In 1986, after rescuing a live sheep from a pile of dead animals in a stockyard, the author founded Farm Sanctuary, an organization that rescues discarded living animals from stockyards, slaughterhouses and factory farms; provides shelters for them; and advocates for humane animal treatment. In this impassioned book, Baur paints an appealing picture of these shelters and the animals that live there far from the brutality of industrial farming, which he describes in detail. Some of this inhumane treatment is not news-chickens packed into tiny cages-but accounts of living animals discarded like garbage because they are ill or weak surprise. Baur's nonprofit promotes legal remedies to stop the inhumane conditions chronicled. He believes that the best way to demonstrate concern for industrially farmed animals is to adopt a vegan lifestyle, but doesn't proselytize. Rather, he makes a strong case that meat eaters have an ethical responsibility to ensure that the animals they eat have not been abused. His well-argued book includes helpful lists of resources and organizations that deal with factory farming, animal welfare rights, humane food production and the environment. 18 b&w photos. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Foodby Gene Baur
Many people picture cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens as friendly creatures who live happily within the confines of a peaceful family farm, arriving as food/b>
Leading animal rights activist Gene Baur examines the real cost of the meat on our plates -- for both humans and animals alike -- in this provocative and thorough examination of the modern farm industry.
Many people picture cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens as friendly creatures who live happily within the confines of a peaceful family farm, arriving as food for humans only at the end of their sun-drenched lives. That's what Gene Baur had been told -- but when he first visited a stockyard he realized that this rosy depiction couldn't be more inaccurate.
Amid the stench, noise, and filth, his attention was drawn in particular to one sheep who had been cast aside for dead. But as Baur walked by, the sheep raised her head and looked right at him. She was still alive, and the one thing Baur knew for sure that day was that he had to get her to safety. Hilda, as she was later named, was nursed back to health and soon became the first resident of Farm Sanctuary -- an organization dedicated to the rescue, care, and protection of farm animals.
The truth is that farm production does not depend on the family farmer with a small herd of animals but instead resembles a large, assembly-line factory. Animals raised for human consumption are confined for the entirety of their lives and often live without companionship, fresh air, or even adequate food and water.Viewed as production units rather than living beings with feelings, ten billion farm animals are exploited specifically for food in the United States every year.
In Farm Sanctuary, Baur provides a thoughtprovoking investigation of the ethical questions involved in the production of beef, poultry, pork, milk,and eggs-- and what each of us can do to stop the mistreatment of farm animals and promote compassion. He details the triumphs and the disappointments of more than twenty years on the front lines of the animal protection movement. And he introduces sanctuary. us to some of the special creatures who live at Farm Sanctuary -- from Maya the cow to Marmalade the chicken -- all of whom escaped horrible circumstances to live happier, more peaceful lives. Farm Sanctuary shows how all of us have an opportunity and a responsibility to consume a kinder plate, making a better life for ourselves and animals as well. You will certainly never think of a hamburger or chicken breast the same way after reading this book.
Baur, founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, recounts his experiences in becoming an animal advocate and offers a comprehensive account on the treatment of farm animals. Although Baur is a self-proclaimed vegan, his tone is not overly sanctimonious. He places blame for the current state of factory farming not on the farmers but on an industrial, capitalistic system that pushes for a more technologically advanced way to mechanize procedures at a cheaper rate. Baur is simply asking the reader to look at this process from the animals' points of view. As the head of a farm-animal protection organization with locations in New York and California providing shelter to farm animals, Baur is competent to opine on the sentience of these creatures. Each chapter ends with a profile of a Farm Sanctuary resident. With an ample listing of applicable resources, references, and notes, this book is recommended for both public and academic libraries.
"Starting in the 1980s, Gene rescued neglected, abused, and injured animals from the appalling, disgusting conditions at auctions and stockyards. Meet in this insightful book the fascinating animals he saved." Dr. Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
"I have always admired the tremendous work of Farm Sanctuary. Farm animals need our ethical consideration, and Farm Sanctuary has played a central role in getting the issue of their plight on the national agenda." Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States
"A beautiful and stirring book, as filled with the spirit of mercy as the place that inspired it." Matthew Scully, author of Dominion
"Farm animals couldn't ask for a better advocate than Gene Baur." Rory Freedman, coauthor of Skinny Bitch
"The factory-farming industries do their best to keep people from knowing the truth about how meat, eggs, and dairy are produced. Gene and Farm Sanctuary deserve high praise for working so hard to educate the public and make the world a more compassionate and humane place." Moby
"Factory farms subvert democracy and are some of the nation's worst polluters. This book shows how they also treat animals with unspeakable cruelty. Farm Sanctuary is a compelling testament to the need to civilize this industry and end its radical practices for producing meat, dairy, and eggs." Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.20(w) x 1.10(h) x 9.50(d)
Read an Excerpt
Near the end of my last year of college I bought a used 1977 Volkswagen Westphalia van with a pop-top for $3,700. It had a bed on top, another pullout bed on the bottom, a small refrigerator (which never worked very well), a stove powered by a propane tank, and a tiny sink. At the end of the year, Lorri came out to Los Angeles, and in January 1986, the two of us drove across the country to Washington, D.C., to work in the animal advocacy movement.
