Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary: Fighting the Good Fight

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Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

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Looking at pictures of Jenny Brown today, I see a beaming woman who positively radiates her joie de vivre. It’s surprising then to learn that she hasn’t always had an easy go at it. As a child, Jenny underwent a leg amputation. At the time, this left her feeling out of control. But it also fostered the growth of what would become an incredible amount of compassion and forward thinking about animals, and all living beings. A strong advocate for veganism and animal welfare, Jenny is the co-founder (along with her husband, Doug), of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary as well as the author of “The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight For Farm Animals.”

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

Jenny Brown, with a rescue friend

After witnessing animal cruelty firsthand as an adult, Jenny decided to leave the film industry to work at a sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. Founding her own sanctuary was the next logical step. Today, WFAS is home to many rescued cows, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, pigs, ducks, goats and sheep, all of whom would have been otherwise bound for the slaughterhouse or left to die. WFAS serves both as a place of refuge for animals and a place to teach about animal welfare. Here’s a quick, touching video about the adorable animals that WFAS has saved:

Here, Jenny gives Urbanette the scoop on the truth behind your “happy meat,” and the many benefits of living a vegan lifestyle:

Urbanette Magazine: A pivotal point for you was filming undercover at livestock auctions/stockyards. What was that experience like? Did you have a pretty good idea of what you would see or did it come as a shock?

Jenny Brown: I had a pretty good idea of what I might see but actually seeing it was traumatic. Not being able to do anything to help them was even worse. They are open to the public for buying and selling animals including bidding on the ones who are forced into the auction ring but filming/photographing will get you kicked out and your equipment confiscated.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

Jenny with Dolly, the alpaca

Urbanette: You mention some gnarly examples of animal cruelty on your website, including the practice of castrating goats without anesthesia. Why do such practices take place? Is it a cost issue?

Jenny: Mutilations occur on every level — on factory farms and small farms alike. It’s too expensive and time-consuming to anesthetize them or provide pain relief. All goats, sheep, cattle, and other animals are castrated, dehorned, and/or tail-docked without pain killers as “standard farming practices.” And again, this is not only on animals languishing in factory farms. This occurs on organic, free-range, grass-fed or whatever “humane” farm they are raised on. [Learn more here.]

If the same were done to dogs and cats there would be animal cruelty charges, but sadly the same standards do not apply to animals considered “livestock,” which is a deplorable term. Cattle are also branded in the face or elsewhere on the body causing severe 3rd-degree burns. It’s all unethical. And turkeys and chickens have their beaks seared off, and turkeys have their toes cut off, too.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

Pigs are much better at problem solving and are more emotionally intelligent than dogs or cats

Urbanette: That is pretty horrific. I think you’re right that as a society we’ve made a distinction between animals that are pets and animals that are livestock, and with that has come an imbalanced set of rules about how each is to be treated. I was going to ask about your perspective on organic and certified humane animal products, but it sounds like a lot of harmful things happen on those farms, too. Could you expand on that a bit?

Jenny: We’re a society that shakes our fists at the Asian countries who eat cats and dogs, yet we eat other animals who are just as capable of thinking, feeling and suffering. It’s just that we’re indoctrinated to put farmed animals into a different category and argue that “that’s what they’re here for.” We shouldn’t base our compassion on intelligence, but if we did, then we should be eating dogs over pigs because pigs are smarter.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Regarding “happy meat,” there is a growing trend with conscious consumers to purchase animal products that are advertised as being raised humanely. I will quote from what I have written on our website first: The very existence of labels like “free-range,” “cage-free,” and “humane certified,” attests to society’s growing concern for the welfare of animals raised for food. But any time consumers of meat, eggs or dairy advocate for “humane” treatment of farm animals, they confront an unavoidable paradox: the movement to treat farm animals better is based on the idea that it is wrong to subject them to unnecessary harm. Yet killing animals we have no need to eat constitutes the ultimate act of unnecessary harm.

We owned slaves for most of human civilization, but did that make it right?

