Monday, November 22, 2010

The Dirty Vegan Loves Watkins Glen Vegans, Part One!

"A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral." -Leo Tolstoy, Russian novelist (1828–1910)

Phoenix the very handsome turkey

Living among the hunters, cattle farmers, and dairy farmers of Watkins Glen, NY are some special folks, a different breed of humans, ones I like to call Watkins Glen Vegans. They live in the frigid cold of the mountains (you will see that I wear about 5 layers and look like 2 Dirty Vegans while visiting the farm), they are hospitable like mostly everyone else in the area, however they connect to animals on such a deep level. The Farm Sanctuary folks are special vegans who really go above and beyond anything I have ever seen; above and beyond activism. I have met other vegans before. Most of us are cynical creatures who no longer hold faith in our own species because we have watched them time and time again needlessly slaughter, beat, abuse, demoralise, belittle, and then have the audacity to eat, poor innocent animals. However, the folks at Farm Sanctuary inspire me to be a better vegan. They inspired me this weekend at their annual Thanksgiving Celebration for Turkeys. I am inspired that maybe, just maybe, all humans aren't horrible, that there are actually other animal angels who connect with, adore, feel the pain of, and cry with and for the animals. I had the great pleasure of witnessing these people who see the product of abuse by human hands everyday, but still they stay positive. They stay positive because they have to. If you give up this fight, if you don't believe that there will eventually be an end to this needless suffering, then what is the point of fighting? Do you see that without that drive and without the hope and faith in our fellow humans, how can we possibly get everyone on the same page? It occurred to me that without that spark of hope, without being able to see the good in everyone, we will always remain "us" and "them". I see unity, peace, and hope in every Farm Sanctuary folk, and in most of their members. We visit Farm Sanctuary every year for Thanksgiving, to feed turkeys rather than feed on them, but this year was different. I have never felt more vegan. I never thought it was possible, but I aspire to be even more vegan. I aspire to do more, to be more, to work more, for the animals. I always had this drive. The animals have and always will be my driving force. I can care less about health, its not about that (I do call myself the Dirty Vegan, do I not?). The beauty of this past Watkins Glen visit is, that just when I thought I couldn't be more vegan, more motivated, more vegan in every single thing I do, I was inspired by The Farm Sanctuary to be even more so, to be better, to be the best, not for me, for the animals, because they are depending on us. It wasn't the wonderful speakers, the fabulous dinner, or the cookies and cider before that, that made my heart grow three sizes, it was what I saw when there were no words at all. I have pictures to try to explain...

Before we head over to the farm to visit all the beautiful beings that live there, we did some shopping. There was a consignment shop where the workers are solely volunteer. All the profits go to the local animal shelter. I had the pleasure of meeting Thumper there. Thumper is the sweetest boxer. Thumper had scars and was badly abused before he was rescued. However, you would never know Thumper saw abuse by the hands of humans. He loves humans and the entire time his tail never stopped wagging. This weekend in Watkins Glen, it was hard to hold back the tears. Tears of many different emotions welled up inside me during this visit. I was sure to buy one of the most expensive designer dresses at the shop. It benefits the animal shelter...and I am the Dirty Vegan, a diva (as you can see with my designer look-a-like acrylic scarf, above).

First stop, the cows.This beautiful girl is Rhonda. Funny story: my husband kept calling her Larry (the cow beside her was Larry). Well, Rhonda did not like being called, Larry. The more my husband called her Larry, the more and louder she groaned and mooed, until I finally told him that she was Rhonda, not Larry. She seemed fine after that, and he apologized to her and rubbed her. Rhonda was amongst some of the older and special needs cows. You can tell she had been through so much at one time in her life. You could just tell she had a story. Just like Thumper, you can see that these animals have been through the war, but keep on going, they trust us humans again, they don't have to, but they do, they want to. They are not the stupid ones for trusting humans after they were abused by them, it is the humans who are stupid for abusing these gorgeous creatures. Every life has intrinsic value. These animals have lives, friends, feelings, fears, hopes, feel pleasures, they grieve and are animals just like we are. Just because they are different than a human does not mean we are to exploit them. Just because they can't talk, does not mean it is right. They do cry out in pain. Can you think of any other instances where mass abuse occurred to other groups just because they were different and we didn't accept them?