We were young, fired up, and ready to take on the world. We wanted to make the cruelties of factory farming and its dangers to human health and the environment better known to the public. We also got involved in other aspects of the animal rights movement. That winter, four of us living in D.C. decided to attend an anti-fur demonstration at Macy's, which then sold and continues to sell fur. The protest was organized by a very active group in New York City, Trans-Species Unlimited, which held a number of highly visible and successful animal rights protests in the mid-to late 1980s.
On the four-hour drive up to New York, we began batting around ideas for other ways of documenting and letting the public know about what life was like for the billions of animals caught up in the industrialized farm system in the United States. We agreed we could reach many more people if we got on the road than we could from our office in Washington, D.C. By the end of the trip, Lorri and I had settled on a plan to start Farm Sanctuary. No one had a clear idea of what it was going to be, except that somehow it would combat factory farming and do so through some form of education and outreach. Back then, we didn't know what we'd be doing in the next five hours, never mind the next five years. We hit on a word that resonated with all of us sanctuary though we really had no clear idea that we would create an actual farm that would rescue farmed animals, take care of them, and encourage people to visit. We simply latched on to the idea of an oasis and decided to see where it led.
One of our fellow activists was so enthusiastic about the idea that he told us we could live and work in a row house he owned at 224 Stroud Street in the Browntown area of Wilmington, Delaware. Rent-free and available sounded good to us, so a couple of weeks later we left D.C. and moved in to begin Farm Sanctuary whatever that meant. The house was not luxurious. In fact, it was a mess (read: close to uninhabitable). The previous tenant had died suddenly and unexpectedly, and the house had quickly fallen into disrepair. The water pipes leaked into the kitchen ceiling, which eventually collapsed, and that was just the start of a long list of needed repairs. For the next few months we had our work cut out for us.
In April 1986, Farm Sanctuary was incorporated and we began producing advocacy literature. We knew, generally speaking, the conditions for animals on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, but little about the specifics and had never visited a factory farm. We felt that in order to be credible advocates we should have firsthand knowledge. Despite the publication in 1980 of Animal Factories, Jim Mason and Peter Singer's seminal work, relatively little documentation was publicly available on American industrialized animal agriculture.
Life Inside the Stockyards
It was the historian and activist Bernard Unti, then working at the American Anti-Vivisection Society, who first suggested we investigate the conditions at the stockyard in nearby Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I would soon confront the sights, smells, and otherworldly sounds of the modern livestock trade. Lancaster Stockyards was one of the oldest in the United States, incorporated in 1895. By 1908, the stockyard was dealing with 170,000 cattle a year and still growing. At its peak in the 1940s, 450,000 animals a year were brought to market there. It was at Lancaster that livestock was sold and then slaughtered for meat for the growing populations of cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia. Lancaster was known as a terminal market, similar to the Union Stock Yards in Chicago and the South St. Paul Stockyards in Minnesota and as the name suggests, a terminal market is the last stop for an animal before he or she is killed.
When we first visited in the mid-1980s, Lancaster was still handling over 300,000 animals a year from as far away as Montana and Texas, but it was no longer the economic powerhouse it once had been. Increasingly, it was serving niche markets, such as sheep and goat meat for ethnic communities on the East Coast, as well as marketing animals from Amish and Mennonite farms in the region. Both the Amish and Mennonites, who prided themselves on their resistance to the mores of American industrial society, were accommodating themselves to the modern world. Some were driving motorized vehicles rather than horse-drawn buggies, including the "black bumper Mennonites," who'd painted their cars' chrome bumpers black so they wouldn't appear too ostentatious. Because the law required that milk be refrigerated, many of the farmers had begun using electricity. And since banks tended to provide loans only if you adopted the latest technology and intensified operations, Amish and Mennonite farmers were beginning to practice aspects of factory farming, such as confining their hens in small "battery" cages and male calves in tiny crates to produce veal.
Lancaster Stockyards was huge, stretching across twenty-two acres to the north of the town. It was shaped like a grid and consisted of outdoor wooden pens with large gates, "long-legged barns" for the adult cattle, and "short-legged barns" for calves, pigs, sheep, and goats. These areas were bisected with alleyways, loading docks, and auction rings, where animals were paraded and then sold to the highest bidder. Trucks would travel from farms to the stockyard and back up to the loading dock, which was usually about four or so feet off the ground, and the animals would be herded down a ramp and through the alleyways into the holding pens.
Much of the stockyard was paved with cobblestones, which a stockyard worker once told me had been brought to America as ballast in empty ships that sailed from Europe. These ships would then return heavy with food and other products from the New World. I spent countless hours walking on those cobblestones and through the alleyways that connected the pens with the auction rings.