Organic is the only governed label besides “humane certified.” Grass-fed, free-range, cage-free labels are self-governing and not certified by an overseeing body, so they can freely make these claims, regardless of the actual conditions the animals are kept in.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

In the case of dairy, there is nothing humane about forcibly impregnating cows, stealing their babies at birth (or within 48 hours tops), hooking her breasts up to cold metal machines several times a day for months and months while you re-impregnate her and start the cycle all over again until she reaches the age of 4-5 when she is considered “spent” and slaughtered for ground beef, AKA hamburgers. Cows cry the most heartbreaking bellows when their calves are taken away. It is incredibly stressful to them, as it is to the calves. The male calves are killed at birth or raised in crates for veal, as they are not the same breeds that are used for beef. I could give you many more examples of why these labels are bogus and used as propaganda to make consumers feel less guilty about their food choices.

More climate change is caused by the meat industry than by all the cars, planes, trains, and other forms of transport combined.

The moral argument against consuming animal products is that their embryos, breast milk, and lives, are not ours to take. Our self-appointed dominion over all the other beings who share the earth with us is an archaic and immoral way of thinking. To use the excuse that we’ve always eaten animals is not a good reason to keep doing so. We owned slaves for most of human civilization, but did that make it right?

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

The Visitor Center at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Urbanette: Wow. That is shocking. And frightening. So clearly consuming animals does harm to the animals themselves, but what about the impact on the environment?

Jenny: Farming animals is incredibly inefficient and wasteful. It takes 2,500 gallons of water, 16 pounds of grain or soy, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef. Half the world’s grain crop is fed to animals raised for food, while an estimated 1 billion people are malnourished, and 6 million children starve to death every year. The latest report from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock,” confirmed that more global climate change is caused by the meat industry than by all the cars, planes, trains, and other forms of transport combined.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

Each individual animal has a distinctive personality

Urbanette: You make a compelling argument. Something that really stuck out to me on your website is that there’s a misconception that we need to eat animals to get certain nutrients, yet these animals get said nutrients from (drum roll please), plants! Could you give us some examples of this?

Jenny: Take fish—they get their omega-3’s by eating seaweed. We could get our omega-3’s directly from seaweed, which I do every day! That’s just one example.

Urbanette: Wow, I had no idea. I suppose you can also get omega-3’s from things like flax seeds.

Jenny: Absolutely! There’s more about this on our website.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

Hanging with animals at the Visitor Center at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

“If the same were done to dogs and cats there would be animal cruelty charges…”

Urbanette: How does eating only plants affect human health?

Jenny: There is a huge body of scientific evidence that irrefutably demonstrates the power of plant-based/vegan diets for preventing, managing and even reversing some of the most serious diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. The ADA has been clear in stating that vegetarians have consistently lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and obesity than meat-eaters. Bam! Even the UN has called for a global shift to a vegan diet as the most effective way to combat climate change, world hunger, and environmental devastation.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

Jenny and Dylan, a rescued cow

We’re a society that shakes our fists at the Asian countries who eat cats and dogs, yet we eat other animals who are just as capable of thinking, feeling and suffering.

Urbanette: Got it. Okay, this one is just for fun. Your cat, Pogo, has quite a picture on your website. Actually, there’s a whole string of pictures of him in dramatic poses. He looks like quite the character! Is he as fierce as he looks?

Jenny: He is the sweetest kitty who has lived here for many years. He roams the sanctuary meowing and purring, seeking attention from anyone with two hands (or one would work too!). He climbs on laps, follows tours, invites himself on top of picnic tables while people are eating lunch (vegan-only here!), and can be found sleeping with goats or sheep. Everyone loves him and we have no idea why he is missing his tail.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

Pogo, the tail-less cat

Urbanette: I love it. Finally, how can our readers get involved?

Jenny: Great question! They can visit us online, donate online, by mail or by phone (we’re a charitable organization), volunteer any day of the year, sponsor an animal as a gift for themselves, or visit us during our open season (April-October). But most importantly, moving away from animal products is the most compassionate, healthy, environmentally conscious, responsible and sustainable thing they can do.

