Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Visiting Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY

On Thursday, August 18th, 2011, we visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY.  Ever since reading about Farm Sanctuary online, I've wanted to visit.  Little did I know that this experience would be a contributing factor to my decision to adopt a Vegan diet.

We entered the large barn marked "People Barn" and waited for our tour in a very informative space.  There were lots of boards with details about some of the animals that they have rescued, health information regarding a vegan or vegetarian diet, displays showing how the mistreated animals are generally kept at factory farms, plus information on how to get involved to help.  There was also a nice store (that we stopped in after the tour and purchased many items!) and a friendly cat walking around that I befriended.

Farm Sanctuary is such an amazing organization that rescues abused and neglected animals, mostly those from factory farms that are on the verge of death.  It is so incredible that this sanctuary exists with hundreds of rescued animals on hundreds of acres of farm land.

We watched a short movie about the history and reasons why Farm Sanctuary exists.  We were told about Hilda, the first farm animal rescued that started Farm Sanctuary.  Hilda was a sheep who was left for dead in a pile of dead animal carcasses at a factory farm.  Everyone thought that Hilda had died, but she lifted her head and looked right at Gene Baur, the co-founder of Farm Sanctuary.  After rescuing Hilda, it was discovered that she had only collapsed due to the brutal transporting conditions and did not have any injuries or illnesses.  Hilda made a full recovery and lived out a happy and peaceful life at Farm Sanctuary.  She passed away from old age in 1997 and is buried in a beautiful garden with a wonderful memorial plaque so we can all pay tribute to this brave creature.

We started our tour around the farm to visit most of the animals that live at Farm Sanctuary.  Our tour guide was great at introducing us to the animals, explaining & answering all of our questions, and she was very cheerful all around!  We first visited the cows who had a huge pasture to walk around in, munch on grass, or just lay in the shade.  All of the animals on the farm have a great quality of life with many choices on where to go based on how they were feeling, if they wanted to socialize with the guests to the farm or be left alone.  They are very well taken care of in terms of food, socialization with other animals and people, and medicine.  The cows that we met were very sweet and friendly, and let you walk right up to them and pet them.  I am not used to interacting with farm animals so I found it amazing to be able to have interactions with such gentle creatures as the cows.

Next, we visited many happy goats in their section of the farm.  The goats even had a wooden playground that they could climb on (and many goats were sitting up there!).  They were very friendly and loved to be petted.  As we stayed there longer and longer, more goats decided to come out to greet us.  One of the goats had lost part of her ears due to frostbite and was missing part of her leg.  She had a prosthetic leg that she could walk around on, but she preferred to walk around the farm without it.  It is nice that the animals have nothing forced upon them and are given the choice to move about freely as they choose.


Next, we visited the turkeys and the chickens in one of the chicken coops.  What interesting creatures!  I had never interacted much with turkeys or chickens in the past but it was incredible to watch them kick up the hay and move around their home.  It was so sad to see that their beaks and toes were trimmed back from their days at the factory farm.  At least there is some comfort in knowing that they will live out the rest of their lives happily at the farm.

One of these gorgeous turkeys had it made in the shade on this warm summer day!  He was sitting underneath a big blue umbrella with plenty of water to drink on the comfortable grass.  There were some larger chickens in this area as well.  In November, Farm Sanctuary holds an event called "Celebration FOR the Turkeys" which sounds amazing!  From the website:

At Farm Sanctuary’s annual Celebration FOR the Turkeys at our New York and California Shelters, guests are invited to visit with cows, pigs, chickens, and other rescued residents and participate in our beloved Feeding of the Turkeys ceremony, where turkeys are offered a feast of pumpkin pie, stuffed squash and cranberries. Guests on both coasts will also indulge in a delectable vegan holiday meal of their own and be inspired by presentations from special guests.
I wish I could attend! 

We also walked past some ducks and geese.  We weren't able to interact directly with geese as they can sometimes not be kind to visiting humans, but we could see that they were very well loved.  There was a big pond that they could swim in, a grassy patch to enjoy and a barn to live in.  These geese were certainly enjoying the warm summer day in the pond or the shade.

