Book Barn: Jenny Engel and Heather Bell of Spork Foods on ‘Vegan 101’

New vegan cookbook by Spork Foods sisters

Sisters Jenny Engel and Heather Bell, owners of the L.A.-based gourmet vegan food company Spork Foods, are out with an amazing new cookbook, Vegan 101!

I’m super-excited about your new book Vegan 101: A Vegan Cookbook: Learn to Cook Plant-Based Meals that Satisfy Everyone. What inspired you to write it?
We’re so happy you’re excited about it! Our constant source of inspiration comes from our student base. We teach about 10,000 people a year how to make vegan dishes, so we have a lot of conversations with people who are longtime vegans, and many others who aren’t vegan at all, but are coming to class to try it out. Almost everyone requested quick and simple vegan dishes that taste great, so that’s what we focused on for this cookbook. We really want these dishes to be accessible to anyone.

Will this book please vegans and non-vegans alike?
Oh yes! Since most of our student base isn’t vegan, it’s imperative that we create dishes that everyone will love. We take the challenge very seriously!

Vegan 101

Acorn Squash Fritters with Korean Spicy Sauce from Vegan 101!

Are there recipes that will make people forget that they are eating vegan?
Absolutely! What comes to mind is our Acorn Squash Fritters with Korean Spicy Sauce. Essentially, this fritter is crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. There’s a sweetness about the squash, and paired with the spice from the sauce it comes together really well. The soups are also very pure and simple, like our Velvety Kale Soup with Cashew Cream. It’s decadent but nutrient-packed, leaving people satisfied and proud of themselves for making such a healthy choice.

You both have a great sense of humor. What keeps you always smiling? Is is the food?
That’s a really sweet question! What keeps us smiling is being able to spend each day together. It had always been a dream of ours to have a sister business, and now that we get to run it together, what’s not to smile about? The food is absolutely part of it, but what’s more is that we get to support a vegan lifestyle each and every day for a living.

Vegan 101

Velvety Kale Soup with Cashew Cream by the Spork Foods sisters!

What’s your funniest story of something going wrong in the kitchen?
We once had an assistant put their hand through a full cheesecake in a spring form pan while taking it out of the oven in a cooking class! Luckily we had made one in advance so all was well! It wasn’t funny at the time but now it’s hilarious!

Who would you love to have a meal with, living or dead?
We’d love to have a meal with Bob Marley. His positive message is so widespread and special; you can feel it in every song you hear. His music makes people feel good, and so we’d want to make him feel good with a belly full of organic vegan food.

Where did you learn how to cook?
Oh this is a good one, with a three-part answer! Our Mom cooked constantly while we were young and made huge pots of food, encouraging neighbors, friends, and family to just drop by. We loved how welcoming she always made our home, so we asked to take cooking classes as kids. Mom and Dad sent us to a kids’ cooking school when we were about five and seven, and although it wasn’t vegan, we learned the basics and fell in love with the process of cooking. Later on, we sent Jenny to the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC to further her education.

Who are you most influenced by?
We’re most influenced by animals. At the core of what we do is actually activism. There are so many ways to be an activist. Some people hold up posters outside of places who are abusing animals. Others give money to great causes. We have chosen to use our love of cooking to prevent cruelty to animals. We believe that animals are not for us to use in any way. The cooking skills we developed we share with our students so that they can also make meals that change people’s minds about food and ultimately save lives.

Adopt a Turkey certificates

Adopt a Turkey Project adoption certificates on the refrigerator at Spork Foods headquarters (via the sisters’ Instagram account, @sporkfoods).

You’re being interviewed by Farm Sanctuary. Why do you think people should support Farm Sanctuary?
Farm Sanctuary is near and dear to our hearts for many reasons. One of our favorite programs is the Adopt a Turkey Project. Each year for the past 10 years since we started our business, we adopt a turkey in honor of Thanksgiving. We have their photos on our refrigerator for all of our students to see, and they absolutely love it. We’ve even gotten to go to Farm Sanctuary and sit with turkeys and just be with them. Many people don’t know how sweet and cuddly they are. And how much they love eating kale and cranberries. Farm Sanctuary rescues animals in danger, advocates for them and educates people about the importance of kindness to all creatures. How could you not get behind Farm Sanctuary!? We will continue to participate in the Walk for Farm Animals and donate to galas for as long as we’re in business.