Fighting the Good Fight in Woodstock

At the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, piglets are allowed to stay with their mom

Read more: 5 Reasons I Love Being a Vegan and Michelle Pfeiffer Tells Us About the Benefits of Being Vegan and WFAS’ How To Go Vegan and this The NY Times article, which states:

“…the animals sent through those factories often endure an unimaginable amount of mistreatment and abuse. Cows too sick to walk are dragged by the neck across cement floors. Pigs are stabbed and beaten with sledgehammers. Chickens are thrown against walls and stomped to death. And accepted industry practices, like confining animals in impossibly small cages, are just as brutal…”

99% of meat sold in America come from factory farms. Yet every day, more and more Americans start to question the suffering of factory farmed animals. And the great news is, it’s never too late to make a difference. Discover how to take back your power, and make truly informed choices that are in line with your own values. Find it here, in a free and easy download.

Raised in California and North Carolina, Jen is both an actress and a writer. She loves writing fiction, especially for young adults, and exercising her non-fiction muscles through Urbanette and her chocolate blog: Chocofiles. Jen also loves adventures, yoga, live music and spontaneous dance parties.

54 Comments

  1. I’d never really thought about it before, but this article really makes me want to go vegan… I just bought their book – Living the Farm Sanctuary Life. Thanks for covering such a great cause. I can’t imagine what her daily life would be like!

  2. Zenly

    This human world is built on the suffering of animals and sadly, I have seen and read of so much horror and cruelty towards animals at the hands of humans. The last straw was the baby dolphin that was killed as it was passed around for Selfies. Since that, I now really do hate the human species. We are a talking virus that wears clothes that is destroying the planet with our sheer numbers. When the planet burns up, my last thought will be how I feel sorry for the animals who were always innocent in all this.

  3. I’m so honored by all these wonderful, supportive comments and especially happy to hear that it opened the eyes and touched the hearts of some who never thought about the plight of farmed animals and our indifference to them. Thank you Jennifer for the chance to be interviewed for your fine publication!

  4. Kimberly Thompson

    So sad, it breaks my heart. They too have feelings. I don’t want to put terror, cruelty, violence and suffering into my body. These animals have a right to a life free from abuse and suffering. I wish ALL people would at least become vegetarian.

  5. Amanda Roberts

    It’s about time that animals have more rights and aren’t just pushed around like objects… I think it’s about time farmers stopped making a profit off the abuse and murder of the voiceless and the defenceless poor animals!

  6. Frances Seifert

    Some may argue that that farm animals don’t deserve to have legal protections. However this point is invalid because even though they are raised to be food, these animals don’t deserve the treatment they are being given. Imagine your dog at home, who has legal protection, experiences the things that these poor animals have to go through. This is the least of it, all of the animals on farms and tested on and experienced inhumane treatment… How scary!

  7. Roberta Bennett

    Big kudos for this interview. I am extremely concerned with where my food comes from and because of that I have chosen to exclude the use of animals and animal products for any purpose, not just food, in all aspects of my life as is practical and possible. The only humane way to raise an animal is to not slaughter it. This should be the end goal. There should be a shift in our society to eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) treat animals humanely, since we, as intelligent beings, should know better. But, until we reach that point new laws do need to be implemented. Laws should include more transparency within farms, more humane living conditions, leaving newborns with their mothers for long times, and less painful slaughter methods as well as other methods of treating animals with more respect and kindness.

  8. Lynn Hayes

    I’ll never understand why it’s okay when humans eat animals, but it’s a big deal when animals ate humans. They freak out, and it always makes it to the news, when an animal attacks a human. Have some empathy. You don’t like it when they want to eat you, do you? So why eat them? Go vegan!

  9. Diana Hewitt

    Couldn’t agree more with Jennifer… Farm animals are no different from any other kind of animal so there should be no reason that they get treated differently. Farmers have started to take less and less precautions about their farm animals causing the animals to become ill and have different types of issues.

