Spring Has Finally Sprung


It’s been a very long and a very cold winter at the New York Shelter, but a belated spring finally arrived. Here is a taste of springtime at the sanctuary!

Mud Everywhere!

A sudden abundance of mud was our first sign that spring had come. Besides slogging through the mud, we have plenty of clean-up work to do, from clearing sand off the roads to repairing gutters damaged by winter weather. It’s hard work, but after five months of ice and snow, we hardly mind.


Marge splashes in the mud puddle on a warm Spring day.

A Bright, Yellow Orb has Appeared in the Sky

This time of year, you’ll catch shelter residents of all species (including human) standing outside, faces to the sun, just soaking up the warmth.


Tara and Jordan playing in the sun.

The chickens, in particular, are experts at basking, taking great pleasure in lying down and stretching out their wings to make the most of every ounce of sunshine. With the snow finally melted, the flock is also eager to dust-bathe, scratch in the dirt, and explore the entire sanctuary. You’ll often find them under the bird feeders, hoping that one of their wild neighbors will knock some seeds to the ground.


Chickens explore the green grass.

Many Residents Are Sporting New Duds (or No Duds)

Spring means it’s off with winter coats. Some animals, like the cattle, shed their fuzzy winter fur for sleeker summer coats. Others, including our very young and very old ruminants, no longer need the human-made jackets that helped them stay warm through the winter. The sheep started to get toasty in their thick wool, so spring shearing is a big relief for them.


Dara enjoys her new haircut.

And we’ve shed our coats, too — and our hats, and our gloves, and our insulated coveralls. For the first time in months, we’re actually recognizable!


Melody brushes Joey in the warmth of the sun.

The Ground Is Suddenly Covered with a Mysterious Green Substance

It’s been a while since we’ve seen grass, and many of our residents are absolutely thrilled to encounter it again. Our ruminants enjoy hay during the winter, but boy do they love getting out on fresh, green pasture.

Along with the grass, spring brought a profusion of wildflowers, including dandelions, a favorite of the sheep and goats.


Ingrid nibbles the dandelions.

Some Animals Are Really, Really Excited

Our pond freezes during the winter, which means no swimming for our waterfowl. By the time spring rolls around, they can barely wait to get back to the water. Few sights express the joy of the season so vividly as that of the ducks and geese returning to the water when their pond thaws at last. You can hear the joy, too, in the cacophony of honking and quacking as the flock members paddle, splash, and bathe to their hearts’ content.


The geese cool off in the pond.

Springtime Joy is Contagious

You’ll see a lot of running, spinning, and playing this time of year, even among our more “mature” residents. Just like us, the animals feel their hearts soar on these warm, sunny days of spring, and they just can’t help kicking up their heels.

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Maxie and Delilah scamper in lush green pastures with National Shelter Director Susie Coston.


No one enjoys a watermelon treat more than Ellen.




Postcards from the Road: Maine, the Good Life

By Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder
I recently visited Maine to speak at the VegFest, an annual event organized by the Maine Animal Coalition. Being surrounded by others who are interested in a more compassionate world was positive and inspiring, and it’s so good to see the community growing. Like other VegFest events I’ve attended, this event illustrated a burgeoning awareness about the benefits of plant-based foods and the need to reform our current food system.

I also visited The Good Life Center, which was founded “to perpetuate the philosophies and lifeways of Helen and Scott Nearing.” The Nearings were vegetarians and pioneers of the modern “back to the land” movement. In 1932, they left urban living for rural Vermont before eventually settling in coastal Maine in the early 1950s. Helen and Scott wanted to be self-sufficient and healthy, and, in Helen’s words, to “liberate and dissociate ourselves, as much as possible, from the cruder forms of exploitation: the plunder of the planet; the slavery of man and beast; the slaughter of men in war, and of animals for food.” Scott lived to be 100, and Helen died in a car crash at 91.


The “back to the land” movement, which focuses on environmentally sustainable foods, is thriving in Maine, with various small farms occupying the landscape. In both urban and rural locations, concerned citizens are seeking to be more connected to nature as well as to be more resilient and self-reliant. Part of this movement often includes growing one’s own food. Sweet Dog Farm in Brooksville, Maine, close to the Nearings’ farm on the Blue Hill Peninsula, is an example of the kind of farm that grows food in a healthy, sustainable way. They produce organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs without using animal manure, blood, bone meal, or any slaughter industry byproducts. Instead, they use plants, including seaweed that is plentiful in the nearby ocean, to enrich and build up the soil. They market their products directly to customers who can visit and purchase goods right on the farm. This type of community-oriented, organic, vegan farm is the wave of the future.