What’s next for the two of you? A little birdie told me someone is going to be a mommy very soon.
2017 will be a really fun year for us! Heather will be a first-time Mommy to a little girl, while Jenny’s boy, Evander Bluejay, who will be one, shows her the ways of the world. While those two vegan babies get trained to take over Spork Foods one day, we will be actually launching a secret food product that’s been in the works for years. We’re so excited about it and can’t wait to give you more details when the time is right!


James and sheepThis is the the second installment in the “Book Barn” series with Farm Sanctuary Board Member James Costa. An ardent animal activist and a regular contributor to Litbreaker Media, James is the director of the documentary Lunch Hour, which looks critically at childhood obesity and school lunch programs. Currently, James is working on a new documentary about Native Americans and diet.

Read the previous Book Barn installment, a Q&A with Kathy Freston on her latest, The Book of Veganish, here.

Gene Baur Responds to Cuomo Administration About Dairy Promotion

Gene Baur and rescued dairy calf Ari

Gene Baur and dairy-industry survivor Ari.

Back in August, the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would subsidize the well-known Milk Bar at the New York State Fair, allotting $90,000 to keep the price of a cup of milk at a quarter.

Farm Sanctuary President & Co-founder Gene Baur — who for three decades has been spreading the word about dairy’s damaging effects on animals, human health, and the environment — wrote to Gov. Cuomo, urging him to reconsider.

Recently, the governor’s office replied, reiterating support for the dairy industry but also noting an area of common ground.

letter_to_gene

See Gene’s response — addressing issues relating to dairy including cows’ milk and calcium, the incidence of bone fractures among cows’ milk consumers, and the dairy industry’s effects on the environment — below:

Gene Baur New York State Fair response letter

 

Book Barn: Kathy Freston Talks ‘Veganish’

By James Costa

Kathy Freston is a New York Times bestselling author four times over; her works include The Lean, Veganist, and Quantum Wellness.

Kathy Freston is a New York Times bestselling author four times over; her works include The Lean, Veganist, and Quantum Wellness.

 

Hi, Kathy, I’m super excited about your new book The Book of Veganish! Tell me what inspired you to write it.
I wrote this book with Rachel [Cohn] because we were having coffee one day, and realized that there’s so much more to going plant-based than just deciding not to eat animals.  How do you date (or marry) someone who is not on the same page as you; what do you say when someone makes fun of you, or taunts you for not being 100% perfect and pure; how do you make food that’s fast and friendly and hearty; what are the perfect swaps for eggs or protein?

So many questions a beginner struggles with… and we wanted to put it all in one place so that the guidebook is simple to use – like having a companion on the journey who is showing the way.  Plus, we wanted to offer super-easy, delicious recipes that had beautiful, color photos to go along with them so the reader could see what plant-based food looks like. It’s a less intimidating shift that way!

Who is this book for?
It’s for socially conscious young adults (and the young at heart!) who know they want to move away from eating animals, but just need some help on figuring out nutrition, social situations, and how to make seriously easy, fulfilling food.  A stunning 48% of young adults want to eat a diet without meat, so the book is a tool for advocacy.  It’s a gift for those already on board to give to their friends or family who are curious but have no idea how to start.

There are tons of vegan books out there. What makes this one different? 
The Book of Veganish speaks directly to young adults – those aged 18 to 25. That’s a hugely important sector of the population that could use some support. A few things about Generation Z that sets them apart: They don’t tend to like labels (i.e “vegan”); they’re more fluid with how they identify themselves; they aren’t tied to the 3-meals per day program; they snack and eat at odd hours, not needing an official “lunch” or “dinner”;  they are mistrustful of government and corporations, so they go with their instincts and personal experiences more; and they want more than anything to lead meaningful lives that will make a difference.  I respect these people enormously; they are smart and aware, and they are the ones who are just about to go out into the world and start businesses and families, so it’s really important to empower them with what they’ll need in order to be successful with a plant-based lifestyle.  Our future – the future of the animals – is in their hands.

