How a visit to the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary is changing lives.
- Posted on May 30, 2018
I remember being glued to my TV screen many summers ago as a terrified cow dashed for her life on a busy thoroughfare in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. She broke out of a butcher’s holding pen at a “live kill” market, common in urban areas, seeking safety. People watching her grand escape rooted for her to be spared, but she was soon recaptured.
It wasn’t long before rescuers from the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in Hudson Valley, New York came to save her. After days of negotiating, the sanctuary secured the release of the rebellious cow and named her Kayli. Today, she is one of the longest residents at the tranquil sanctuary where she enjoys her much earned freedom, alongside 400 other rescued animals. Seeing Kayli at the Sanctuary, walking on grass and enjoying the feel of the sunshine, a long way from the dark pen she escaped from, was a sight I forever cherish.
Since its inception in 2004, the organization has been saving animals from farms, auctions, slaughterhouses, and even the streets of New York. Founders Jenny Brown and Doug Abel created a serene place where abused animals could live out their lives in peace. I was fortunate enough to visit the farm and was surprised to discover the many ways they are helping animals and inspiring humans.
Some of the animals that the sanctuary rescues come from neglected backyard breeders, cock-fighting rings, and dairy farms, and are often in need serious medical care. Woodstock Farm Sanctuary makes sure they get the help they need, whether at their onsite clinic or at an animal hospital. Felix, a little lamb, who escaped a sheep farm, came to the sanctuary with three legs; a predator at his previous home had chewed off his leg. For the first few months, Felix lived with founders Jenny and Doug, who bottle fed him. Jenny, who had lost a leg to bone cancer and uses a prosthetic leg, knew Felix could benefit from the technology. They drove him to Virginia to meet with a prosthetics and orthotics specialist for animals and got him fitted with an artificial limb with the help of SUNY New Paltz 3D printing lab. Until he passed away a few years ago, Felix loved running up to visitors on all fours.
Similarly, the sanctuary rescued Fawn, a calf who injured her front two legs at birth at a dairy farm by falling into a concrete pit. After surgery at Cornell Veterinary Hospital to repair her legs, Fawn was fitted with braces to help her walk. Thanks to the efforts of the dedicated staff at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, she found the loving care she deserved.
In early 2017, the Sanctuary heard of a rooster fighting ring that was getting busted and knew they had to act. At these illegal fights, roosters are forced to fight to their deaths for wagers and entertainment. When the rescuers arrived, they found malnourished chickens stashed in outdoor cages with no access to food or water. That day, 26 traumatized chickens were rushed back and were given immediate medical treatment. They are now called The Fearless Flock, and you may see one or two with a twisted beak, but they are all no longer living in fear.
But the Sanctuary isn’t just changing lives for animals. People are also being affected for the better. While I was taking the 75 minute tour which covers a mile and a half of the property, I interacted with the animals, learned their stories and the effects of agribusiness on farm animals, human health, and the planet. After that tour, I began making changes to my diet. There was a time when I enjoyed my mom’s goat curry, but meeting a goat very similar to my dog reinforced my decision to go meat-free.
Skye Senterfeit from Manhattan had a similar experience. “A day of having goats vie for my attention, watching cows follow caregivers around like giant puppies, and stuffing myself with delicious vegan treats [offered at the Sanctuary] reinforced my longstanding decisions about what goes--or, more importantly, doesn’t go--onto my plate.”
Robin Tierney from Florida visited the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary three years ago, and recalls how it touched her. "It was good for the heart meeting so many animals who had been among the lucky few to be rescued from wretched and soul-killing circumstances, and could have something we take for granted: a home that is safe and folks who care. The visit changed my worldview."
The sanctuary is also a wonderful, educational place for kids; it offers volunteer opportunities and organizes events throughout the year to spread awareness. The June Jamboree features presentations, vegetarian food trucks, live music, kids’ activities, and sustainably-produced, artisanal vegan wines. For Thanksgiving, the popular Thanksgiving event honors the rescued turkeys by feeding them a delicious meal, and the humans enjoy a multi-course gourmet, meat-free vegan meal.
Since relocating from Woodstock to High Falls in 2015, the Sanctuary has since tripled their visitors. More and more people just like me are finding hope and inspiration in the lives of these rescued animals.
*This article has been updated to show that Felix the lamb has passed away.