I wanted to do something special for my 50th birthday. I thought about if for quite a while; I could go to New York City, go out to a fancy dinner, or do something I had wanted to do for years - visit Farm Sanctuary in Watkin's Glen, NY. As supporters for many years, my family and I made the trip to the beautiful Finger Lakes in September, a beautiful time to visit the area. There are many things to do in the area: exploring the village of Watkin's Glen, the waterfalls, parks and the famous car race track. The highlight is a visit to Farm Sanctuary, an organization with three locations: two in California and one in Watkin's Glen, which seeks to educate people about the life of factory farm animals and rescues them from a life of suffering. You are able to visit these saved animals in a farm setting where they are fortunate enough to live out their lives as living beings. Each animal has an inspiring story about how it made its way to the farm. With a guide, you and your family are able to visit all of the animals and see them in their natural setting. For me, this trip was something of a pilgrimage.
A vegetarian since the age of 14, my father told me a story which changed my life. He had a friend who was raising two pigs for meat. During their time together on his farm, the pigs had grown fond of each other's company. The day came when it was time to take one of the pigs to be slaughtered. The man attempted to separate the pigs and get one of them on the trailer. The two animals made such a fuss, squealing, crying and making it impossible for the man to load one of them in the vehicle. At that point, the man had a change of heart. It was obvious that this forced separation was causing the pigs great distress, and he decided his efforts were futile. These pigs were friends and he couldn't stand to see them suffering in this way. After this incident, he decided to keep the pigs as pets, and they lived out their lives happily on his farm. The man did not have his animals slaughtered or eat meat after that point. There was a shift in his thinking as animals for meat; to him, animals had the potential for happiness just as humans. Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the great philanthropist and lover of animals said:
"The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo ... We need a boundless ethic which will include the animal, also."
As I walked through the sanctuary with my family, I became nine years old again. This was the right place to be, and my happy heart smiled.
For more information visit FarmSanctuary.org.