Lancaster was the first stockyard I ever visited, and over the spring and summer of 1986, I went there often. It was completely different from anything I'd experienced before. The smells of manure and death were everywhere. On sale days the market bustled sheep and goats bleated, cows mooed, truck engines rumbled as they backed up to the loading dock, and ramps clanked as they were put into place. You could hear banging as the animals shifted their weight inside the trucks and as their hoofs struck the hard metal floors. And always there was the squealing of pigs. The very buildings of Lancaster Stockyards seemed to groan. Because the wooden corrals were covered in sheet metal, which expanded and contracted in the heat and cold, the roofs creaked constantly. In summer the stockyard was wretchedly humid; in winter everything, including the water in the troughs for the animals, froze.
I quickly found there was little room for sentimentality inside the stockyard. Men yelled at the animals as they herded them through the alleyways, hitting them with whips and canes and shocking them with electric prods to get them to move as quickly as possible to their pens or the auction ring. The animals looked terrified and often scrambled over each other to avoid being hit. During our earliest visits we spent most of our time taking photographs and then, later, shooting video footage. We also kept a lookout for stockyard workers and tried to avoid trouble, but because the stockyard was a public market, it was hard for its management to deny us the right to be there.
Almost as soon as we began to visit Lancaster Stockyards, we would come across animals lying dead or injured in the alleyways or the holding pens. Either they had been hurt in the stockyard during handling or unloading, or they had arrived injured or sick and were unable to stand. Those who were dead on arrival or who'd died soon after were picked up and moved to what was unsentimentally called the dead pile. At Lancaster, the dead pile was a concrete slab with cinder-block walls on three sides located at the back of one of the buildings near the railroad tracks. (Trains had been the main method of transporting animals to the stockyard until the 1960s, when trucks became the sole form of delivery.)
The carcasses on the dead pile would stay there until the renderer came around. Depending on the level of the animals' decay, the renderer would skin the bodies of their hides for leather, boil them and siphon off the fat for soap, or use the flesh to feed other animals. The rest would be turned into fertilizer. Disposing of dead or dying animals at the dead pile was a service the stockyard provided to farmers, and it saved the renderer from making trips to individual farms to gather up the bodies.
One hot and humid Sunday in August 1986, as we walked by the dead pile, we saw carcasses of a cow, a couple of pigs, and some sheep decaying in the heat nothing unusual. The body of a calf had decomposed enough for us to see his rib cage. The stench was overpowering. A swarm of thick, fat maggots, inches deep, was burrowing into the calf's flesh, buzzing as they did so. To the side of the pile near one of the walls, we saw a sheep lying on her side. As we approached, something remarkable happened: the sheep lifted up her head and looked at us.
I was stunned. Lorri and I looked at each other in horror. Without exchanging a word we both knew that we couldn't let the animal stay where she was. Our first, overpowering thought was that somehow we had to get this sheep out of there.
Technically, though, we did not own the sheep and therefore had no right to remove her. We were in no state of mind to ask for permission to take the sheep, and it was Sunday, so there was no one around to ask even if we'd thought to do so. Industrial stockyards such as Lancaster are often very big. While a worker called a checker might be at the front gate twenty-four hours a day to account for animals when they arrived and were shipped out, we often walked the property without seeing any staff. Besides, we were in a part of the stockyard that no one had any interest in investigating. We were essentially picking through trash.
Because of where we'd found her and the state she was in, we had little hope that the sheep would survive. She likely would need to be euthanized. But we knew we couldn't leave her on the dead pile to linger, possibly for days. We got the van, lifted her into the space behind the front seats, and started driving around town, looking for a veterinarian to treat her. We didn't stop to think about what we were doing. We just knew it had to be done.
Finally we found one. The vet came out to the van and started palpating the sheep's body. The sheep, who was about six months old, barely more than a lamb, started showing signs of life. she began to breathe more easily and move. even though she remained remarkably quiet, within twenty minutes she was standing up, right there in the van. Far from needing to be euthanized, the sheep was on her way to a full recovery. We took the sheep, whom we named hilda after Farm sanctuary's first volunteer intern, back to the house in Wilmington, placed her in a little shed in our backyard, gave her water and food, shade and care, and she recovered quickly. a day or so later we had her shorn of her coat, which was uncomfortable in the summer heat.
Our decision to take hilda had been immediate. This was the first time we'd come across a live animal on the stockyard's dead pile, and we were stunned that there was a living, breathing, feeling being amid the rotting remains. What callousness, what carelessness and disrespect for a live animal, to write her off as dead and throw her away like garbage! We were there to affi rm that she was not garbage she was a living creature, and she deserved better than this.
After Hilda's rescue, we pieced together how she could have ended up where she did. Most likely Hilda had been packed into a standard livestock truck coming from a farm in New York along with hundreds of other sheep and inadequate ventilation. She had probably collapsed from heat exhaustion during the long journey before she reached the stockyard. It seemed obvious she'd been on the floor of the truck for some time, since her full wool coat was caked with excrement, most likely from other sheep. When the truck arrived at Lancaster Stockyards, the sheep who'd survived the trip had walked off, but several, including Hilda, were motionless and presumed dead. So all of them were dumped on the dead pile. Hilda was the lone survivor. She was lucky in other ways, too. It had rained the previous day, and that perhaps had cooled her down and given her a little water to drink so she didn't die of thirst. Hilda was also slightly to the side of the pile rather than on the top or, worse, at the bottom, where she could have suffocated. This had left her relatively free of maggots.
