Remembering Mary Tyler Moore

Gene Baur and Mary Tyler Moore at Farm Sanctuary’s 2004 Gala, for which she served as chairperson.

By: Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary Co-Founder and President

Last week, we lost a cultural icon, and I’ve seen numerous, well deserved, tributes and reflections about her life, but few highlight what Mary Tyler Moore, herself, said she wanted to be remembered for, “as somebody who made a difference in the lives of animals.”

I am deeply grateful to have worked closely with Mary, whose influence spanned generations. In the 1960s, she pushed to wear pants on the Dick Van Dyke show, and in the 1970s she played a single career woman on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and helped spur a nascent discussion of gender issues and inequities. Mary pushed the envelope with grace and guts, and served as a role model for women like Oprah Winfrey, who continue to give hope and inspire others today.

Mary Tyler Moore and Gene Baur hold a resolution from the City of Newark, NJ.

Mary Tyler Moore and Gene Baur hold a resolution from the City of Newark, NJ.

I was very excited, even giddy, when Mary Tyler Moore attended Farm Sanctuary’s gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 2001. She was a living legend who cared deeply about truth, justice, and compassion, and she showed up consistently to help out. Her commitment to protecting animals from cruelty was profound, as she said: “I help wherever I can. Whether that means going to Washington to lobby Congress or just showing up for a benefit and signing autographs, whatever needs to be done I do happily.”

Mary chaired Farm Sanctuary’s Sentient Beings campaign, which asserted that animals exploited by agribusiness are sentient beings, capable of awareness, feeling, and suffering, and that human beings have an ethical obligation to treat them with compassion. With Mary’s leadership, dozens of cities enacted proclamations, formally recognizing farm animals as sentient beings who deserve our respect.

Concerned that farm animals were excluded from basic humane protections, Mary urged elected officials to enact laws to prevent egregious suffering, and her presence turned heads. I recall lobbying with her at the Capitol in Trenton, NJ, and when people saw her, their faces lit up as they broke out into the Mary Tyler Moore theme song, “Love Is All Around”. Throughout her life, as the song intoned, Mary could “turn the world on with her smile.” Her efforts in Trenton inspired lawmakers to advance bills to outlaw the inhumane treatment of calves raised for veal, which passed the state Senate, but unfortunately, bogged down in the NJ Assembly.
Mary was a committed and tireless advocate and worked on Farm Sanctuary nationwide campaign to prevent the suffering of downed animals (animals too sick or injured to stand). In 2002, we successfully negotiated a provision to protect downed animals in the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill, but at the last minute, it was removed in a closed door conference committee by anonymous agribusiness allies. After a fruitless call with an agriculture committee staffer, Mary and I commiserated over the utter lack of transparency and accountability. We were frustrated, but we didn’t give up, and eventually, we’d win a federal ban on the slaughter of downed cows.

Besides working on legislative issues, Mary believed it was important to educate citizens. A highlight of my life was collaborating with Mary on a short documentary film called “Life Behind Bars.” I wrote the script, which she edited and improved, and we filmed it at her home near Central Park in Manhattan. Mary narrated the film, speaking to camera and reading from a teleprompter, and I was the director.  It was surreal to direct Mary Tyler Moore, who I grew up watching on TV. I began each scene saying “action.” She was a super star, and I had never directed, but Mary was warm, professional and collaborative, and she brought out the best in everybody.

515v+BRAhUL._SX349_BO1,204,203,200_As we began filming, Mary read about the suffering animals endure on factory farms. She was outraged by the cruelty, and her voice showed it. She stopped and looked at me, and asked, “Should I be angry?” We understood each other and shared the same perspective. How can you not feel angry when innocent creatures are so terribly abused? But, we both knew that sounding angry could shut people down and push them away. It was important for her to be authentic, but also accessible. “How about expressing sadness, instead of anger?” I suggested.

Mary moderated the narration, explaining the cruelty of factory farms and contrasting it with how animals live at Farm Sanctuary. The video exposed inhumane confinement systems including veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages, and called for these to be banned in the U.S. The film release coincided with an initiative campaign in Florida, which resulted in the first U.S. law to ban a factory farming practice (i.e. gestation crates). “Life Behind Bars” was also distributed to members of Congress and state legislators. Today, nearly a dozen states have outlawed one or more of these cruel systems, and consumer pressure in the marketplace is bringing about additional reforms.

