Farm Animals Have No Personality
By Jean Rhode
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS), a sanctuary for
farmed animals and horses, is a place of love. How do I know? I volunteer
as often as I can from my Park Slope urban life.
CAS’s dual mission has been crystal clear from day one: rescue and education.
Founder Kathy Stevens presents workshops at schools, universities, learning centers,
as well as right on the farm. Through film, readings, dialogue and, most importantly,
close experiences with animals, people begin to see farmed animals as more than
food. They become living beings.
Throughout the spring and summer months, people come by the busload, and whether
or not they kiss a pig—an act Stevens encourages with enthusiasm—they
leave changed. We see it over and over again. “The animals are the teachers,” Stevens
explains. “I simply provide information about their lives under agribusiness
and how what we do to them impacts them, impacts our health, impacts our planet.
The animals have the more important job: grabbing hold of people’s hearts.”
Hannah, an older sheep, was found wandering a graveyard in Queens. When she arrived
at the sanctuary, she was thin and terrified of humans, even running from an
outstretched hand that held a treat. But she fell in love with Rambo, the wise
old Jacob sheep. Hannah was simply head over heels, following him around endlessly.
He’d hide, standing motionless behind the rabbit barn, undetected by his
would-be paramour. But soon enough, Hannah discovered Rambo’s secret spot,
and from then on, wherever Rambo was, there was Hannah, the tip of her nose buried
in his woolly coat.
Hannah couldn’t help but notice that her beau loved people, seeking them
out for massages, treats...even just a friendly word. She’d always stand
a few feet back, eyes moving back and forth between human and Rambo, taking everything
And then it happened. Hannah allowed a hand to touch her nose. And little by
little she’s come around. If you kneel and talk to her gently, you can
stroke her face, scratch under her chin, and watch her long white eyelashes begin
to close. You can tell her that she’s beautiful and brave, and that she
deserves all good things. You can kiss her on her woolly forehead. One wishes
for a world like this for all farmed animals.
The sanctuary’s new horse is named Mirage. He is skinny and you can see
the bones of his hips. His left hip bothers him and he often moves from left
to right shifting his weight. On a bad day he can’t lift his head above
his shoulders. He often hangs his head and eats only the hay on the floor of
his stall, but at least he’s eating. He gets an anti-inflammatory with
his midday feed and his head rises a little higher. We tell him he’s going
to get stronger but we don’t know that for sure. We don’t know how
old he is or what his real story is, other than he was used as a pawn in the
middle of a divorce where the husband starved the horses to get back at the wife.
Mirage has been here almost four months but it still hurts to look at him. His
bones seem to stick right through his skin. His eyes are tired. But that’s
why we’re here after all, to see the warmth come back for lost sheep, abandoned
pigs, and now for Mirage. We whisper to him that he’s a miracle in the
making and it opens something in us, the telling and then the seeing, every single
It’s raining, cold and absolutely perfect for Sassafras and Succotash—two
ducks who walk in the mud puddles in front of the chicken coop, quacking and
touching their orange bills. It’s so wet they’ve left their beloved
pond, a blue plastic kiddie pool, to explore the mud. Their pond is small but
perfect for a blind duck and her seeing-eye pal. Usually they don’t leave
the circular perfection of their plastic pool. Their routine is the same all
seasons: we open up the stall where they stay overnight, safe from the duck flock
in the big pond and duck house, pick up blind Sassafras and put her in the pool
while Succotash follows. He scrambles over and they paddle and dip their heads
in the clean water, quacking in celebration of the ideal place to swim.
Franklin is the newest resident of CAS. A baby farm pig, the runt of the litter,
he was left to starve to death—a typical fate of runts. A kind neighbor,
however, saw Franklin and asked to take him. She brought him to CAS where this
precocious pig now goes on hikes in the woods every day, sniffs noses with the
occasional horse, sheep or goat, and charms visitors. He seems to know even now
that one day he’ll be an important ambassador to introduce people to the
marvelous personalities of farmed animals. Franklin is a little pig with a big
job ahead of him!
An Open Invitation
Visit the barn and smell the hay and fresh manure. Listen to Chester kick his
stall door and whine anxiously at feeding time or whenever anyone leaves the
kitchen holding anything that looks like a bucket. Help bring Bobo in from the
field and sing her favorite song from the days when she was still terrified of
leaving her stall. Whisper to her and watch her head turn in response, this old
forgotten blind horse with no eyes listening to the feeling behind your every
word. Sit with Priscilla the potbelly pig while she eats and grunts and gleams.
Stand in the doorway and watch the pigeons fly in formation around the willow
trees. Strip off some of the branches and bring them to the goats, their most
favorite delicacy. But watch out, Mufasa will also chew the zipper of your jacket
and sniff through your hair. Sit on the shaving pile next to Police, no one knows
comfort like a big pig. Bring kale to the new chickens, some miniature and brown
with intelligent faces. Watch Noel, the Barbados sheep, and her friend Jack in
their field. Come smell the damp wool of a Jacob sheep, scratch the horns of
a goat and listen to the roosters.
Meet the animals who have the capacity to change your life. I promise, I know.
Jean Rhode is a CAS board member and regularly volunteers there. Visit www.casanctuary.orgfor information on special events including shin digs, vegan cooking classes,
lectures, book readings and more.
© STEALTH TECHNOLOGIES INC.