We informed the local humane society about what had happened to Hilda to see if they would prosecute, assuming there was a legal statute that applied to this situation. Their reply shocked us. They told us they wouldn't pursue the case. Indeed, they appeared indifferent and were uninterested in prosecuting those responsible for discarding Hilda. Still, we pushed for an investigation and discovered the identity of the trucker. Regarding who "owned" her: all the evidence pointed to the president of the stockyards himself, Bill McCoy. When we asked the humane society to look at the case again in light of this new information, they replied that the trucker had said he was sorry for what had happened to Hilda and that we shouldn't take the issue any further they certainly didn't plan to.
But an apology didn't seem like enough. Here was a clear case of neglect and liability. Perhaps I was naive, but I was surprised, first that such a thing could happen and, second, that those charged with preventing cruelty to animals would do nothing about it. We felt we had a responsibility to pursue the matter since those who should have been looking out for the animals' welfare wouldn't. We had no interest in a vendetta against the person who'd abandoned Hilda for dead, but somebody or something had to be made accountable so that it wouldn't happen again.
To our dismay, we discovered that it wasn't entirely clear there was anything illegal about what had taken place. In Pennsylvania, normal agricultural operations are exempted from state prosecution, and as we were to find out many times in the coming years, sick and dying animals in stockyards were all too "normal." In fact, it was we who were at risk of prosecution! Because Hilda had recovered and stood up, she became valuable again and suitable for slaughter. We could have been charged with property theft.
The decision to help that first animal in need was momentous. Hilda became a symbol of the larger problem of indifference to farmed animals in general and sick animals in particular, and it was her rescue that launched Farm Sanctuary's first major advocacy effort. Hilda made us into an organization as well as an actual, physical sanctuary.
Factory farms and stockyards have words to describe animals in Hilda's condition: they are called downed animals or downers. Although the terms have come into more general use in the last few years, particularly because of the emergence of mad cow disease, in those days the terms were used only by the industry and referred to animals down on the ground, unable to move on their own because they were sick, injured, or dying.
It wasn't long before we found other downed animals at Lancaster in the alleyways and pens. We had identified a clear problem incapacitated animals left to suffer with no treatment or care. It was a problem with a clear solution a no-downer policy, whereby downed animals would not be sold through the stockyard. If farmers had to take responsibility for the cost of providing veterinary care or humanely euthanizing downed animals, rather than being financially rewarded for selling them, we believed their behavior would change. We hoped they would treat their animals better before sending them to slaughter to keep them from becoming downed in the first place, or insist on better conditions during transport to slaughterhouses. With this as our objective, we initiated the no-downer campaign at Lancaster Stockyards.
I made it clear to Bill McCoy, the stockyard's president, that ultimately he had to take responsibility for the animals in the stockyard's custody. It was in the stockyard's best interest, I argued, to care for the animals or euthanize them, because it meant that healthier animals were going to go into the food chain, lessening the risk of disease. We'd also discovered that it's impossible to move large downed animals compassionately. They are often dragged with chains or pushed with tractors and forklifts. I have documented many instances of this, and it's always heartbreaking. It also takes considerable time and labor. Clearly, it was preferable for the stockyard, and the animals, to put downers out of their misery quickly.
The stockyard was cautious in its response. Company officials told us they agreed with our position that downed animals should not be marketed, but were reluctant to institute a no-downer policy because other stockyards like the one nearby in New Holland were selling downed animals who arrived on the premises still alive, and if Lancaster didn't also, it would lose that business. Since the stockyard refused to take concrete action, we continued documenting the inhumane conditions inside the facility and then shared it with the public, media, and other activists. In 1987 and 1988 we organized public meetings that brought further media and community attention to the issue of downers at Lancaster Stockyards and brought us volunteers who went into the stockyard to both document and rescue downed animals.
It came as no surprise to me that the abuse of downed animals sparked outrage in the community. Even though we were in the middle of farm country and were ruffling the industry's feathers, people could see that there was something fundamentally wrong in how sick or injured "food" animals were being treated.
At times, the atmosphere could get pretty heated. The workers, as well as McCoy, were very resistant to any change in the way things were done. Their attitude was that they'd been running a stockyard for nearly a century, they knew what they were doing, and nobody had any right to question them. On one occasion, I was at the stockyard with a local newspaper reporter, talking about the downed animal issue, when we saw a downed pig near the unloading dock. At that point, Bill McCoy showed up and we had a tense exchange that almost came to blows. That afternoon, though, McCoy did the right thing and agreed to allow the suffering animal to be euthanized.
Even though Lancaster's officials initially dismissed our concerns about animal welfare, we continued to pursue the matter and eventually reached an agreement. The stockyard would call us when sick or dying animals arrived at the facility, and we would provide them with veterinary care or, if the situation was hopeless, humane euthanasia. In practice, however, we didn't receive any calls, so we began to visit the stockyard again. Not surprisingly, nothing had really changed, and we found more downed animals. After more efforts on our behalf to raise public awareness, McCoy eventually assured us that he would honor our agreement, and we did begin receiving calls. Over the next several months, we made numerous trips to Lancaster Stockyards to rescue downed animals or have those who could not be saved euthanized.