  10. Sabrina Grattidge

    SOOOOO TRUE!!! Farm animals feel physical pain and sorrow just like cats and dogs. I don’t understand why people in political positions haven’t figured this out yet or do they all just don’t know how to feel empathy and compassion for these wonderful animals!!!!!! THIS IS TOTAL CRUELTY TOWARDS ANIMALS!! Eating meat should be completely illegalised!

  11. Jennifer McSween

    Amazing interview. I agree with everything Jenny said. All of the abuse of animals has led me to going vegan. Today is the day to end animals abuse and step into a new world where all animals are treated equally. Say yes for promoting the rights of farm animals!

  12. Sasha Rosswell

    All animals should be treated fairly. Animals feel pain just as much as a human does, so slaughtering them is not okay!

  13. Kim Hartford

    I have so much respect for Jenny and her animal sanctuary! BRAVO!! Most human beings do not require animal protein to survive. If a human states they love animals, yet purchase, therefore support the abuses farm animals endure, they are hypocritically supporting some of the nastiest treatment of the animals they claim to love. I consider myself much less selfish than people who ‘cannot break the habit’ or are ‘trying to do better’. If anyone chooses to support the meat industry, they can no longer claim they care for the environment either – supporting the most detrimental industry to the Earth. Although bittersweet, people who kill, clean and eat animals themselves are in the least causing less of a detriment to the environment as well as becoming responsible for the food that they consume. Why not allow the best treatment of the animals humans selfishly consume? Are they that insignificant? We should all recall the civil rights and woman’s rights movements…how about gay rights? Times change, humans change, why not for compassion, of other opinions, of other beings? Why allow any other being to be tortured, beaten, live in the most horrible conditions, because it makes you feel better about yourself? It thoroughly disgusts me, even when I was a child, and hope I live to see the day when this changes forever.

  14. Amelia Beckons

    I personally am not very concerned of what I am eating, but if I were to think about this subject more I do feel bad that the meat I eat came from an animal. Animals have emotions and I am sure they wouldn’t want to live in a bad condition, and die to feed the greedy human appetites.. I will definitely check the vegan starter kit. Thank you for showing me a perspective I never saw before.

  15. Evelyn Sandler

    These poor animals are forced to live a horrible life and are being slaughtered just to give humans “better” meat. I believe that this is unfair because these held animals have to suffer. Let’s spread the word and create awareness!

  16. Ayla Pennington

    In the meat industry, many farm animals are being treated inhumanly in order to create a more efficient meat process. Farm animals should absolutely have more legal protections to protect them from these inhuman environments and conditions. We should teach the new generations not to eat animals and to treat them just like they would treat their pet cat or dog or hamster.

  17. Courtney Floxen

    Love this one dear sister. Beautiful and vulnerable wisdom from a woman who has done a lot of work on animals and on herself. Animals are so loyal unlike a lot of humans. Agree! Farm animals are tortured before they come out to be killed by the matador, it is a horrible abuse of animals. Thank you for a radical and honest filled description of your love for farm animals.

  18. Molly Twain

    I applaused this interview!!! Farm animals should not be excluded because they are used as a human food resource. Animals are living creatures, they live and breathe and feel pain the same way humans do. While it’s fair to pass acts protecting domestic animals, it is unfair to disclude farm animals.

  19. Sabrina Wellington

    People treat farm animals as if they are inferior to pets. They treat all animals poorly, generally, but all animals should be equal and all should be treated well, and let live. Why eat them?!

  20. Melissa Princeton

    Yes, I think that animals should have more legal protections because “non-human animals deserve a personhood.” Also many farm animals are dying from force reproduction, the usual pig has eight piglets, but since they changed the genetics of the pig, they have up to fourteen piglets now. Cows now have twins and triplets who are usually deformed after birth and usually die. Easy care sheep give birth in open fields and most of the newborns are killed from the weather, starvation or being eaten by predators. This is a cruel way for the farm animals to die like this. Lastly, chickens and many other animals are becoming too big for their legs to support and hold up their body. As a result to this many of the farm animals are breaking their legs are getting seriously injured. In conclusion farm animals should have legal rights to a certain extent.