Some more funny stories from the farm: my husband got right in the pig barn and proceeded to rub pig bellies and they rolled over to enjoy, and later, fall asleep. I on the other hand, was scared of the pigs (I know, weirdest vegan ever, right). They were just so big and powerful and walking around faster than the cows were. I rubbed them but wanted to go into the piglet area, where I thought I would feel more at ease. Well, piglets are feisty. Now when I say piglet, I don't mean first day after being born piglet, I mean 200- 300 pound feisty piglets. Well one tried to get over to the adult pig area and stepped on my foot. It hurt, but I didn't even flinch. I wanted to be calm, after all, I am in their home. I could only imagine how excited and anxious all the animals were that day to have so many humans around. All the smells and excitement. I would probably be a little taken back if I had 100 different unfamiliar animals touching me and hanging around in my home! The pigs were darling and they make the cutest noises! Needless to say, next year, I will hang with the older pigs. Yes, they are very large, however, they are experienced and quite calm. All the pigs were amazing I must say. Each one had its own personality. The piglet seemed to listen to me when I tried to distract it, and its big adorable nose smelled and nudged me. My heart was melted, for the umpteenth time that day. People also do not realize how truly smart pigs are. I think the statistics show that a juvenile pig is smarter or equivalent to a 3 year old child. I don't think you would want to abuse, mistreat, torture, torment, slaughter, then eat, your 3 year old, do you? I know I wouldn't even dream of it. I don't even kill bugs!

Another funny one: every year I see an adorable, resident black cat at the farm. It is always walking around. Last year I went up and gave it a gentle rub. Last year it hissed and ran away. We laughed our heads off because it was simply the cutest little cat ever. This year we spotted the cat again. I walk up to it, slowly, and give it a gentle rub. It seemed to like the rub...until proceeding to whip it's head around and bite my hand. I had a glove on, and it didn't bite hard, just enough to tell me something. Either a love bite or a "leave me alone" bite. Regardless, we laughed our heads off. Still the cutest cat ever.

Then we waited. Sat on hay bails. So excited to feed the turkeys and watch them eat their Thanksgiving Day feast! Here they come rushing in. Last year there were significantly less people, so they were all over the table, eating pies, fruit, and squash. This year they seemed more curious about us. They came over to check people out. The more seasoned turkeys went right for the food immediately.

Many people don't know what goes into a turkey on your table. It IS very much an animal. Don't you dare disassociate that fact. If you eat a turkey, own up to it, don't try to justify it by dumbing them down. They are brilliant animals. They make beautiful sounds, each meaning something different that they feel, they form bonds, they love life. These turkeys pictured had the opportunity to be rescued, sadly unthinkable numbers of animals are slaughtered each year for Thanksgiving. They have a long tortured road ahead before they make it to your table. Their most sensitive body part, their beak, in which they use to communicate with their world, is chopped off, then off with their toes, they then suffer in factory farms (if they don't die before then, most of them die - for what?). They are not allowed to do the things that their natural instincts beg of them. They are unable to roost, bond, and so many other things that we enjoy watching our cats and dogs do, and things we enjoy doing ourselves. Did you know that turkeys raised for food cannot even mate and reproduce on their own, due to genetic mutilation? These turkeys have been altered in such incredible ways; the turkeys people buy already dead in supermarkets are the product of artificial insemination. My question is, how can anyone expect to feel good, mentally and physically, when they consume fear, trauma, cruelty, abuse, and angst? Humans know when we are in danger, we feel it. You better believe animals know they are about to die. I noticed a very significant change in my mood and life when I went vegetarian many years ago. Then when I went vegan it refined. Life begins falling into place. You start to see things differently. People look at me as strange. I can just as easily look at people who eat animal as strange. I can't wrap my head around how someone can eat their friends.

I watched Susie Coston at Farm Sanctuary. She is an angel to animals. She has such a beautiful soul and a heart of gold. These animals are her life and what she does is simply amazing. To just watch her interact with the animals is wonderful and inspiring. My experiences at the sanctuary are beyond physical. One of the speakers at the dinner later on, described being at Farm Sanctuary as "spiritual". I can totally understand that. These animals have been saved. Saved from horrible fates. It reminds me of those movies where there is terrible Armageddon-like activity, and you know at the end, when it all settles, and the few that made it out alive, are in a sunny safe place. They saw the battle, they were in the war, they are healing from the wounds, they have the scars, but they eventually find peace. My heart grew three sizes this Thanksgiving. For all the animals at Farm Sanctuary who found peace. To all their friends who didn't make it, who only find peace when their heart stops beating. To all the animal angels who work for, volunteer, support, and donate to Farm Sanctuary. Bless your heart and Happy Thanksgiving. For now, the Dirty Vegan is signing off.


  1. A beautiful, caring article. Thank you for sharing your experience and wonderful insight.