We had made our offer to the stockyard to care for downed animals on the understanding that it would be an interim measure, but the stockyard seemed to be making no real effort to develop a longer-term policy. In fact, I believe that in a calculated ploy, they tried to overwhelm us emotionally, logistically, and financially to crush our spirits. They called us to come to the stockyard repeatedly to euthanize suffering animals. Perhaps they wanted us to feel that the task was too enormous to make any difference. Maybe they wanted to close us down before, as they feared, we could find a way to close down the stockyard something we weren't even thinking about. While we could perhaps dream that the animals' suffering at the stockyard would end, the day-to-day rescue efforts were all we could handle. Farm Sanctuary then was still a very new, all-volunteer organization, with limited funds, and calling vets to euthanize the animals was not cheap.
The stockyard's cynicism was made clear to me one day when I got a call that more than twenty pigs needed to be euthanized. Such a large number of downed animals at one time was very unusual. When I arrived at the stockyard with the veterinarian, I had to hold the pigs, one by one, as the vet administered lethal injections. It was one of the most difficult and painful things I've ever had to do. I later heard that the stockyard management had told farmers to bring in their "junk" so that we would have to deal with it. Apparently they hoped to break our will. Ironically, the effort had only confirmed what we were saying: that the stockyard was serving as a dumping ground for sick animals who shouldn't have been entering the food chain anyway.
When I reiterated to McCoy that it was the stockyard and not we who had the responsibility for the downed animals, he replied, "I put the monkey on your back."
"Bill," I reminded him firmly," it's your monkey." This episode gave me one of the first inklings of the problem of passing the buck in order to save a buck a problem that affects the entire farmed animal industry. Farmers were unwilling to deal with their sick animals, so they dumped them at the stockyard, making it the stockyard's problem. Meanwhile, the stockyard wanted to make the sick animals our problem. It seemed we were the only ones unwilling to pass on our own costs and liability.
We worked to bring the issue into the spotlight and took immediate action to save animals when we could, but there was no question that the responsibility for solving the larger problem lay squarely with the industry. On Memorial Day 1988 we staged our first and only rally outside Lancaster Stockyards. More than five hundred people from all over the mid-Atlantic region, as well as Lancaster itself, joined us to call for better treatment of animals in the food system. We had a series of speakers, including factory farming expert Jim Mason, whose support gave momentum to the cause and our fledgling organization. The demonstration also caught the attention of the print and broadcast press.
The stockyard realized its position was becoming untenable, even though it continued to misbehave. In one instance, a sheep who had been left on the dead pile was actually brought back into the stockyard so he couldn't be rescued or otherwise cared for. But in June 1988 the stockyard started shouldering some of the burden it acquired a captive bolt gun, which kills animals by driving a metal rod into their brain, so that downed animals could be euthanized on the spot. The captive bolt gun or another firearm is a common method of euthanasia in the farming industry, despite problems with their effectiveness. Later that year Lancaster Stockyards announced that it would no longer accept downed animals. We celebrated: it was a major victory, and our first one.
My philosophy of activism has been guided by the late animal rights and labor activist Henry Spira. He understood the importance of being reasonable and giving your opponent the opportunity to do the right thing. Spira believed you should be respectful but firm and clear in your dealings with opponents. Our no-downer campaign followed Spira's example in giving the stockyard an opportunity to engage with us. When it didn't respond to our private overtures, we contacted the media and held public meetings and a demonstration. When the stockyard initiated a no-downer policy, we praised and thanked it. But we also remained skeptical and vigilant.
Sadly, despite the stockyard's assurances that it had changed course, over the following years we found that downed animals were still being left to suffer and die at Lancaster Stockyards. We appealed repeatedly to local law enforcement officers about this, but they remained indifferent. Frustrated by the legal authorities' failure to address downed animal abuse at the stockyard, in 1991 Farm Sanctuary formally incorporated in Pennsylvania as a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Since the stockyard wasn't enforcing its own policy, we were once more required to act ourselves, and as an SPCA we could authorize our representative to enforce Pennsylvania's anti-cruelty laws.
We appointed Keith Mohler, who came from the surrounding community and had been volunteering with Farm Sanctuary to monitor stockyard conditions, as our first humane officer. On July 22, 1992, during a visit to the stockyard, Keith came across two cows in a pen who were clearly very sick but still standing. He asked stockyard workers if the cows were receiving veterinary care and was told that they were about to be picked up and taken to slaughter. Since they were not technically downed, Keith couldn't take any action. He had to take the workers at their word. But when he returned the following day, Keith found that while one of the cows was gone, the other, now too sick even to stand, was still in the pen.
