My visit to CAS; Catskill Animal Sanctuary
Disconnect. That’s it. I was looking for the right word to sum up my feeling as I was walking up the winding road away from Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS) in upstate New York. I was torn between disconnect and desensitized. I’m talking about people here not the animals. I feel that if the average person knew what went on with factory farming specifically, they would never eat meat again. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule but for the most part I would like to believe in the more compassionate side of human beings. So, why do most people not know? For one, they do not want to know because then they will not be able to consume meat again, which many treasure for a variety of reasons. Others, are just disconnected, moreso I believe rather than desensitized although ultimately, the two go hand in hand. It’s quite obvious that for the most part one does not connect a brightly colored, cleanly wrapped, package of boneless meat from a grocery store to the real life of a commercial farm animal with a fully functioning nervous system, a dreadful story of torture and a genetically altered diet living as a commodity in a sales and yield driven money empowered environment. For the record and so you know if you don’t already, farm animals are exempt from animal cruelty laws. They are actually not even seen as animals; they are commodities. Therefore, if your heart melts because a cat is left in the cold without food, a dog is being abused by it’s owner, a horse is driving tourists around in a crowded polluted city or a pitbull is in a dog fight for money; well, then you can’t even imagine what goes on in factory farms. I’m not about to get into it now but please make it your priority to learn about this on your own. The tipping point with regard to the future of food is arriving and hopefully you will get aboard and make the change that you want to see in the world. Every person can and will make a difference.
What pops up in my head immediately though is the anti-movement. By this, I mean the distortion of the truth under the disguise of “increased health”; Whole Foods in one aspect and then the paleo movement overall. Whole Foods, which I do like as a mega store for the record, has an ongoing campaign of knowing where your food comes from. This is marketing at it’s best. They want you to get the impression that your food comes from a pretty farm where animals run free and have a magnificent life and then sacrifice it for your food. Don’t be fooled by this. It’s far from reality. Although these farms may have existed in the past, or throughout rural parts of the world or even possibly today on an “organic”, “grass fed” or “sustainable” farm, it’s is simply so small in comparison that I will almost say that it doesn’t exist. I recall, only a couple years ago, arguing with a paleo friend of mine who said that they eat grass fed beef. I researched it to find that only 3% of the beef eating market actually buys this. True paleo diets do not revolve around eating meat all day long nor in every meal. It’s suppose to actually revolve around plants with 3 – 4 ounces (of meat) a day, not an hour! Furthermore, you can’t be paleo with the belief in your head that you are eating “GMO free” meat when you really do not know. Dining out and eating on the run, two popular American lifestyles, are generally far from organic. Oh please.. I see so many stores and restaurants slap that “organic” word on their window so that you believe it’s healthy. Just because they have one organic item doesn’t make them a source of organics. Back to Whole Foods with their pictures of a model holding a chicken or pretty farmland in the background; it’s almost as good as the dairy industry’s GOT MILK campaign. Ok, well it isn’t that good. That’s probably the best food marketing (and farce) of all time. Whole Foods wants you to think that they are a leader in making that connection. They leave out the whole story though. I don’t believe first of all that everything they have is even 50% organic. I remember looking for grass fed liver to feed my dogs back in the day and it was hardly ever in stock. Is there a demand for that which I do not know about? I look around the meat case and I see hardly any of it is grass fed. Next to the meat case and my biggest gripe of the Whole Foods in Brooklyn, are the hanging carcasses. People like this? Are you serious? Most meat eaters I know don’t want to see that. They want their disconnect or a make believe story that everything is ok. The ones who like seeing that; well they are the desensitized ones. As for the paleo people losing weight by eating “meat” like their ancestors lol come on. Just maybe you are losing that weight because you are dropping GMOS, junk food, processed crap – and you are eating a pound of vegetables every day. I can’t get into it right now. I will get more sidetracked.