2017-01-30_0844After filming, Mary treated us all to a vegan lunch at her apartment, which included vegan “shrimp” that she had first tried when it was served at a Farm Sanctuary gala. As we ate and unwound, we were joined by Mary’s rescued dogs, and I was reminded of her multi-faceted efforts. She cared about all animals, wild and domestic, and she always spoke on their behalf.

Mary’s humanity and generosity were inspiring, and it is fitting to see such an outpouring of love in response to her passing. She brought beauty and joy to a world filled with hurt and despair, and she did it with such brilliance and grace. She is now of the universe, but her earthly presence continues in those who she touched and who aspire to make our world a kinder place.

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


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 for more information.

3 and 4)  Kelley and Nina Lambs

2015_12-17_FSAC_Nina_and_Kelley_lamb_IMG_0616_CREDIT_Farm_Sanctuary (1)

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 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!

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

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

Three Piglets, a Thousand Miles, and a New Chapter

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

This is the story of Gabby, Xena, and Hercules, three little piglets who escaped the fate of one hundred million pigs slaughtered annually. They additionally escaped the lot of other pigs who are more intensely confined for breeding each year.


Gabby, Xena, and Hercules’ collective story could have followed the typical course. That version goes like this: Three piglets and their two siblings were born on a ranch. At the ranch — as at any facility, large or small, where animals are raised for meat, milk, eggs, or fibers — the animals were valued only in terms of the profits they would yield, and individualized healthcare wasn’t offered. Thus, when it happened that the piglets’ mother “dried up” and was unable to nurse them, the rancher did nothing to help. Keeping the piglets alive would have cost more time and money than he felt they were worth. All five piglets died of starvation. Versions of this story unfold at farms and ranches and industrial pork facilities all over the country, all the time. But that’s not how this story goes.

Instead, the piglets’ plight was discovered by a woman named Darci Feigel, who worked hard for three weeks attempting to nurse the five of them back to health. Sadly, two of the piglets were too far gone and, despite Darci’s best efforts, they passed away. The remaining three, however, rallied. These little piglets now had a chance to live and a caring rescuer on their side.


Darci knew she wouldn’t have space for three grown farm pigs at her small sanctuary. Searching for a permanent home, she got in touch with Farm Sanctuary. Though we didn’t have room for any new pigs at our own shelters, we were able to find placement through our network. Pasado’s Safe Haven in Monroe, WA, offered lifelong sanctuary to all three piglets.

We’ve transported many pigs over our years of rescue work (and seem to be on a roll), so we knew just what to do to help these piglets along. We guided Darci through the process of obtaining Certificates of Veterinary Inspection, which are necessary for transporting pigs across state lines. When the piglets were ready to go, National Placement Coordinator Alicia Pell drove up from our shelter in Acton, CA, to chauffeur the VIPs north to Pasado’s.

After picking up the trio from Darci, Alicia traveled on to our shelter in Orland, CA, where she and her passengers spent the night. The next day, she drove the 12 hours to Pasado’s, where Gabby, Xena, and Hercules were unloaded into their own room at the shelter’s Healing Center.

On the way, Alicia got to know this trio a little. Xena is somewhat timid and shy. Hercules, the biggest, and the only boy, was a little bossy with his sisters when it came to sharing the solid food they received in addition to their bottles. Gabby, the smallest of the three, is a feisty and hungry gal. During bottle feedings, she demanded to be fed first.

These are just the first sketches of the rich personalities and complex relationships these pigs will grow into as they establish themselves in their new home. They have so much living and discovering ahead.

The story of these three piglets could have ended abruptly and painfully on a California ranch, extinguished as a rancher with only the bottom line on his mind ignored their dwindling lives. Instead their story stretched all the way up the coast, bringing together a string of rescuers, creating new connections and enriching old ones. Now there will be so much more to their stories, so many more experiences and much more time to enjoy them.

The story of Gabby, Xena, and Hercules is just beginning. We’re a part of it, and so are Darci, and Pasado’s Safe Haven, and all the people who will meet these pigs there. And you.

Farm Sanctuary runs the largest rescue and refuge network in North America. It is a network of caregivers and physical resources that connects animals with help and homes. And it is also a network of concern — of witness — that connects their journey with thousands of readers. Through this community of rescuers, adopters, and supporters, we give new life not only to their animals but also to their stories, which have the power to help so many more. You are part of this network. You help us give life to these stories. Please pass them on.