"You said this was going to be taken care of. What's going on here?" Keith asked the stockyard attendant, who replied that the remaining cow was "written off as dead." Despite repeated requests and calls to the stockyard's management, no one would provide veterinary care or euthanize the cow. We learned that the animal had been purchased, and therefore was owned, by a slaughterhouse in North Carolina. When the slaughterhouse's trucker came to the stockyard, he had chosen to leave the cow in the pen because she couldn't walk onto his truck. Perhaps he hoped to sell her later to a local downed-animal dealer so she could be slaughtered for food.
Eventually, at around ten o'clock in the evening, in the absence of appropriate action on the part of the stockyard, Keith called a veterinarian, Dr. Barry Harris, to examine the cow. "When I arrived," Dr. Harris later wrote in a statement, "the cow was in left lateral recumbency and bloated. She had mastitis [an udder infection]. Her legs were in such poor shape that she was unable to rise." The cow was clearly in pain, and Harris elected to put her out of her misery. Soon after, Farm Sanctuary received a bill for $401.50. Since the cow could no longer be slaughtered for human food, the stockyard decided that we should pay her market value.
This demonstrated another absurd feature of the economics of farming. Clearly, the humane thing to do was to euthanize the cow. If she'd died without the vet's intervention, insurance probably would have covered her market price; if she'd survived, a local slaughterhouse might have paid something for her meat. Euthanizing her meant a financial loss it was cheaper to leave the cow alive and suffering. Economic interests were in direct conflict with humane concerns.
Naturally, we were outraged at being billed for doing the decent thing which was the stockyard's responsibility in the first place. Instead of paying the bill, Keith filed cruelty charges against Lancaster Stockyards for failing to provide the cow with needed food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. "I'm not jubilant about having to file cruelty charges," Keith told a journalist. " It's not a landmark victory but a breakdown in the cooperative system." The farming community began to recognize that it had a problem that stonewalling wouldn't solve. As an opinion piece in Lancaster Farming in August 1992 stated: "The moral of the story is this: don't send downed animals to market. Take the loss of one animal at home rather than create a situation that opponents of agriculture can use to destroy the livestock industry."
Lancaster Stockyards, however, didn't take Lancaster Farming's advice. In response to the cruelty charges, an attorney representing the stockyard sent us a letter citing a Pennsylvania legal code that advised us that we were no longer allowed to enter the stockyard premises. If we did, we would be considered trespassers and subject to criminal prosecution. "You have been warned," the letter read. "If you enter the premises of the Lancaster Stockyards, you do so at your peril." I knew we could not take such a notice lightly. (I had heard about property owners shooting trespassers.) McCoy was as emphatic as his lawyer's letter. "We have always operated under the contention that we have nothing to hide," he told a local reporter. "But it's gotten to the point that I don't want them coming in here anymore. They have no right to. It's time to put an end to this."
That we had reached this impasse after Farm Sanctuary had worked for five years with the stockyard, raising public awareness and dealing with downed animals ourselves, was particularly distressing. We had attempted to cooperate with the staff and management of the stockyard. Despite the chronic tension inherent in a relationship between those whose business was commodifying animals and those trying to save them, some downed animals had been treated with a little dignity. But now, Lancaster Stockyards and Farm Sanctuary were on opposite sides of the issue, and a court would determine whether leaving a downed animal to suffer and die was outside the bounds of acceptable conduct under Pennsylvania's anti-cruelty laws.
Court cases rarely run smoothly or according to plan. At the first hearing, our case was dismissed when the stockyard's attorney, whom we learned also represented the local humane enforcement agency and later became Lancaster's mayor, alleged that the complaint didn't accurately identify the specific cow involved. The stockyard supposedly did not know which cow it had allegedly mistreated. It was a strange assertion to make, since the stockyard apparently knew exactly which cow was involved when it arranged to send us a bill for her after she was euthanized!
The dismissal was a setback but not the end of the matter. Keith refiled the charges, this time providing more specific information and noting the exact pen where the downed cow was found. For us, it was an open-and-shut case. The stockyard had unambiguous knowledge of the animal's condition over two days. A veterinarian had examined the animal, clearly said that she was in bad shape, had written down his diagnosis, and had then euthanized her. That Harris, the vet, had taken this action and also provided a statement testifying to this effect was significant and commendable, because veterinarians who deal with animal agriculture are usually reluctant to speak out when the industry for which they do the bulk of their work is under fire.
In spite of various attempts by the stockyard's lawyer to have the case dismissed a second time, the hearing was allowed to go forward and the evidence was presented. Ironically, it was the checker at Lancaster Stockyards, a real character named Billy and something of a local legend, who helped to swing things our way. Billy told the truth about how the downed cow had been written off as dead. On April 27, 1993, Lancaster Stockyards was convicted of denying proper veterinary care to an animal.
We were extremely pleased. The conviction proved that blatant farm animal cruelty is unacceptable, even in farming communities. Although Pennsylvania exempted "normal agricultural operations" from anti-cruelty statutes, the court determined that leaving a downed animal to suffer at a stockyard without providing needed veterinary care was neither normal nor acceptable. It wasn't a huge monetary victory: the conviction required the stockyard to pay a fine of only $150 plus $72 in court costs. But the time and effort we had put in were worth it. It was an important legal victory.