Is being veganish easy or is something that only certain people should try?  Veganish allows the curious to find his or her way comfortably and in their own time. I’m really glad that I eased into this way of eating gradually, because it stuck. If I had to get it right all at once, I would have quit and gone back to the foods I grew up with.  If we want people to succeed and thrive, we have to give them the space to find their footing.

What should someone do if they slip and fall off the vegan wagon? I know a lot of people feel bad and give up.
I hear all the time, “I like the idea of being vegan, but I could never give up cheese fries.”  Or Greek yogurt.  Or sushi.  So I say, “Enjoy the fries; have the yogurt; go for sushi; and just stay awake and aware.”  Show yourself some love and you’ll figure it out.  Eventually you realize that you don’t miss much of anything, and you feel so good that those old foods become a non-issue.

Is it easier for younger people to go veganish or can you teach an old dog new tricks? 
Well, very motivated old dogs certainly can learn. But after a pattern is well worn into the grooves of our psyche for decades, those daily habits are harder to break. Veganish makes the shift less jarring, more do-able. [Young adults], on the other hand, are just figuring out who they are so it’s a lot easier for them to set some good habits.

Do you feel hopeful that things will change and people will finally understand that what we do to animals is just wrong? 
I am not only hopeful, I’m excited.  Read the testimonials and tips from the kids and people we feature in the book; you’ll see that the future is already unfolding in an unbelievably good direction.

What are some of your favorite parts of the book and you feel are the things that can easily get people on the road to Veganish?
I love the quickie tips for snacks and foods that [young adults] have come up with that are protein-packed and can travel easily.  I also love the easy-to-navigate charts on what to eat and how to swap things out for better choices.

Author Kathy Freston was recognized at Farm Sanctuary's 25th Anniversary Galafor her efforts to promote cruelty free cooking. (Photo by Lesley Marino)

Photo by Lesley Marino

What should people know about Farm Sanctuary?
Farm Sanctuary is the only organization of its size where you get to experience – really experience – what animal advocacy is all about. We’re reminded of why we care, and why we need to care more. You can look into their eyes and connect with these animals, feel who they are as individuals. You see up close their quirky sweet personalities, so your commitment comes alive. The flame in your heart is fanned by their proximity, their absolute vulnerability. There is no better advocacy then knowing whom you’re advocating for.

What’s next for you? Any exciting new projects you can talk about?
Well, I love fashion.  And I love helping businesses that are devoted to replacing animal products.  So you’ll likely see me associated with any of those things in some form or another….


 

This is the first column of “Book Barn” with Farm Sanctuary Board Member James Costa. An ardent animal activist and a regular contributor to Litbreaker Media, James is the director of the documentary Lunch Hour, which looks critically at childhood obesity and school lunch programs. Currently, James is working on a new documentary about Native Americans and diet.

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

Cincinnati Freedom: The Legendary Slaughterhouse Escape Artist

“Escaped Cow Still on the Loose!”; “The World’s Fastest Cow!”; “Cow Becomes Local Hero!”; “Cow to Get Key to the City!” These are just a few of the news headlines that a snow white Charolais cow inspired in 2002 when she took a courageous leap of faith, cleared a 6-foot-high fence at a Cincinnati, Ohio slaughterhouse, and engaged citizens in a dramatic 11-day chase that gained national attention and still has people talking today.

3173854941_2635de1d51_z

As she resisted capture time and again, staying hidden in a park where she foraged and rested when she could, the courageous cow demonstrated an unbendable will, and her tremendous fight for survival resonated with the public. By the time of her capture, she had won the hearts of so many that calls for mercy poured into the city from all over the country. In the end, it was a plea from renowned artist Peter Max that brought the brave bovine safely to our New York Shelter, where she was named Cincinnati Freedom and given the liberty she always deserved.