  21. Susanna Milton

    Farm animals from chickens to cows are getting tortured everyday of their lives and it needs to be put to a stop. Many are injected with growth hormones and some chickens can’t even hold up their own bodies without falling over. Also many pigs are being given reproductive hormones do they produce up to 14 piglets from their original 8 piglets. Some cows are also given hormones that make them produce twins or triplets and most of them die at birth or before aging to 1 year. These hormones and injections are supposed to help to give more food but it doesn’t even do that because many of the children die at birth leading to population declines or unhealthy meat. Farm animals also face pain, illness, and premature deaths so humans need to cut down on meat or give the animals more legal rights because they have feelings and are living things just like us so they should be treated better in order to help humans and farm animals fare better. Lastly, farm animals like lambs are being birthed in open un-gated pastures so right after they give birth they are slaughtered at the feet of their predators. Society is changing and our needs are growing but people still need to have some conscience in order to help everyone and all animals live happy lives.

  22. Kimberley Foulkes

    I think we should have animal research rights to protect these farm animals because farm animals are still living things and can feel pain. People do not notice but there a lot of farm animals that are also really smart.

    A+++ interview!! Well done!

  23. Matilda Parker

    I’m not a vegan nor a vegetarian, but this interview really opened my eyes although I was previously unaware of this matter, after reading this article, I felt responsible to be more cognisant about where my meat comes from. I will try, from now on, to cut meat, and go vegetarian, if not vegan.

    Thank you!

  24. Felicia Stewart

    It’s very sad that animals rights don’t really protect farm animals. Legal protections for farm animals should be no different from that of any other animal. Even though farm animals are raised for human consumption, the animals should be allowed to live their lives comfortably until slaughter. Unfortunately, these legal rights are not practised. I’m all against eating meat, and killing animals, but if you’re going to eat them, at least do it right! Don’t terrorise or enslave those poor animals, am i wrong?

  25. Cassi Braun

    Sounds great! I live very near and I’d really like to donate and / or volunteer. I’ll check their website and email them. 🙂

  26. Cynthia Keller

    People doing cruel things to animals make me sick. Criminals should receive the same treatment that they gave to the animals. If only the animal laws change to the penalty in every country then it will be a peaceful world for animals. I love this post and will need to read and re-read it to fully absorb its magnitude. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. 🙂

  27. Charlene Campbell

    Sometimes I feel helpless, when others are paying a fortune to go hunt down wild animals. Animals are such wonderful and loving. Owners who mistreat any animal should be the one who gets euthanize. Thank you so much. Your post touched me in a way that is hard to put into words.

  28. Esther Earl Harris

    I can’t tell you how much this interview really resonated with me in such a big way. Any pet is for life not just for people’s own convenience. We have 2 cats we love and would never get rid of them. Children learn from a young age how to treat animals and other human beings. My son loves them so much! We should encourage them to show love and respect for all living beings.

  29. Lena Dzeko

    I’m already a vegan, but downloaded the vegan starter kit anyway. Because there are people I am planing to share it with. Thank you!

  30. Jae Medina

    So refreshing to see there are people like Jenny out there who does more than just caring! Taking action and doing something about it is the only way to solution. If more people took part in causes like this, animal cruelty could be stopped one day.

  31. Sonja Fallow

    Loving this post! Great interview. All the animals there look so happy and relaxed! They know they’re loved, and you can tell they’re being take care of so well. 🙂

  32. Jenny Garett

    She have opened my heart and articulated her deep love for animals so beautifully in this blog. I couldn’t stand to see my dog struggling to breathe and suffer. How can people do cruelty to animals! It makes me so angry. The best way to fight animal cruelty is to teach as many people as possible how their pets should be treated. Thank you so much for these great interview. I am deeply touched!

  33. Christina Norelli

    This interview mentions every reason why I’ve gone vegan 6 years ago, and will not be at rest until I turn everybody I know vegan!

  34. Lin Del Rey

    The whole world gets so mad when dogs are killed and cooked during some Asian festivals, and yes, that is horrible! We all should unite against it, but what about the farm animals? They get butchered everyday all around the world. Don’t their lives matter?