The Farm Animal Adoption Network

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

A compassionate world begins with us. More than 9 billion farm animals are slaughtered each year in the U.S. alone. We wish we could rescue them all, but even with three sanctuaries, our space is limited. Thankfully, we also operate Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN), the highest quality farm-animal rescue and refuge network in North America. FAAN encompasses hundreds of individual adopters, as well as fellow rescue and shelter groups, and has a presence in nearly every U.S. state. Providing wonderful, secure, lifelong homes, the network allows us to make space at our shelters for new arrivals and also to undertake large-scale operations throughout the year. FAAN is an impressive example of what we can do when work together. Our FAAN members provide our animals with individualized care, seeing each as someone not something; a far cry from their treatment in the farms from where they are rescued.

Let’s meet a couple of our fabulous FAAN members who recently welcomed new arrivals to their homes.

Meet the adopters: Vicki and family

Vicki and Jonathan Harkness, owners of plant nursery Perry Hill Farm, have been adopting rescued animals for over 21 years, including a group of sheep, a cow, and several chickens through Farm Sanctuary referrals, as well as multiple turkeys directly from our shelter.

2015_12-21_FSNY_Sven_Jedidiah_Amos__Perry_Hill_009_CREDIT_Farm_SanctuaryIn December 2014, the Harknesses adopted three more New York Shelter turkeys, rescued as poults from a factory farm. They surprised their son, Joshua, with the new arrivals, whom he declared “the best Christmas present ever!” Vicki says, “Joshua is amazing with all the animals on the farm. He has grown up with them.”

2015_12-21_FSNY_Sven_Jedidiah_Amos__Perry_Hill_035_CREDIT_Farm_Sanctuary Sven, Jedidiah, and Amos have been enjoying their new home and following their new buddy everywhere. Vicki recalls looking out the window to see Joshua jumping on the family’s trampoline — while his turkey entourage waited patiently on the sidelines for him to finish and rejoin them.

“Adopting animals has affected all of our emotions,” says Vicki. “They make us laugh, feel love, they make us cry when they are sick, they make us get mad when they break down the fence and go on adventures, and then we end up laughing. When a cow gets into your house and has pooped all over your floor, all you can do is laugh!”

And the best thing about adopting rescued farm animals? “Seeing them happy, healthy, safe, and free.”


Meet the adopters: Molly and Lauren

Molly Merryman is a documentary filmmaker and an associate professor of Sociology at Kent State University, teaching courses primarily in the department’s Victimology concentration. Lauren Vachon, who writes fiction and poetry, has an MFA in Creative Writing and teaches Intro to LGBT Studies at Kent State University.

One day last fall, Molly and Lauren saw an alert from Farm Sanctuary about our rescue of 87 chickens who had fallen off a transport truck onto the Staten Island Expressway.

IMG_20150118_101802162 Wishing to do something for these birds, they reached out to us to adopt. Additionally, says Molly, “We live in a rural area where we see animal transport trucks regularly; we’re always upset at the conditions of the transport of those animals. We wanted to do something positive.”

Molly has been vegetarian for years, but at the time of the rescue, Lauren was still eating meat on rare occasions. When they talked about the possibility of adopting these birds, who would have slaughtered for meat if they hadn’t fallen off the truck, Lauren finally officially became vegetarian. She says, “The way these chickens began their lives, and the way they were rescued, and the fact that we wanted to be their caretakers seemed incompatible with eating meat.”

This January, they welcomed 12 of the Expressway hens to their 10-acre property in northeast Ohio. “The chickens are so fun and sweet and friendly!” says Molly. “We love how we can hold and pet them. We love how they come running as soon as they hear our footsteps. They are always so happy to see us.” The hens are staying warm through the winter in a cozy coop built by Molly’s dad. With wheels on the coop and a transportable enclosure, the hens will get to enjoy a moveable feast once the weather breaks, with their caregivers frequently shifting them to fresh patches of yard for foraging and exploring. This summer, the flock will get to investigate the garden.

Molly and Lauren are getting to know their new friends and have already encountered some stand-out personalities. Bitey, despite her namesake habit, is Lauren’s favorite, because she’s so curious; she’s always the first to come see what the humans are doing. Another flock member is Curly, instantly recognizable by her curled toes. Molly and Lauren have kept a close eye on her to make sure she’s getting around okay. Despite her slight deformity, “she does fine,” says Molly, “and we’ve been delighted to see that she’s one of the most persistent scratchers. She loves digging through the long grass underneath the coop.”