3173848149_c3e682a7bb_b

Though one of our most elusive residents, choosing the company of cattle over people, Cinci nonetheless received countless visitors through the years, each one eager to catch a glimpse of the valiant cow they followed in the news. While sanctuary guests were unable to touch her, everyone who saw her was affected by Cinci all the same, as even her posture and gaze spoke of the intense life force burning within her and an acute awareness of the special place she inhabited in the world. Most were awed in Cinci’s presence, as she was a living testament to the desire for life we — human or animal — all share.

3174703386_15d593b2ac_o

Cinci’s effect on members of the cattle herd was equally profound. Forming a natural bond with other famous slaughterhouse escapees who came to the shelter before and after her (including Queenie, Annie Dodge, and Maxine), Cinci traveled with her strong, faithful female companions as an inseparable unit — the members of which moved gracefully and intuitively together as if all were of one body and one mind. But her spirit breathed life into the entire cattle herd, as well. While Cinci preferred that we humans keep a respectful distance, she connected with every cow and steer, treating each of them with the utmost tenderness and love. Continue reading

5 Ways Our Adoption Network Saves Animals

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Farm Sanctuary operates the largest farm-animal rescue and refuge network in North America. The Farm Animal Adoption Network (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, lifelong homes, the network allows us to make space at our shelters for new arrivals and also to undertake large-scale operations like last year’s rescue of more than 300 “spent” egg-laying hens. FAAN is an impressive example of what we can do when work together.

An animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary has sanctuary for life. Here’s are five things that set our Farm Animal Adoption Network apart:

1. We put farm animals first.

Because the animals we rescue are viewed by most people as food sources, we must be especially careful that they don’t fall into the wrong hands. We don’t advertise on sites like Craigslist or Petfinder. Nor do we advertise at feed stores or anywhere else where these animals might be associated with food production. We screen adopters thoroughly to be sure they are both committed to and capable of providing excellent, lifelong care.

2014_10-15_FSNY_Cornell_Health_Checks_DSC_1899_CREDIT_Farm_Sanctuary

We also never promote our animals by referring to qualities that could be exploited, like egg-laying for ducks, geese, and hens or “lawn-mowing” and brush removal for goats and sheep. Doing so might bring in more applicants, but they would be applicants who see these animals as a means to some end. These animals suffered in exploitative circumstances before their rescue, and they never will again. We insist that adopters treat their adopted animals as companions.

2. Health matters.

The FAAN application process involves a review of the housing and outdoor areas to be provided to the adopted animals, as well as personal and veterinary references.

Because the animals we rescue often face health complications due to industrial breeding and raising practices, we insist that adopters have access to appropriate veterinary services. Chickens bred for egg production, for instance, are prone to a slew of reproductive-tract ailments, from blockages to cancer. Though we adopt out only the healthiest of the chickens we rescue, access to expert care and treatment is still crucial for all the adoptees. Part of the process of adopting these special-needs animals into homes is teaching adopters how to care for them.

3. We go the distance.

We transport animals to their adoptive homes ourselves. This not only ensures that the journey is safe and comfortable for the animals but also allows us to evaluate their new homes in person.

We’ll bring animals to the homes that are best for them, even if those homes are hundreds of miles away. Take, for example, the four pigs we recently transported from our New York Shelter all the way to a shelter in Florida.

2014_12-03_FS_Comis_Pigs_Adoption_Rooterville_FL_IMG_0392_CREDIT_Farm_Sanctuary

Our many long-distance and interstate adoptions require careful preparations. Out-of-state adoptions also require testing and health certificates for specific diseases, which vary by destination state. Following these laws is imperative for the safety of the animals, since animals transported illegally can be confiscated and destroyed for testing.

4. We follow up.

Though adopted animals are living outside our shelters, they’re still part of the Farm Sanctuary family. Placement Coordinator Alicia Pell checks in with new adopters to make sure everything is going smoothly, and with the help of National Shelter Director Susie Coston, she regularly fields questions from adopters new and old about healthcare, behavior, and resources.

Many adopters have come to the sanctuary to learn even more about basic healthcare for their new family members, and many have attended our Farm Animal Care Conference, offered every September.

