On the 23-acre parcel outside the village of Woodstock, de-beaked chickens once crammed into cages sun themselves on the lawn, a goat named Albie who escaped from a slaughterhouse in Brooklyn runs toward Brown on his prosthetic leg to receive affection, and cows rescued from being veal calves sleep peacefully in a shaded field. Every single one of the 140 rescued and rehabilitated animals on the farm has a name (Brown keeps a collection of baby-naming books in her bedroom), as well as a personal health chart.
The sanctuary’s third annual Blessing of the Animals will take place on September 28 at 1pm. Guests and their companion animals are invited. www.woodstockfas.org.
What made you want to start the sanctuary?
I had done some undercover videos in the early ’90s when I was still in film school. Then, in 2002, I did undercover work for Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and visited stockyards in Texas as someone who was looking to purchase animals. It was truly that week that I saw things that scarred me: animals chained, kicked, prodded, and abused, workers ripping the calves away from their mothers immediately after birth and throwing them into a separate pen to die or be sold to a veal farmer; live animals suffering from heat stress lying in a pile on top of dead animals. I was going home to my hotel room and bawling my eyes out every night. I had a realization that I was really put on this Earth to do something for as many of these individuals as I could.
What’s the message you’re trying to get out there?
We strive to show people that these animals are really not much different than the animals we know and love as cats and dogs. We are living proof that you can live your life without consuming animal products. We believe that we have evolved and that meat is not good for you anymore. People die of heart disease and colon cancer and diabetes and all these things because of meat and dairy being such mainstays in our diet. We’re not tree-hugging zealots, we just want people to start that thinking process to make smarter choices. There’s no denying that we hope people come here and fall in love with some critters and move away from an animal-based diet, but we’re also not here to point fingers at anybody. We just want people to make that important connection that “Oh, I didn’t realize that cows don’t just produce milk.” Many a cultured and intelligent person comes through here thinking that.
What do you do to promote your cause?
We often set up a table at the Woodstock Farm Festival. We give out literature on factory farms, literature on how easy it can be to move toward a plant-based diet. In this day and age, when we’re so concerned about our carbon footprint, the number one thing you can do is decrease your animal product intake. The livestock sector produces more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector. It takes 30 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef, whereas that 30 pounds of grain could be directed toward 16 people for a day’s ration of food. It’s just not sustainable. We could feed the world on the grain that’s going in to raise the cattle. We also have a huge meatless Thanksgiving dinner that’s been sold out for the past two years. We put a huge tent in the pasture, the turkeys get to roam around—they’re the guests of honor—we have speakers get up and say a word or two, music, and then we have a fat, delicious, full-on, full-course vegan Thanksgiving dinner, and people love it. We call it “Thanksliving.”