Animal Planet: Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and other Sanctuary Favorites.

­­Meet the animals at our local farm animal sanctuaries

Junior the cow (a misnomer given his 2,000 pounds), is relaxed again after having been recently relocated by the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary to its new site in High Falls, New York, a few miles south of Woodstock. When Junior didn’t get on the first trailer with his buddies Kayli, Maybelle and Maribeth, he was inconsolable. Given Junior's size, that proved to be a very big problem. Junior was so agitated at being separated from his friends that it took over seven hours, oral tranquilizers and eight people to get him on the next vehicle. Once at the new property, however, he charged off the trailer, rubbed noses with his pals and immediately calmed down, restoring peace to the premises.

Junior’s is just one of countless tender stories from the animal farm sanctuary movement, which seeks to combat the abuses of factory farming and encourage an understanding of farm animals as thinking, feeling beings. On April 10, 2012 while still a young calf, Junior had made a break from a slaughterhouse in Paterson, New Jersey. He eluded capture for hours, even wading into the Passaic River. Police rammed the calf with vehicles in an attempt to bring him under control until a tranquilizer gun could be obtained. After the story was picked up by several news outlets, a Woodstock Farm Sanctuary volunteer persuaded the slaughterhouse owner to allow the terrified young steer to be released to the organization. Instead of ending up at the end of a fork, Junior now spends his days roaming the pasture with his buddies, nuzzling visitors and serving as an animal ambassador for the sanctuary movement, helping to promote compassionate vegan living through rescue, adoption, education and advocacy.

At the Spiral House, we are lucky to be directly connected to two farm sanctuaries, which are basically in our backyard: Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and Catskill Animal Sanctuary. The latter is located in Saugerties. And we also support and advocate for Farm Sanctuary, the granddaddy of the farm sanctuary movement, which operates in Watkins Glen in New York’s Finger Lakes Region. The nation’s largest farm animal rescue and protection organization, Farm Sanctuary was founded in 1986 and also operates a satellite sanctuary in Orland, California, 100 miles north of Sacramento; as well as a shelter 45 minutes from Hollywood, California. In late October, the comedian and former talk show host Jon Stewart and his wife, Tracey, announced they are partnering with Farm Sanctuary to open the organization’s fourth location at their New Jersey Farm. Visiting these sanctuaries for a tour, cooking class, special event, bed and breakfast stay, or a summer camp session is an unparalleled and transformative experience as guests come to realize that animals are not so very different from humans. They are thoughtful beings that experience joy and sorrow, abundance and deprivation, comfort and pain, just as we do.

Consider Albie the goat. In 2007, the Brooklyn branch of Animal Care and Control contacted the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary about a young goat found wandering in Prospect Park. It wasn’t an unusual call given that there are over 100 live-kill markets in the New York City area. The little white goat was eventually transported to the Woodstock Sanctuary along with four chickens and two ducks in search of greener pastures. There Albie was named after the compassionate philosopher and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer.

From the beginning, it was clear that Albie needed special attention. He was underweight, undernourished, and covered with lesions that made it painful for him to eat. Even worse, his left leg and foot were terribly infected, leading sanctuary personnel to believe he had probably been hogtied (all four legs tied tightly together), a routine way of transporting young goats intended for slaughter. Eventually, Albie’s leg had to be amputated at Cornell University’s Large Animal Hospital. Book publisher Martin Rowe, co-founder of Lantern Books, which publishes titles on vegetarianism, environmentalism, animal advocacy, spirituality, natural healing, and social justice, learned of the situation and ran a marathon in New York City, raising over $11,000 to help with Albie’s medical bills.

Albie is not alone

Albie is not the only amputee at the sanctuary. Jenny Brown, the organization’s co-founder and former director, is an amputee herself, having lost the lower part of her leg to bone cancer at the age of ten. Jenny has said that on a deeply personal level she understands the “helplessness that the abandoned, injured and rescued farm animals feel when they arrive at the sanctuary.” Adds Brown of her reason for founding the sanctuary, “I wanted to be part of the healing.”

The prosthetist who makes Jenny’s legs tried to make a suitable one for the goofy Albie, who turned out to be quite the friendly but mischievous little guy. As the goat continued to grow, however, it became increasingly difficult to keep his prosthetic leg attached. No problem. Albie now has wheels! In the summer of 2014, he was fitted for a front support wheelchair that enables him to propel himself forward, a solution that will give him better mobility and comfort in his middle age and beyond. If this sounds familiar, you may have seen Albie’s story on the pages of The New York Times a few years back.

A few years ago, the not-for-profit Woodstock Farm Sanctuary moved half an hour's ride to the south to a sprawling 150-acre former camp in the hamlet of High Falls, New York that offers seemingly endless possibilities to fulfill its self-described mission of “inspiring change in the habits and attitudes that shape people’s treatment of animals.” Events, summer camp, a permaculture garden and hiking trails are just a few of the plans the popular sanctuary has for its new site. The organization clearly has a substantial following. Thousands of people gathered for the grand re-opening after the move and the sanctuary’s tenth annual Thanksliving celebration in November sold out an hour after tickets went on sale, raising over $80,000 to help the organization rescue and care for farm animals and advocate for veganism. (At this event, the turkeys are the VIPs, eating their supper before the hundreds of guests who have dined on vegan delicacies by some of the country's most well-known vegan chefs.

Read more about the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary at their website and look for us at the property during their many events if you are from the region or care to visit. Watch this site and our newsletter for more stories about the animals at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS), which has some exciting news of its own to share about its expansion plans. CAS was home to the late Rambo, a long-horned sheep who was so full of testosterone and rage when he first arrived that he continuously broke through the door to his stall. Since he never went far, however, sanctuary founder Kathy Stevens decided to allow him to roam free. And so it was that Rambo became the sanctuary’s watchman. Watchram?

Rambo would greet new arrivals and sleep outside the stalls of each one until the animals settled in. With a mission, the once dangerous and ornery Rambo became the most docile of animals, especially relishing the attention of the young children who would lie on the ground using him as a pillow while Stevens told stories about the sanctuary. Everyone at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary — horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens and humans — were part of his flock. He comforted the needy, welcomed the new and frightened, and rounded up the escapees, says Stevens. Even as an elderly gentleman and with his job behind him, he summoned Stevens early one morning, hobbling on arthritic legs to her back door to let her know that the cows had gotten out.

“It has, perhaps, been the greatest privilege of my life to witness and to honor the transformation of a rare and magnificent animal, and to learn life-altering lessons that inform so much of what we do here,” says Stevens. “Rambo taught us how to truly see each animal as a unique being with unique needs … His life and his lessons are etched into the ethos of Catskill Animal Sanctuary in ways too numerous to count.”