2014_09-20_FSNY_FACC_DSC_6882_CREDIT_Farm_Sanctuary

National Shelter Director Susie Coston provides in-depth instruction at our Farm Animal Care Conference.

5. We realize not every animal should be adopted.

Our rescued animals are survivors of abuse and neglect, which can leave them with persistent health challenges, or even special emotional needs, for the rest of their lives. For some, these difficulties require the sort of accommodations, monitoring, and care that can be provided only at our shelters .

2015_01-12_FSNY_Samantha_Leg_Arrives_DSC_0721_CREDIT_Farm_Sanctuary

Samantha, who requires a prosthetic leg, will always live at our New York Shelter so she lives in close proximity to expert medical care.

No sanctuary can make a sizeable dent in the number of farm animals slaughtered in this country, which is now over nine billion per year. What we can do is give wonderful lives to the animals we are able to save and do so by treating them as we would our own companion animals- as an individual. Each is important in his or her own right, as an ambassador and a thinking, feeling individual.

Care to learn more about 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.

Summer of Goats

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Summer has finally arrived, and the winter chill is fading to a distant memory. With the warm weather and longer days has also come a new phenomenon: Goats have taken over the Internet. Yes, goats. They’re cavorting through YouTube, overrunning BuzzFeed, and bounding into Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds as they play on slides, ride school buses, triumph over adversity, sing the Jurassic Park theme song, and appear unimpressed by British royalty.

2013_07-23_FSNY_Ingrid_and_Marilyn_DSC_5159_blog

Ingrid and Marilyn perfecting goat tomfoolery at our New York Shelter.

Whether goats have risen to popularity due to their curiosity, their irreverence, or their charming sense of rebellion, these charismatic creatures have gained some well-deserved pop-culture notoriety. By the end of June, Jezebel’s Kelly Faircloth had declared: “2014 is the Summer of Goats.”

Of course, we’ve always been big goat fans here at Farm Sanctuary. With over 25 years of experience rescuing and caring for animals, we’ve become an authority on all things goat. Although all of the goats at our shelters have been rescued from the sort of hardships that don’t make it into cute, viral videos, these indomitable animals remain some of the most joyful, funny, and fascinating characters you could ever hope to meet. So, join us as we celebrate our goat friends this summer on our website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Here are a few of our newest residents to help us begin celebrating the summer of goats.

The absurdly cuddly Totes, an orphaned kid, was rescued by a United States Coast Guardsman.

2014_06-17_FSOR_Totes_goat_arrival_3_CREDIT_Farm_Sanctuary

Our sweet Jordan was raised by a 4-H participant, but he ended up in pain and peril on the streets of New York City. Safe at our shelter, he’s healed and having a blast.

2014_05-19_FSNY_Jordan_goat_DSC_0019_blog

Abandoned at our gate and too small to join our adult goats, Hemingway found an unusual feathered friend — Ryan the gosling.

2013_06-23_FSOR_Hemingway_goat_June_2014_084_CREDIT_Connie_Pugh_blog

The cutest goat videos of Farm Sanctuary:

 

Humane Meat: A Contradiction in Terms

By Bruce Friedrich, Director of Policy and Advocacy

People have become increasingly aware that virtually all of the 9 billion land animals slaughtered in the United States each year for their meat are terribly mistreated. In fact, routine farming practices are so abusive that they would warrant felony animal cruelty charges if they were done to cats or dogs.

Logos-612x125

As a result, more and more compassionate people have joined the ranks of those who choose to eat a vegan diet. Some, however, have looked instead to meat from animals treated less badly, which is often stamped with a “humane certified,” or other such label, and may be referred to as “humane meat.”

This raises two questions in my mind. First, is there such a thing as truly “humane meat”? And second, even if we agree that some meat involves better conditions than conventional meat, should animal advocates promote it? I will address both questions in turn.

Is there such a thing as humane meat?
Let’s pose a question: Would you be willing to eat “humanely raised dog meat” or “humanely raised cat meat”?

humane_blog_dog

I suspect not, and yet there is no rational difference between eating a dog or a pig, a cat or a chicken. All of these species are made of flesh, blood, and bone. And they have interests and personalities, as everyone who has spent time at Farm Sanctuary knows so well.