Lauren says the best thing about adopting the chickens is that she can’t wait to get home from work to go feed them and spend time with them —“their happiness is contagious.” Molly adds, “We both think it feels so good to know these hens have a rare second chance at a good and happy life, and that we’re the ones providing it. Taking care of them is so satisfying.”

Attention, Aspiring Adopters!

Interested in home adoption? Farm Sanctuary is always on the lookout for great adopters. We’re happy to help you figure out what sort of adoption is right for you and what you need to do to get ready. Visit our adoption page for more info or to fill out an application.

Remembering Willow

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Willow was all about family. She belonged to a herd of 30 cattle, 26 of them pregnant cows bred for beef production, whom we rescued from a farm in Butler County, PA, in 2004. The farmer continued to breed his cows despite the fact he could not afford to adequately feed them through the winter. By the time the cows were rescued, they were dangerously thin.

In her teens at the time, Willow was among the older members of the herd. She had already endured years in production, bearing one calf each year. Most of her calves had been taken from her when they were still young, but some of the females had likely been integrated into the herd. Willow was especially close with four younger cows — possibly her daughters by blood.


Willow lived 10 years at our New York Shelter, reveling in the company of this family. Before their rescue, the cows had each other and nothing else. Now, they had sprawling green pastures; shady hideaways; a clean, warm barn; and the vigorous good health that comes with nutritious food, expert care, and lots of exercise. Willow and her daughters cherished their freedom; so much so that their shelter arrival precipitated a wave of fence renovations. The entire Butler County herd was notorious for destroying fences to reach their favorite things, which included fresh pasture and fruit from our many apple trees.


As Willow grew healthier and stronger, she saw her family grow, too. She and her daughters, Celeste, Twilight, Meg, and Ashley, all arrived pregnant and soon gave birth to a cohort of beautiful calves. These devoted sons and daughters always felt safest when their moms were near. Even when they had grown larger than their mothers, the youngsters would still dive beneath them to nurse when they were worried or afraid.

We knew we could count on Willow to care for several young orphans, including some of the male dairy calves we rescued from neglect and abandonment over the years. And Willow and the other moms have done their part to welcome these newcomers to the herd, extending to these youngsters the care and affection that they were not able to receive from their own mothers.


That said, Willow the caregiver was also known to cut loose, playing, running and head-butting with family and friends. She also had a reputation as one of our “announcers.” Whenever the herd began moving to a new pasture, Willow would loudly proclaim the development. She sounded like a foghorn and could be heard throughout the shelter.

Still, Willow was wary of humans her whole life, a common trait among beef cattle. Unlike most farm animals, beef cows in breeding herds tend to have little contact with humans. They are left to graze and gestate with little intervention, even in the form of basic healthcare. The rare occasions when they do encounter humans are almost invariably traumatic, whether it is during painful procedures like castration, dehorning, or branding, all performed without anesthetic, or during the devastating separation when a young cow or steer is taken away to be fattened for slaughter.

Understandably, survivors of such farms are not keen on human contact. Thus, we left Willow largely to her own devices, intervening only when necessary for her wellbeing. Such was the case when, in 2008, Willow was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in her eye.

Like many other members of her herd, she was light-skinned and light-eyed and, therefore, vulnerable to certain cancers from sun exposure. Willow fought her disease heartily for years, and we gave her the best care and treatment we could. But late last year, we discovered Willow’s cancer – despite having been surgically removed and treated, had returned and spread. That cancer, which originally had been visible and treatable, had metastasized and was now internal and untreatable.

We could tell something was wrong when she willingly let us approach her — something she had never done before. She knew she needed help. For two weeks, our vet came to the shelter every day to treat Willow, attempting to build up her strength and resolve issues that we ultimately discovered were only secondary to her underlying condition. To our grief, the cancer could neither be cured nor effectively treated, and a great deal of pain lay ahead. We wanted to spare her that. Willow was euthanized in the cattle barn, passing away gently in a private stall.


When we let the other cattle back into the barn, they all came to the gate of Willow’s stall to visit her body. They were distressed, especially those with whom she had been closest. Her friends and family crowded around her protectively, as though to preserve her lifelong aloofness toward humans, and the members of her herd uttered guttural calls, a gesture of mourning.

No one who witnessed that display could doubt that cows experience grief. Willow’s son, Blue, was the most visibly upset, throwing his head and charging at staff who attempted to move her body for burial. Even Queenie, an older cow with a reputation as a tough cookie, was clearly distraught and ran after the equipment we used to take away the body of her departed friend.