Why all the talk of the disconnected and desensitized ones? Because the changing of hearts and minds can be greatly attributed to all of the animal rescue organizations around the world – they are the solution. Truly, we need to meet, appreciate and respect the animals. They have souls, they can feel joy, they are intelligent and many have a story. I highly recommend visiting an animal rescue facility. I finally visited a farm animal sanctuary: CAS. I encourage these visits for anyone looking to develop their compassion – for all living beings
My venture kicked off with a quick visit to my friend’s bakery. I stop in to see two of my favorite people and also of course to nudge them along to carry some vegan bakery items. Either they are afraid of the word or they don’t think it will sell. I keep telling them how to market it and remind them that half of the world is lactose intolerant. As I am leaving, I meet a few native Italian friends of the family. We talk about farms for a minute but the discussion ends in horse farms and not the ones you see as pets or sporting. Naive that it could relate to Italy, I said what? Horses for meat? My friend looks at me and says she doesn’t eat the meat when she goes there – horses are beautiful. Luckily, the women who told me the story said their family doesn’t do that anymore. But two things I’m left with: First, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Here is a beautiful campaign (from Mercy for Animals) if you haven’t already seen it: How do u love one and eat the other.
I can find the beauty in all of them. Second, lucky are those who escape consumption. I couldn’t help but think how lucky these sanctuary animals are. Think of the number alone. I found this link listing the farm sanctuaries in the United States.
One would have to count and compare this number to the 9 billion that are slaughtered for food each year in the US alone (70 billion worldwide). One million are slaughtered per hour in our country. That’s crazy. Putting that in perspective and then meeting these lucky animals blows my mind.
I arrive at the sanctuary and make my way down to meet everyone. The first day was quiet. It was late in the afternoon and most were just fed or still eating. The horses on one side loved the attention. I even felt they were fighting over me lol. Quite the contrary, with the horses on the other side; they were only interested in food and water at that time. I was overly excited to see the pigs. It was interesting to watch them especially as they came right up to the fence. I must say too that they have such nice eyelashes.
Pigs, as I was told the next day, are the fifth smartest animals. I generally say they are smarter than a three-year old child and have more sensitivity then a dog. I found these lists and videos of the “smartest animals” quite interesting:
The sheep were beautiful as they just literally starred at me. And I starred right back at them thinking about how I need to never wear wool again. I only buy vegan now but it’s interesting having had to go back into my closet to see exactly how many things I needed to remove from my wardrobe. I think I am there now.
I hung out with the cows. I have seen cows before especially when I was younger but honestly, I have never seen a cow this big in my life or a pig for that matter. I learned that farm animals are even more manipulated than I thought. They aren’t necessarily genetically modified (for food consumption) as in the definition of GMO; not yet anyway although it’s certainly in the works.
Farm animals in general eat a diet full of GMOs. Apparently, the alterations here are more along the lines of breeding and of course all the tricks that farmers do to fatten and enlarge both the animals and their pocket books. I know about some of these practices but certainly not all. I was also amazed at each story and where they came from. Although they were all saved from slaughter, it wasn’t like I had imagined. Some were from an illegal slaughterhouse that was shut down, some from a zoo, some from hoarders and so on. I need about ten more tours before I will get it right and their names. I want to remember them all.
After a wonderful tofu scramble in the guesthouse, The Homestead, I had the pleasure of an amazing personal tour with Erica. She must be in really good with them because what a difference the next day. It was early and everyone was out. We were greeted by Shirley and a few of her friends.. and then there was Arthur. First impressions do matter because I will tell you now – I already love and miss Arthur. I know it’s not right to have favorites but his personality stuck with me. If I could sneak him out, I would lol. All of the animals there flocked to Erica. It was like walking into a party, meeting everyone and trying to remember their names.
First we hugged Emmet. Then we walked down to see Buddy, the blind horse. http://www.amazon.com/Where-Blind-Horse-Sings-Sanctuary-ebook/dp/B00558B5YC
Along the way, I met Bobby, Amos and Jessie.
Shortly after, we noticed quite a bit of commotion. I watched in amazement. The farm staff was running the pigs into different pastures. There were no trucks, cages or leashes – more like hey follow me! It was exciting. Kathy Stevens, founder and president of CAS, was even there enjoying the smiles and happiness coming from the pigs all over. I was able to witness the running around of the pigs and their curly tails twirling. Happy pig day! Even the other animals were watching. With gorgeous eyes I might add.
We went on to meet the sheep more closely. They stare one day and then run away the next. I know the feeling. I met Bruce the duck and was up close and personal with the chicks. I was also able to spend a second time watching Tucker, the big cow. You can read about their stories on CAS website: https://casanctuary.org/about/meet-animals-new/
Here are some photos I took of my new friends:
If you would like to donate:
I can’t wait to go back. It’s like a drop of hope in a sea of torture.
CAS is located in upstate New York by the Kingston exit #19 from the NYS Thruway. 316 Old Stage Road, Saugerties