In fact, scientists have shown that pigs and chickens outperform dogs and cats on scientific tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication. For the same reason that there is no such thing as humane dog meat, there is also no such thing as humane chicken, pork, or beef. Simply put, killing an animal in order to eat her cannot be called humane.

Let’s pose a second question: Would you be willing to cut an animal’s throat? For most of us, taking an animal’s life is abhorrent; we just wouldn’t do it. Of course, all of us could spend an afternoon participating in every aspect of getting plants to the table — picking them, packaging them, etc. But there is no aspect of slaughtering animals that is similarly pleasant, no aspect that any of us would enjoy doing.

2013_06-10_FSNY_Queenie_cow_humane_blog

If you’re like most people, you would not slice open a chicken’s throat for something as inconsequential as a meal. But this is precisely what we’re doing if we’re eating meat. Although we’re not personally killing the animal, we are paying someone to do it for us. And if we wouldn’t do it ourselves — if we wouldn’t even want to watch it — we should ask ourselves, where is the basic integrity in paying someone to do something we are opposed to?

Should animal advocates promote “humane meat”?
We should also understand that our decisions can have a strong impact on other people, and our decision to eat any meat at all (even if the meat is from producers that are less abusive) may influence others to eat factory farmed meat.

I’ve been a vegan for 27 years, and, in that time, I’ve convinced many friends and acquaintances to follow my lead. Each one of these individuals saves just as many animals through their veganism as I do through mine. Every person I convince to choose a plant-based diet increases my lifetime impact as a vegan.

But the reverse is also true: By not advocating veganism, all of those animals who could have been saved will instead suffer terrible lives and die horrible deaths.

Most people observing someone eating “humane” meat simply see a fellow meat-eater. They are not likely to change their own diets, because what they see is simply meat. Beyond that, eating “humane” meat is far more difficult than eating a vegan diet. Every restaurant in the country has something for vegans to eat, and it’s almost always cheaper than the meat-based alternatives. The vast majority of cities don’t have even a single restaurant that serves meat from animals who have not been factory farmed.

Obviously, working for improved living and dying conditions for farmed animals is a critical element in the animal rights movement. We should be fighting to ban gestation crates and battery cages. We should be working to ensure that the Humane Slaughter Act is properly enforced. The vast majority of Americans explicitly support banning abusive systems and decreasing abuse at slaughter, and we should strive to align our laws with our national values.

It’s important for the animals involved that we take steps toward ending the cruelty they endure every day. We cannot ignore the animals who are currently suffering.

But for anyone who truly cares about animals, veganism is the only choice that aligns our values — our opposition to cruelty and killing — with our actions.

It’s not that much to ask, and lives are depending on us.

2014_06-04_FSNY_Ellen_pig_eating_watermelon_humane_blog

 

Remembering Ivan

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Ivan has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve worked at Farm Sanctuary. When I arrived at the New York Shelter 14 years ago, Ivan was here to welcome me; he had been rescued during a cruelty case years before. And in the years since, I had the pleasure of seeing this incredible goat nearly every day.

2003_10-15_FSNY_0005_Ivan goat_CREDIT Derek Goodwin

When I think of Ivan, I think of the beautiful friendships he forged during his time with us. For many years, he had two best friends: TJ, an older goat who was the head honcho and reigning curmudgeon of the goat herd, and a goat named DiMaggio who was around Ivan’s age. The three of them spent their days rambling through our lush pastures, enjoying every moment of shelter life. Sadly, TJ passed away in 2009, leaving Ivan to assume the role of herd leader.

Ivan and DiMaggio became inseparable after TJ’s death, and they loved each other fiercely. From play-fighting out in the pasture to sleeping contentedly side by side in the barn, these two boys did everything together. Their friendship was an important part of Ivan’s life, and he was distraught when DiMaggio died of cancer.