Willow’s death, like her life, was defined by her relationships; her importance to her family. Her survivors were deeply saddened, but it is love that will also help them heal. The family she led is strong. The bonds will endure. Though Willow is gone in body, her spirit lives on in the generations she nurtured.


When Pigs Ride

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

During our 28 years in operation, Farm Sanctuary has not only provided lifelong sanctuary for thousands of rescued animals but also brought thousands more to loving adoptive homes through our rescue and refuge network. That number includes more than 200 pigs who we’ve transported to private homes and other sanctuaries. This winter, six more made the journey toward their new lives.

A Place for Every Pig

We met these pigs in August at Bob Comis’ farm in Upstate New York. After years of raising pigs for meat, Bob became uncomfortable with killing pigs for a living and decided that exploiting animals for food did not align with his values. He is now in the process of turning his pig farm into a vegetable farm. In the meantime, however, he had a small herd of pigs with special needs he could not address adequately at his property.

Initially, we took in a very sick pig named Gus and his best friend, Roxy, these two will live at our New York Shelter for the rest of their lives. Since we did not have space for the others at the time, we reached out to fellow rescue groups in our network to find fantastic homes for these pigs. Florida’s Rooterville offered a home to four of the pigs and Upstate New York’s Catskill Animal Sanctuary stepped in for the remaining two. Both sanctuaries have adopted several rescued animals from us over the years, and we were excited that they were able to welcome these newcomers to their herds.


Ready, Set …

Once placement was secured, we picked up the pigs from Bob’s farm and brought them to Cornell University Hospital for Animals to receive check-ups and prepare for their trips. All of the female pigs were spayed, a measure that substantially lowers their risk of reproductive tract cancer. (The male pigs were already neutered, farmers neuter male pigs when they are a few days old).

The pigs who were showing signs of arthritis also received radiographs, which revealed that two of them already have severe arthritis in their hips, even though they are under a year old and still growing. These two will need lifelong pain management. We determined they should go to Rooterville, where the soil is sandy which is great for sore hips and joints and the weather is warm; compared to the frigid Upstate NY temperatures.


Finally, all the pigs were cleared for travel, the paperwork was in order, and the shelters were ready to receive their new residents. First came the trip to Florida. Three members of our New York Shelter staff accompanied the pigs, driving in shifts so that they could make the 16-hour trip in one day. The trailer was set up like a mobile bedroom, with lots of straw for the pigs to make nests for sleeping during the drive. The transporters stopped twice to give the pigs their meals and multiple times to give them water and clean out soiled straw. When the transport arrived at Rooterville, the transporters helped unload their passengers and then turned around and drove right back to the shelter. They were troopers!


Next came the trip to Catskill. Though it was a much shorter drive, staff once again made sure that the pigs were as comfortable as possible. Even as they rode through the frigid weather of a New York December, the pair were cozy in their trailer/sleeper car. Upon arrival at Catskill, the two were welcomed into their new digs: a former horse field that staff had converted into a pig habitat just for them, remodeling the run-in shed into a cozy pig barn. Our friendly transporter (and farm manager), Mario, made such an impression on the welcoming committee that they named one of the pigs after him. The other they named Audrey.

All the Way Home

These special-needs friends may need a little more care and accommodation than your average pig, but they’re just as playful, curious, and full of fun. And they’ve been having a blast at their new homes.


The long drive to Florida was clearly worth it for the four pigs who now call Rooterville home. Even the two with severe arthritis are flourishing. The warm weather down south is easier on their joints than harsh Northeast winters, and the sandy soil of the Rooterville grounds is gentle on their legs and feet. Additionally, Rooterville staff have extensive pig experience; pigs being their main residents.

Also in good hands are the two pigs who stayed nearby. Says Catskill Farm Manager Kathy Keefe of Mario and Audrey: “They are doing very well, arguing with their neighboring pigs but settling in just fine. Mario is bold and fairly demanding of attention, mostly in the form of scratches and belly rubs. Audrey is more delicate and polite but enjoys the physical attention just as much.” She adds, “They are a joy to watch as they gallop across the field to see whoever comes by to visit or, even better, to feed.”

While they are reveling in all the joys of pighood, these porcine ambassadors are also helping to teach visitors to their new homes that pigs are individuals, with all the intelligence, sensitivity, and social facility as dogs and cats. In this way, one rescue of six pigs can galvanize changes that help millions.