We didn't, though, have much time to savor it. Unfortunately, angered by its conviction, Lancaster Stockyards went on the offensive again. Its attorney asserted that Farm Sanctuary had acted improperly and that the case raised constitutional issues about the actions of animal advocates. "If we decide to make a big deal of this," McCoy told the local newspaper," we're going to get the whole industry involved, appeal, fight, and win this damn thing, ban these people and get them out of the industry." Agribusiness also viewed the ruling with alarm. Its lobbyists worked with legislators in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who had been cultivated through years of campaign contributions and social outings, and a bill was introduced that would have prevented humane enforcement agents from protecting farm animals under Pennsylvania's anti-cruelty laws. So profoundly contradictory and extreme was this legislation that over the next few years, Farm Sanctuary joined with various organizations in Pennsylvania to stop agribusiness from undoing the authority granted under state law for humane law enforcement.
Eventually, a compromise was reached. It preserved humane officers' authority to protect farm animals but set new limitations on enforcement and new requirements for their training. Keith was appointed one of the instructors for the humane officer training. To his chagrin, the teaching venue he was assigned was also used as a university "meat lab" where food animals' bodies are cut into pieces and the cuts then assessed for quality. The point is to teach students what is desirable meat. It was as if the authorities wanted to remind Keith and the others present that farm animals were essentially meat and therefore deserved limited, if any, protection.
An Eventual Victory
Our campaign to make Lancaster Stockyards institute a no-downer policy had far-reaching impact. In 1986, when we began, the stockyard was considered a pillar of the local community and was looking forward to celebrating its hundredth anniversary. We, meanwhile, were outsiders, vegetarian animal rights activists, "absolutely radical," as Bill McCoy called us at one point which didn't win us many allies in Lancaster. As it turned out, however, the plight of downed animals went from being a marginal issue to a central one within the animal agriculture industry. It even became a national debate. Later, McCoy himself acknowledged that our position was justified: "Our first reaction was, 'Who do they think they are?' We weren't going to cooperate in any way," he told a journalist. "But now I think cooperation is in both our best interests. Our industry, in general, can clean up its act a little."
As the scope of Farm Sanctuary's work was expanding, we still kept tabs on Lancaster Stockyards. By the mid-1990s, it had gone into a steep decline. "Lancaster Stockyards, Once the Largest East of Chicago, Hangs in There," ran the headline of a 1995 article in a Lancaster newspaper. "What do you think of when someone mentions the Lancaster Stockyards?" asked its author, Jack Brubaker. "Do you think of a vibrant livestock trading center, or do you imagine a collection of buildings and animals that are ready to fall down?"
Lancaster was fading along with independent stockyards all over the country. They were being replaced by what are known as "buying stations," run by vertically integrated agribusinesses such as Smithfield. Under these systems, a single corporation does all the purchasing, so it sets the price. Historically, stockyards such as Lancaster formed free markets where animals could be valued by independent buyers bidding on them. No preset price was put on the animals farmers brought to market. Also, unlike stockyards, buying stations aren't a public market. They consist of unloading docks and ramps and pens. The stockyards' auction ring, with its bleachers for buyers to judge the animals, doesn't exist at a buying station. There's no need, since there's only one buyer.
While I am anything but nostalgic for Lancaster's heyday, stockyards were an important part of the farming community. At some of the stockyards I visited over the years, I saw picnic benches or even a restaurant and people telling stories and exchanging ideas about farming practices and other issues of the day. The new system offers none of that. Instead, farmers are individual units competing with each other in an isolated and atomized environment.
In April 2006, almost two decades to the day after Farm Sanctuary was incorporated, Lancaster Stockyards announced that it was closing amid speculation that its twenty-two acres would be sold off for development as stores or offices. Recently, I had the chance to visit Lancaster Stockyards again. I found a very different place than the one I'd known. Instead of slamming gates and screaming workers, quiet had descended. I was struck by the way the old pens and structures were being reclaimed by nature. Trees and vines were taking over buildings, and grass was growing through cracks in the cement. This facility that had been a site of cruel exploitation for decades was being transformed.
I don't mourn the stockyard, but I do wish the land could be used for something other than commercial development. I would love for it to sustain its connection to the local agricultural economy by becoming a farmers' market or even perhaps a vegan organic farm. Better laws and tax incentives could help usher in such a needed transformation in Lancaster and in many other similar places across the rural United States.
A few years ago, I received a Christmas gift from my friends Cayce Mell and Jason Tracy, who used to operate a sanctuary for farmed animals in Pennsylvania. The cardboard package, which was a little less than a foot square, was very heavy, and I wondered what on earth it could contain. When I opened the box, I found a gray rectangular stone with a note that read: "Thought you should have this. It is a small piece of a big part of your history. From the belly of the beast, a cobblestone from Lancaster stockyards." next to the schwinn sting- ray I received for Christmas when I was a boy, it was probably one of the most fi tting and thoughtful gifts I've ever received.