Farm animals form strong bonds and mourn when they lose their herd mates, but thankfully Ivan was able to open his heart again. He developed another close relationship with an elderly goat named Shante who also had lost two close friends. Once Shante began spending time with kind and loving Ivan, each found a new best friend and a renewed sense of comfort. They spent the last two years of Ivan’s life making each other very happy.

Ivan and Shante_0259_CREDIT_Farm_Sanctuary

Ivan and Shante playing.

Although Ivan was healthy and active as he aged, last winter was difficult for him. Some health issues arose that are common among elderly goats, as did some symptoms that stumped his doctors. But, with care and treatment, Ivan rallied and managed to have yet another wonderful year.

This winter was different, however. Regardless of the many precautions we take and the extra comforts we provide, winter is a hard time for our elderly animals — and Ivan was no exception. Everything seemed fine until one day Ivan was suddenly too weak to stand. His legs were swollen, and he was clearly dehydrated. We quickly drove him to meet our vet in a parking lot, where he put a catheter in place and drew blood, which was rushed to the diagnostic lab. Unfortunately, the results revealed that Ivan was a very sick goat suffering from the final stages of renal failure.

Even with fluid therapy and around-the-clock care, Ivan’s condition rapidly worsened to the point that he was unable to hold his head up. At 17 years old, Ivan was clearly ready to say goodbye, and any extreme attempts to treat him would have been more for our benefit than for his. Euthanasia was the only compassionate option to spare him further suffering, and we were all devastated to lose our cherished friend.

We have all felt this loss deeply. It’s hard for me to convey just what a powerful presence Ivan was at the shelter. He was an impressive giant of a goat with long, graceful horns, but he was gentle and kind to every member of the herd. Goats establish a herd hierarchy largely through physically challenging one another, and dominance is determined primarily by strength. Yet, even when Ivan was older and clearly weaker, no goat in the herd ever challenged him. His benevolent leadership was accepted unanimously.

2009_08-02_FSNY_Ivan_goat_eating leaves_003_CREDIT Jo-Anne McArthur

Despite the cruelty he faced early in life, Ivan was gracious to humans and patient with everyone he met. He was even patient while asking for attention and known for silently inching to your side, politely waiting for you to give him some love. His sponsors adored him, and those who were able to visit him always brought him treats. And although he saw these sponsors only a few times a year, Ivan clearly remembered them as well as so many other human friends he has made over the years.

Ivan loved to roam and graze in our goat pasture and lounge casually on our goat jungle gym. But no matter how far away he was, Ivan would always come if you called his name. Knowing that we’ll never see Ivan and his beautiful family running to greet us when we call out to him is the hardest part. Now, our magnificent, regal Ivan has gone on to roam further pastures, comforted by his old pals.

I will miss Ivan dearly, as will everyone else who had the pleasure of meeting this special goat.

Ivan_Goat NY_Ivan goat bw_CREDIT Jo-Anne McArthur

The Truth about Foie Gras: Part 1

An interview with Bruce Friedrich, Senior Policy Director
– Staff writer

On July 1, 2012, after an eight-year waiting period, California became the first U.S. state to outlaw the production of foie gras and the only place in the world where its sale is illegal. This development was a milestone for Farm Sanctuary and our allies; we have been fighting to draw attention to the horrible abuse involved in foie gras production for decades.

French for “fatty liver,” foie gras is the diseased, fat-engorged liver of a duck or goose. Foie gras producers force-feed their birds large quantities of corn and fat by thrusting a metal tube down their throats and pumping meal directly into their stomachs two to three times a day for several weeks. At the end of this period, with livers swollen eight to ten times the normal size, the birds who have not already died from collateral injuries or ailments are slaughtered.

We sat down with Senior Policy Director Bruce Friedrich and National Shelter Director Susie Coston to find out the essential information about the industry, its victims and survivors, and the progress we’re making to end this incredibly cruel practice. In Part 1, Bruce fills us in on the issues.

What are the main challenges facing opponents of foie gras production?
Relatively few ducks are raised for foie gras compared to the numbers of hens used for eggs and chickens for meat. Many people have never even heard of foie gras, and those who have heard of it often aren’t aware of the cruelty involved in production.