Web of Hope

Even on small, non-industrialized farms, animals do not receive individualized care, and many are left with untreated and undiagnosed conditions. Over the almost 30 years of our operation, Farm Sanctuary has worked with vets and other experts to treat rescued farm animals and give them the care they have never had but so deserve. Every animal who comes to us is treated like a member of the family, and all their needs are met; their individuality is taken into consideration at every step, from the initial care they receive to the homes that ultimately welcome them. Today, we run the largest rescue and refuge network in North America and are able to respond with efficacy and assurance when an animal needs us. We are grateful for the opportunity to give these creatures better lives; for the wonderful sanctuaries, rescuers, and adopters who collaborate with us in this work; and for the animals themselves, who share with us so much joy at the simple gift of coming home

The more our adoption network grows, the more animals we can help. If you are interested in providing a lifelong home for two or more rescued farm animals of any species, please check out our Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN)

Lunch Hour

By Gene Baur, president and co-founder

This year, filmmaker James Costa and Birdstreet Productions released “Lunch Hour.” Celebrated by Forbes magazine and Mother Jones as a powerful new documentary about our food system, the film examines the National School Lunch Program, childhood obesity, and our country’s addiction to unhealthy foods.

Watch the film. Host a screening. Make a change. Find out more about what you can do at the film’s website.

James Costa is a board member of the International Documentary Association, a member of the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA), and recently joined the Farm Sanctuary Board of Directors. James answered a few questions for us about his film.


Interview with James Costa

Farm Sanctuary: What inspired you to make Lunch Hour? Do you think the timing is significant?

James Costa: I was visiting a school and saw what they were having for lunch. It was not something I’d give to my worst enemy. The timing is great, because right now everyone is concerned with what our unhealthy American diet is doing to our kids.


FS: You’ve made the film readily available to viewers through Amazon and iTunes. Tell us a little more about this grassroots approach to releasing Lunch Hour.

JC: A film on school lunch is not going to go head-to-head with a blockbuster at the cineplex. Releasing it through iTunes and other digital platforms was the best idea, since everybody got to view it on the same day. It wasn’t like you had to live in NYC or LA to see it. A person living in the smallest town in America could see it as long as they had the Internet.

FS: What was the most surprising thing you learned during the making of the film?

JC: How certain groups were so suspicious of the film before they even saw it. They thought it was a film that was going to attack the food service workers and blame everything on them. It just shows you how attacked they must feel. Once they watched the film, they realized I was praising them.

FS: What sort of response has the film received thus far?

JC: The people who have seen it have really connected to it. When I am lucky enough to attend a screening, the discussion is lively, and you can see and hear all the wheels turning to get this issue to a result where kids get healthy meals.


FS: You’ve been a longtime supporter of Farm Sanctuary and are deeply involved with other animal advocacy efforts. What are some of the connections between factory farming and the issues surrounding America’s national school lunch program?

JC: A lot of the meat that is in the school lunch program comes from factory farms. We have to understand that the ill effects of factory farming are going to be consumed by the children of America. It’s pretty frightening. I’m surprised parents aren’t going to the schools with torches and pitchforks asking for this disgraceful practice to end.

FS: Considering the reliance on factory-farmed meat in America’s schools, what kind of impact do you think a shift to healthier lunches for children will have on the industrial food system and farm animals?

JC: There will be less demand for the products of factory farms and more demand for healthier, plant-based foods. I don’t mean to get preachy here, but if something is not good for you, you can’t wish it to suddenly be good for you or keep eating it and expect different results. Kids need healthy foods to remain focused in school and be the best students they can be. Giving them junk food because they are used to it is not a solution. It’s a sellout that only hurts kids in the long run. Sorry, but I never want to defend that side of the argument that defends the status quo. It’s not a good side to be on.

FS: The film points out that we are at times too embarrassed to look at our own complicity in how our children are treated, and it prompts us to act on their behalf as their voice for change. What if any connections do you draw between this important work for children and your animal advocacy work?

JC: We in the animal rights movement need to get kids to start eating healthy now, so when they become adults, they won’t feel like they’ve been deprived of anything. Kids are smart and love animals and don’t want to see them hurt. Parents don’t want to see their kids being sick and unhealthy. Getting the word out to parents about what goes in their kids’ school lunches is a start. It’s why I made Lunch Hour. Getting involved in this issue is good for the kids, animals, and the environment. It’s a win-win-win!