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.

Disaster on the Highway

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

On the night of June 8, a semi-trailer truck crashed through a guardrail and tumbled down a ravine near Xenia, Ohio. On board the trailer were 2,200 piglets.

Between 300 and 400 of the piglets were killed on impact or so badly injured that they later had to be humanely euthanized by responders. Approximately 1,500 of the survivors were quickly captured and brought to a nearby fairground to be held until a second truck arrived the next morning to bring them to their original destination. That left an unknown number of piglets loose somewhere in the surrounding woods.

The Search

Farm Sanctuary was alerted to the accident the night it happened. National Farm Animal Placement Coordinator Alicia Pell immediately began contacting local authorities for information and to offer Farm Sanctuary’s help. She eventually learned that no one had kept an accurate count of the fatalities or of the live piglets who had been picked up by the trucking company. This meant no one knew how many piglets had disappeared into the woods. One estimate by local authorities put the number at 200.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (OHDNR) took charge of the search. The trucking company had relinquished custody of any remaining piglets after it picked up those at the fairground, counting the missing ones as an economic loss. The OHDNR informed us that any survivors would be free to go to sanctuary. With that assurance, we mobilized a rescue team.

The team arrived in Ohio the second morning after the crash. Five staff members had driven from our New York Shelter with a trailer, traveling all night to arrive as soon as possible; meanwhile, Alicia and a staff member from the Southern California shelter had flown in from the L.A. area. The team spent the next two days searching in coordination with the OHDNR and a number of volunteers who showed up to help.


After two days of searching, the rescue team had found no piglets. The search area was vast, and the forest was dense with undergrowth. Searchers could have walked within a few feet of a piglet and not seen him or her. Nonetheless, we concluded that the guess of 200 loose piglets was likely incorrect; the OHDNR estimates that there might be a dozen at most. We also concluded that the only effective way to find any survivors would be through a comprehensive search similar to the kind mobilized for human children missing in the woods, with dozens or more people combing the search area simultaneously. The authorities would not or could not launch such a search with their own manpower and would not allow such large numbers of volunteers into the area. Continue reading

The Bird is the Word

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

The end of spring has found us all aflutter at the New York Shelter, where we’ve welcomed more than 70 new feathered friends.

Reba and Willie
These two geese came to us from a private property in the Rochester area, where they were shut inside a small pen in a barn. In January, the property owner had obtained them from the local dog warden, who had found the geese as strays. What could have been a respite turned briefly into a nightmare for the pair: the woman is a suspected hoarder who has been reported to her local SPCA in the past. A friend of hers found out about Reba and Willie and called us, anxious to remove them from their miserable living situation. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate the release of the pair. At our shelter, they will have plenty of space to wander, graze, and swim, like all geese deserve to do.


Willie on the left, and Reba on the right, swimming with new friends.

Ace and Ventura
Around the same time, we learned of another goose in need. Ace had been living on a property in western New York for 15 to 20 years. He had once been a member of a flock, but all of his friends had been killed by predators. The property owner’s daughter and her aunt feared Ace would be next, so the aunt reached out to us. We gladly offered Ace a safe home at our shelter.



Geese are sensitive animals who form deep bonds with their mates and friends. Having witnessed the deaths of his companions, this poor guy was so distressed that he became neurotic and pulled out all his chest feathers. The feathers are now starting to grow back, but Ace is still frightened and has a great deal of emotional healing ahead of him. Finding him a friend to help him feel safe again has been a priority, but all of our residents are clearly paired up and bonded with other geese. Continue reading