In my last post, I shared my trip to Moosewood Restaurant in the finger-lakes region of Upstate NY.  After our vegetarian lunch, my parents, Mike, and I drove about 45 minutes west of Ithaca to the Farm Sanctuary at Watkins Glen for a tour.  We got there just 2 minutes before the start of the last tour of the day!  For just $5 per person, we each got a hands-on experience of what Farm Sanctuary is all about.

Farm Sanctuary’s slogan is “A compassionate world begins with you.”  Farm Sanctuary strives to show people that farm animals are ’emotional, social, complex, and sensitive individuals’ and deserve to be treated as such by industry.  To that end, the majority of our one-hour tour was spent interacting with the rescued animals, with just a few facts about factory farming sprinkled in.  

We cuddled with cows:

 This sweet cow walked right up to Mike and nuzzled his leg.

We saw turkeys & chickens:

This male turkey was strutting for the ladies.  The more he struts, the bluer his face will become!

The black turkey on the left is how most of us picture turkeys, but the majority of turkeys farmed actually look more like the white turkey on the right.

Have you ever seen two happier chickens? 

 We got to know the goats:

Check out the smile on this guy!

  And there were plenty of Pigs:

Did you know that Pigs LOVE belly rubs?

What really impressed me about our tour is that while it aimed to educate, there was no pressure placed on us for further donations or for us to make any radical changes to our lifestyle.  After an hour of getting to know the animals and having our questions about factory farming answered, our guide closed the tour by simply reminding us that we all have choices we can make every day.

She didn’t elaborate on that, but what it meant to me is that every simple change is a step in the right direction, whether that means buying meats, cheese, and eggs from a local farmers market, choosing coconut-milk icecream over dairy, or cooking vegan once a week.

The Farm Sanctuary also has a wonderful gift shop full of all of the best resources to help in making those choices.

The learning continued after the tour, since Mike grabbed a number of informational brochures for us to further our reading.

What we took away from the experience:

Diana (ovo-lacto vegetarian for 10+ yrs): I’ve been trying for some time now without much success to lessen the amount of eggs and dairy I eat.  While I had known about the terrible conditions in which the animals spend their lives, one big learning I had on this tour is how closely the dairy industry is tied to the veal industry.  I didn’t know that dairy cows are constantly impregnated to boost milk production and that the male calves are subsequently auctioned into the veal industry.  This is even true for Organic milk.  My learnings from the tour gave me even more motivation to keep cutting back on eggs & dairy.  Additionally, reading the additional facts in the brochures made me steaming angry about the lack of laws to protect farm animals from the cruel manufacturing process.  I’ve recently donated to both the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary to support their animal advocacy (and am submitting my donations for matching-gifts from my employer) because I think it is so important to give these animals a strong voice.

Mike (omnivore and lover of meats, fish and cheeses): Ever since starting to date Diana, I have been eating many more vegetarian meals and have enjoyed them. In addition to what Diana has mentioned about factory farming, what really bothers me is its impact on the environment. A frightening statistic is that animal agriculture globally is responsible for more deadly greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation in the world. I also believe that US and EU farming subsidies are environmentally destructive, a main cause of skyrocketing obesity in first world countries and a contributor to poverty in third world countries, by artificially undercutting local prices. I really enjoyed our visit to the farm sanctuary, finding it to be both informative and fun. I do not think I will ever be vegetarian, though I will do my best to replace conventional meat & dairy from my diet with grass fed, free-range and organic.  I have also been drinking mostly soy milk at home.  

 When was the last time you pet a farm animal?

What small choices do you make to help?