NYSHA Board Member Harold Hovel’s Visit to a Farm Sanctuary
It has been said that if people could see for themselves the terrible atrocities that animals go through in slaughterhouses, many more would be vegetarians. I think the same is true if people could visit a sanctuary and get to know the farm animals “up close and personal.” I had occasion to volunteer at one recently and came away with a new respect and love for the pigs, goats, sheep, turkeys, chickens, and other farm animals who make up this victimized and abused massive animal population. These farm animals share the same features as dogs and cats; they are smart, love attention and affection, like to play, and give back unconditional love. It’s unimaginable what these wonderful animals go through under the domination of our human species. Pain, terror, suffering are the lot of billions of these innocent beings who want nothing more than to live quiet, peaceful, enjoyable lives without conflict, pain, and stress — just like the rest of us.
New York State has several sanctuaries for farm animals. Two well-known ones are Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties. The one I visited is a jewel known as Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary (safehavenfarmsanctuary.org) nestled in the Mid-Hudson Valley in the town of Poughquag. They were just moving from their compact, limited facilities they’ve had since 2006 to a much larger farm property down the road, and about 100 farm animals of all kinds had to be crated with minimum stress to the animals (smart as they were, attempts to explain how much better the new digs would be went over their heads) and moved by horse trailer and volunteer cars the mile distance. I wish I could have read their minds when they saw the new pastures and pens 10 times the size or more than their old ones. It didn’t take long to see how happy they were with their new home.
I got to know Charlotte and Gus, young pigs rescued by compassionate people as the two lay on a pile of dead animals, thrown there by a roadside zoo keeper. (All the animals at Safe Haven are rescues.) Charlotte loved belly rubs and attention right away. Gus was more wary, but when he saw the attention his sister was getting, he came to love belly rubs too. My wife Andrea and I also got to know the 10 ducks we transported in our car, telling them between quacks that their new home would “knock their socks off,” if they had been wearing any.
When we were helping release them into their new home, I bonded with Violet, a 17-year-old goat wearing a coat to keep her warm. She rested her head on my leg and enjoyed all the pats and rubs I gave her, just like my dogs and cats do at home. I helped take Charlotte and Gus to their new large pasture and helped take pigs Leo and Gracie to a pasture as big as a football field. Must have seemed like heaven to those sweet, affectionate pigs. Later, we went to see the turkeys, who rushed over to us, anxious to meet the new humans. We also enjoyed seeing all the chickens, pecking away at the ground for goodies the way they like to, and the two horses, good buddies, in their big new pasture.
The new location has room for more farm animals. Bill and Ellen Crain, the founders of Safe Haven, hope to rescue some cows and donkeys soon. Knowing them, it won’t be long before some very lucky ones will be making many new friends at the sanctuary.
After rounding out the day with a few slices of vegan pizza, we said goodbye to Bill and Ellen, happy to have volunteered and even happier to have made friends with so many amazing farm animals. I can’t wait to go back.
Harold Hovel, NYSHA Board of Directors
New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XXXV, Spring 2020.