his herd. Life for him was straightforward, simple, and kind, and he too was all of those things. He will be deeply missed.

Joey goat

Joey on a brisk winter day at sanctuary.

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!