  35. Elin Hanks

    She’s got a lot of good points there. While cats and dogs are getting all kinds of protection, farm animals are getting completely ignored, as if they don’t have the same rights as house pets! We need to bring awareness about it.

  36. Debbie Jones

    Bravo Jennifer Spillane for the great interview! Thanks so much for bringing Jennifer and her cause to our attention. I’ll be checking their website to see if I can help some way.

  37. Samantha Anthony

    Yes! Not being able to do anything to stop the animal cruelty is the worst! I hate feeling so helpless. Thank god for causes like this that spread awareness! ?

  38. Lucretia Asher

    How inspiring! I wish I could afford to start a farm animal sanctuary here in England. This needs to go viral. I’ll share it on Facebook.

  39. Colleen Frasier

    This place goes to my to-visit list! Such a wonderful interview. I don’t even know Jenny, but I felt very warm towards her while reading this. All the great work she’s done needs more appreciation. 🙂

  40. Michelle Luedtke

    I can’t imagine how beautiful and better our world will be if more people would go vegan. It would help save animals, protect the environment, produce healthier generation and feed the world. Thanks for sharing organization with great causes like Woodstock Farm Sanctuary!

  41. Danielle Wilson

    GREAT post! I love that Urbanette Magazine focuses on things that actually matters.

    • Dana Rosatti

      I completely agree with you! Urbanette is very unique! While other magazines are all about the latest celebritiy gossips, Urbanette Magazine is doing their best to inform readers on things that’ll help make the world a better place! And that’s why it’s my favorite magazine! 🙂

  42. If you’re looking for reasons to go vegan, look no further and this interview and the VWFAS website! Heartbreaking!

  43. It was a transformative experience going vegan. It was hard but it’s worth it! Now that I’ve learned I’m somehow helping the environment by not consuming animals, I’m more inspired and proud that I went vegan. I wish I can volunteer, but for now, I think the only way I can support is through online donation. Thanks for sharing the organization, sharing it with friends.

  44. Sarah Uibel

    Such a powerful article. It was hard to get through given all the suffering these animals endure. Makes me happy to know that the vegan/ethical movement is getting more traction each and every day!

  45. Hmmm… visiting Jenny and the animals during their open season sounds like a fun idea! I would like to have a personal involvement…

  46. Hannah Mayers

    Jenny’s cat is sooo cute, even though he’s missing his tail! I’m with her and I’m donating online! I haven’t thought of the environmental effects of meat consumption. Now I understand why our climate is very unpredictable!

  47. Francis Woods

    Applause!!! Another well-written interview article!!! I’m really thankful you never fail to give us good information!!! Well, now I’m more motivated, I’m going vegan for my health, for the animals and for the planet!!!

  48. Courtney Watson

    Well, totally agree that being vegan prevent and reverse some serious diseases! This article made me proud I went vegan. At least my conscience would not bother me because being vegan has moral, social, health and environmental relevance!

  49. Informative article! Thanks for sharing links to explain some points further 🙂 It pains me when I hear animals cry because their being captured (and killed) for their meat… Aww, very sad… I’m pledging my online support for this cause!

  50. Carolyn Donovan

    Well, I’m not yet 100% vegan, I sometimes cheat and can’t resist the temptation of hamburgers 🙁 But I’m really trying… Now that I have read the environmental effects of harming animals for food, I’m more motivated to go on and be 100% vegan…

  51. Great interview! Very informative! Indeed, like humans, animals deserve love and respect and should not be abused. The classification we had set — pets and livestock should be erased. I’m with Jenny and I would be supporting and donating to her organization 🙂

  52. Anna Kaplan

    This is completely amazing! They’re doing such a great work! In my eyes these people are real life superheroes, because they’re saving lives! I wish people wouldn’t forget that all lives matter (including animals), not just humans!

  53. Well… aside from health reasons, I went vegan because I couldn’t stand the thought of a life taken away just for me to have something to eat. I’m supporting Jenny’s cause!

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