Sweet Dog Farm is run by Bob Jones and Doris Groves, who host participants from World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) (http://wwoof.net/) to lend a hand. WWOOFers volunteer their time in exchange for the chance to live on a farm and learn about rural life. During my visit, I met three WWOOFers who work at Sweet Dog Farm, one from Michigan, one from New York, and one from Alabama. They made a delicious lunch that we all enjoyed together, along with a group of neighbors who joined the meal and conversation. I am inspired to see so many people living mindfully and working to create a better world through healthy food systems and communities.

The WWOOFers at Sweet Dog Farm remind me very much of the interns at Farm Sanctuary — people who are involved in making a positive difference in our world. (For information on Farm Sanctuary internships, click here.) Since 1986, our interns have helped to advance Farm Sanctuary’s mission. Interns play an integral role at our shelters, and they continue to advance our cause when they return home and share what they learned with friends and family. I’m sure WWOOFers do the same.

The food movement is evolving, and it’s encouraging to see more and more people take an interest in growing their own food and embracing ideas that the Nearings’ promoted decades ago when they said: “We believe that all life is to be respected — non-human as well as human. Therefore, for sport we neither hunt nor fish, nor do we feed on animals

Leather: Cruelty in the Name of Fashion

By Bruce Friedrich, Director of Policy and Advocacy

A couple years ago, The New York Times Magazine ran a glowing cover profile of fashion designer Stella McCartney. The piece focused on how down to earth she is and how incredibly hard she works, but I was particularly interested in the sympathetic coverage of Stella’s animal rights activism and her refusal to use leather.

The successful designer reasons that, “Using leather to make a handbag is cruel. But it’s also not modern; you’re not pushing innovation.”

I suspect that this comment took many readers by surprise. Most people don’t realize how horrible leather is for the environment or that it’s devastating for tannery workers, nearby communities, and animals.


As I read the article, I was reminded of Joe Wilson’s and Valerie Plame’s appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher when the couple was promoting Plame’s book. During the segment, Maher gives Wilson a hard time for appearing on his show wearing a leather jacket. His response to seeing Wilson in leather is not surprising because Maher is vocal about his support for animal rights. Watching it, I was impressed that Maher, who is clearly supportive of the couple and respects them, was nonetheless candid about his disagreement with Wilson’s choice, pointing out that leather supports egregious cruelty to animals.

Farm Sanctuary has been providing lifelong care to cows and other farm animals for nearly three decades, and we can tell you from experience that cows are interesting individuals. They each have distinct personalities that range from playful to reserved. They form strong, loving bonds. Every day, we see that cows share the same qualities people admire in the dogs and cats millions welcome into their homes.


Michael running free at our New York Shelter.

And science validates our experiences. Cows interact with one another in complex and collaborative ways. They learn from each other and make decisions based on altruism and compassion. They even form “grooming partnerships,” just like chimpanzees. The Sunday Times (UK) science editor Jonathan Leake explains that “cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships, and become excited over intellectual challenges.” There’s much more, too, which we’ve distilled on the Someone, Not Something pages of our website.

Jane Goodall explains that “farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear, and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined … they are individuals in their own right.” For these reasons, Farm Sanctuary values all life. We would no more kill and wear a cow than we would a kitten or a puppy. And my guess is that people who wear leather can’t come up with a convincing explanation as to why these animals should be treated differently.


The sweet and curious Jay.

Besides dying for leather, cows in industry are abused throughout their short lives. Their bodies are mutilated without pain relief, they’re fed a diet that keeps them in chronic pain, and they’re transported for days at a time through all weather extremes. That’s just what happens in the United States. In China and the developing world, where most animal skins originate, the abuse of cows exceeds our worst nightmares.

Animals aren’t the only ones who suffer to produce leather. What most consumers don’t know is that even if a leather garment is expensive and made in the United States or Europe, the actual leather is probably still cheaply produced in China or the developing world.

leather tannery

In order to stop a cow’s skin from decomposing as it would naturally, it is treated with highly toxic chemicals, turning it into something that defies nature: an animal’s corpse that will never rot. These chemicals are horrible for the environment, for the workers in the tanneries, and for the populations living downstream. In the New Scientist, a lawyer for China’s Centre for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims describes conditions on one river poisoned by waste from a nearby tannery: “A few years ago, villagers could swim in the river. Now they get blisters on their hands and feet from touching the water. … When you stand close to the river you can smell rotting flesh because the leather factory dumps its sewage, made up of animal skin and meat, untreated into the river.” Is a leather jacket, belt, or pair of shoes really worth that?

This PETA investigation video, narrated by Stella McCartney, shows what animals and workers suffer for leather (this video contains graphic images):

Every time we choose what we’re going to wear, we’re also sending a message about who we are in the world. Wearing dead animals does not send a message of compassion. Instead, wearing leather carries a message of cruelty to animals and the poisoning of workers and communities. Who wants to be part of that?