When I first saw Maya, she was a tiny black and white calf, just a few days old, huddled in a corner behind one of the gates at Lancaster Stockyards. She was down and unable to walk through the stockyard. I lift ed her out from behind the gate and took her home. When I saw she was limping, I drove her to the New Bolton Veterinary Center, part of the University of Pennsylvania. Th e young vet on duty said she would try to fl ush out an infected joint in Maya's front leg. The vet had Maya never done such a procedure before, but I agreed she should go ahead. As Maya recovered I spent a lot of time with her, and her leg healed completely. Maya and I became very close and remained so even as she grew to be a full-grown cow.
One day, a Farm Sanctuary rescue brought in a number of calves from an abusive veal facility. We decided to put them in a pasture with Maya, thinking that she would care for them like an adoptive mother. Maya was always very maternal, even though she never had any calves of her own. As with all calves born to dairy cows, she had been taken from her own mother almost at birth. Maya watched over the calves, protecting and loving them as if they were her own.
Back then, in the 1980s, we didn't know as much about animals' emotions as we do now, and we didn't have the space to keep all the calves. So when adopters offered to take them, we were thrilled. The calves would be able to live the rest of their lives in comfortable places, and room would open up to take in other needy animals. As it happened, we transported the calves to their new homes all in one day. In hindsight, I can see that I made a terrible decision. Suddenly Maya had no calves, and she was bereft and angry. After the calves were removed, she rolled on her back and wailed and could not be consoled.
One day, many years later, I came to visit Maya in the herd at the Watkins Glen shelter. I hadn't seen her for a long time. "Maya," I called to her, as I walked through the pasture. Maya looked at me and began running, not toward me but at me, bellowing. In fact, she ran me right off that pasture. I had to jump a fence and lost a shoe in the mud as I ran. I'd been the one who had broken her heart and betrayed her trust, and she hadn't forgotten. I've also thought that Maya's reaction could have stemmed from a feeling that I'd abandoned her. In the early years I spent much of my time on the farm and had lots of direct contact with the animals, including Maya. But as Farm Sanctuary grew, my role and responsibilities changed, and I found myself away from the farm much of the time. Maya might have felt that loss more than I'd ever imagined.
Whatever Maya was expressing that day in the pasture, I learned a lesson in a very direct way: animals have deep emotions, and you cannot assume they aren't forming bonds with other animals or with you. Over the years, as we learned more about the animals' psychology, we instituted a policy that all Farm Sanctuary animals adopted out to new homes have to be placed with at least one companion of their own species.
Happily, in the intervening years, Maya has nurtured many newly rescued calves at Farm Sanctuary, who have gone on to join the herd. But they remain close to Maya and even as adults still look to her for guidance and approval. Maya was the first downed calf I rescued, and she's now over twenty years old: a matriarch and the oldest cow at our Watkins Glen shelter.
Copyright © 2008 by Gene Baur
Meet the Author
Gene Baur is the president and cofounder of the nation's leading farm animal protection organization, Farm Sanctuary, which advocates the fair treatment of farm animals, a return to the roots of agriculture, and the end of animals' suffering for our consumption. Since 1986 his organization has not only helped to enact groundbreaking laws and policies to help prevent sick and diseased animals from ending up on our menus but has also rescued sick, abandoned, and abused animals from farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses across the country. Baur and his colleagues provide, on farms in New York and California, a safe home and a healthful life for animals who are in desperate need of rescue. Please visit Farm Sanctuary's website at www.farmsanctuary.org.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
I love animals and this book made me want to do more to help animals any way I can. After reading this book it has made me want to make better food choices, that is not only better for myself but for the world we live in. At times it was hard to read about what some of these animals went threw but I do know this book made me a better person. Thank Gene for writing a wonderful book.
As a former tour guide for Farm Sanctuary, reading this book was literally like catching up with old (animal) friends. Great for those seasoned in animal welfare issues, and a very non-threatening guide to those just learning about them. Nothing in the book forces veganism upon the reader, though don't be surprised if you choose to live that way after learning about the many ten-fold horrors of factory farming. Learning about the individual animal stories reminds us that we may not be able to save every sentient being, but each of us can save some, and that truly means a lot. Read this book, then plan a visit to Farm Santcuary and meet everyone (human and non-human) you have been introduced to here. Every little bit helps, and one person can make worlds of difference - including you. Go get inspired!
I grew up with many animals, including chickens when I was very small, and enjoyed being surrounded by the horse and dairy farms of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Farm Sanctuary really opened my eyes to the ugly side of farm factories, government and politics. If people only knew what they are ingesting and how their food was raised, fed and processed, they would never eat meat or poultry again. The farm factories of today are a disgrace. There is power in simply making a choice not to support such vulgar industries. Eventually, the pocketbook will hurt. I thank those who did the early investigations, witnessed the most horrendous sights and have given a loving sanctuary to God's creatures. I will be supporting them in the future.
I found this book to be an amazingly good read. It's a very eye opening book, and I highly recommend it to everyone who feels a bond with animals! It definitely will make you think about the difference you can make with food choices. Very Empowering!
Great read. I couldn't put it down. Not only did it promote veganism, but it gave meat eaters better options for eating.