Hudson_Valley_NY_foie_gras2_486x280

Inside a foie gras facility.

What are some of the arguments put forward by proponents of foie gras, and how do you respond to these?
The most common defense is to talk in general terms about “freedom” and the “choice” to eat whatever we please. The second most common argument is to point out the abuses that occur in other food industries and to claim that banning foie gras represents class discrimination in that it primarily affects the wealthy, who are its predominant consumers. Foie gras proponents also argue that ducks naturally gorge themselves and that force-feeding, therefore, mimics nature.

We reframe the “freedom” and “choice” argument from abstract language to specific. Everyone generally supports individual freedoms, but almost no one thinks that you should be able to choose to abuse dogs and cats. When we speak specifically about the abuse foie gras entails, most consumers agree with us that it should be illegal. Few people think it’s acceptable to cram pipes down animals’ throats and to induce a horribly painful disease — and that’s what foie gras does and is.

Regarding class discrimination, we point out that this rationale is simply an attempt to avoid the issue. People who are unwilling to discuss the reality of the actual practices of foie gras are in a pretty sorry rhetorical position. And, of course, supporters of foie gras bans oppose the worst abuses in all food industries, not just foie gras, including extreme confinement systems, inhumane methods of poultry slaughter, and many more.

Finally, on the issue of whether gorging is natural, we point to the overwhelming scientific evidence that indicates that it’s not natural for ducks and geese to eat so much that their livers swell to ten times their natural size. And, of course, in a natural environment, they don’t eat so much that their death rate rises, let alone skyrockets in the way it does during foie gras production. Force-fed ducks die at 10 to 20 times the rate of non-force-fed ducks, according to a European Union study — and that was in a controlled environment.

Canadian_foie_gras_486x280yScientific studies have found that foie gras birds suffer from impaired liver function, skeletal disorders, and other serious illnesses. Many becoming so sick they can barely move. See this article for more on the scientific indictment of the foie gras industry.
Foie gras proponents also argue that ducks do not react aversely to force-feeding. That claim is belied by a large body of undercover video collected by multiple groups over the past two decades, which provides ample footage of ducks clearly struggling in pain as the pipes are thrust down their throats.

Investigations have uncovered, among other horrors, cramped and filthy living conditions; ducks with gruesome, untreated injuries such as broken bills and neck wounds; ducks with organs damaged or ruptured by force-feeding; workers roughly handling and brutally killing ducks; and barrels full of dead ducks. This video, for example, was recorded by an investigator working undercover at one facility (be warned, it includes graphic footage of suffering and death).

Hudson_Valley_NY_foie_gras_486x280What is the current state of foie gras legislation and legal action nationally? Are there any bills pending?
Foie gras is banned in California, and we are working with our friends at the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Compassion Over Killing (COK) on a national solution by suing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ban foie gras based on the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). Under PPIA, the USDA is responsible for condemning products derived from diseased birds, which foie gras ducks and geese certainly are. Hepatic lipidosis, the condition purposefully induced by force-feeding, is a disease.

Has the California ban proved effective? Are chefs defying it or exploiting loopholes to a significant degree?
The ban has been very effective. Although a few chefs are having temper tantrums and attempting to skirt the law (for instance, by giving foie gras away instead of selling it), the vast majority of places that offered it before no longer do. And, the one foie gras producer in California — one of three in the nation — has ceased foie gras production altogether.

Does the implementation of the California ban pave the way for bans elsewhere?
We are hopeful that California’s move will be the end of foie gras in the United States. Our friends at the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Animal Protection and Rescue League, in particular, are doing some great work to relegate this product of torture to the dust bin of history. California was the number one market for foie gras in this country by far. The state has taken a powerful stance that will continue to resonate.

In Part 2, Susie Coston introduces some of the ducks of Farm Sanctuary who have found refuge from the foie gras industry, including Harper and Kohl, Monet and Matisse, and three of our newest residents: Ellen, Carrie, Emily, and Kristen. She describes the gentle care they receive to treat their sick and abused bodies and to overcome their tremendous fear of humans.