Then, we visited the pig barns!  What relaxed, gentle creatures!  These pigs were laying on piles of hay, mostly sleeping or laying with their eyes closed.  We were able to pet one of the pigs and its skin felt so rough to the touch.  It was comforting to see that these pigs were indeed very content on the farm!

A very inspiring quote written on a board along a path at the farm.
After the hour long tour, we were given free vegan ice cream bars and I purchased many items from the gift shop!  I bought a t-shirt, a necklace (that says "veg for life"), the Farm Sanctuary book, some postcards, a patch, and a magnet for our fridge.  We also donated some money to this amazing and wonderful safe haven for animals!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hello, I'm Lauren, nice to meet you!

Hello and welcome to "Where the Veggies Are"!  My name is Lauren and I live in Southwestern Ontario near Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  I'm in my late 20s and I have been a vegetarian for my entire life.  I was raised as a vegetarian by my family, which was certainly not considered "the norm" in the early 1980s. 

Back in the 80s, literature began to emerge about the health concerns of eating a "meat and potatoes" type of diet.  The public was also becoming more aware of cruelty towards farm animals and the environmental destruction caused by the meat industry.  Needless to say, my family chose the path of vegetarianism just after I was born.  I was always given the choice to eat meat when I was old enough to make that decision for myself, but I really had no inclination to start eating meat - having never eaten it, it didn't even seem like food to me.  I've never been able to make the disconnection between a living animal and the deceased one that is on a plate.  Plus, I have always been very interested in living a vegetarian lifestyle and the more that I discover about the meat industry, the more that I would never want to support it.

While I was raised as a vegetarian, we were the "lacto-ovo" type, meaning that we ate dairy and eggs.  This had always been the case until a couple of years ago when I started having some stomach problems.  At first, I had no idea what could be causing me any trouble, but I eventually traced it back to yogurt.  Anytime I ate yogurt, I would get awful stomach pains.  Furthermore, I knew that if I ever drank a big glass of chocolate milk (I was never the type to enjoy drinking plain milk on its own), it would cause me great discomfort as well.  I have never been formally tested for lactose-intolerance or dairy allergies, but it was enough to make me steer clear of these foods entirely.  As soon as I gave up yogurt and milk, my tummy woes disappeared.

With that said, I was still eating smaller amounts of dairy baked into foods, cheese didn't bother me, and I've never had any trouble with eggs.  However, when reading about factory farms and the meat industry, it doesn't escape me that animals are not being treated properly within the dairy industry.  Cows are being kept constantly pregnant for their milk, baby calves are taken from their mothers right away and put straight into the system as veal or future dairy cows, and animals are being confined in small areas without having the freedom to graze the grassy fields like nature dictates.  Chickens are being made to produce more eggs than ever before and are kept in tiny crates unable to move, growing into the cage.

There are big problems within this industry and it made me give up dairy and eggs completely two years ago. I learned all about various dairy substitutes - Earth Balance margarine, soy milk and almond milk, Vegenaise and Daiya cheese.  I was doing fine for about five months....then Christmas arrived and everything went out the window!  Soon enough, I was gorging on milk chocolate, baked goods, cheesy lasagna and all sorts of treats. 

A year and a half or so passed and I primarily cut dairy out of my diet again while at home, but still consumed plenty of dairy when I was at restaurants and places outside of the house. 

Last week, my fiancĂ©, Paul (who is also vegetarian) and I visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY (more on this in blog posts to come!).  It was an amazing experience to visit with the animals and witness the wonderful work that is done at this farm animal sanctuary.  It was such an incredible personal experience as I finally decided, enough is enough, I need to give up my reliance on dairy for good.  I need to become Vegan.

This blog will mark my journey from vegetarianism to veganism, the foods and recipes I discover, my troubles and potential pitfalls, my interests in the environment, and living a lifestyle that is healthy both personally and for the planet.  I look forward to providing you with a window into my world and will hopefully encourage others to follow a similar path.

Nice to meet everyone, please feel free to introduce yourself in the comments below if you've stumbled upon my blog!