Woodstock Farm Sanctuary: Providing Safe Spaces for Farmed Animals
Read Kinder Beauty's exclusive interview with Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.
Situated amidst rolling hills in Upstate New York’s Hudson Valley, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary moved to its current location in the hamlet of High Falls in 2015 after outgrowing its original home near its namesake, Woodstock, where the organization was founded in 2004. The expansive shelter serves as a safe space for hundreds of animals rescued from the cruel and neglectful situations they faced as victims of the animal agriculture industry. Animals at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary either live out the rest of their lives at the sanctuary or are adopted into loving homes, no longer abused and treated as commodities, but instead offered respect and kindness. Kinder Beauty had the opportunity to speak with Rachel McCrystal, Executive Director of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary about the organization’s work, and what we can do to help farmed animals.
Kinder Beauty: What are some of the situations that Woodstock Farm Sanctuary’s residents have been rescued from?
Rachel McCrystal: Our residents have all been liberated from animal farming in one way or another. Many escaped directly from farms, jumped off of transport trucks, or ran through open doors at auctions and slaughterhouses. Kayli the cow is well known for saving herself and running from a slaughterhouse outside of Philadelphia many years ago—she now presides over our cow herd. Something that surprises people is that often animals come directly from farm owners; there are so many animals that are thrown away as part of routine farming and so often you can convince farm owners and workers to surrender them to rescue and sanctuary. We took in 100 hens in 2019 from a situation like that—the farm listed them in an anonymous craigslist ad as “soup chickens” for just a few dollars each. We were able to convince them to allow us to come and take all of the hens to save their lives. There is so much hidden in animal farming and so many points at which animals are considered worthless where rescue can take place.
KB: Can you please tell us about some of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary’s rescued residents?
RM: I am very smitten with sheep! They are more people-selective and usually not interested in strangers but if you spend time with them and they know you and trust you, some of them are very friendly and solicitous of attention (some aren’t and that’s okay too)! Two of our newest residents are sheep: Lita and her lamb River. River is so spunky and silly—we are all in love with him and his mom. It’s snowy here right now and he’s been out playing in the snow and having fun deciding that people are basically jungle gyms for him to climb on, headbutt, and jump off of. He’s so fantastic.
KB: Why is it important to advocate for animal rights in alliance with other social justice movements, and in what ways is Woodstock Farm Sanctuary doing this?
RM: There are many sanctuaries and other animal rights groups that have been centering their work as justice work for years. Notably to me, VINE and Food Empowerment Project. As a group newer to this, we think it’s important that we support with allyship, resources, and our platform other liberation movements as all oppression is linked. It’s the right thing to do and we also don’t think that we will get to animal liberation without human liberation. Practically this means things like collecting plant-based food for our local community fridge, supporting local decarceration and police accountability efforts, publicly declaring that Black Lives Matter, giving space and resources to BIPOC leaders in the vegan movement, and working on our internal equity and inclusion practices. It’s a work in progress but I’m very proud that we have a team who is invested in doing this work.
KB: How has Covid-19 impacted Woodstock Farm Sanctuary?
RM: We are very close to New York City so we shut down very early in response to the pandemic in 2020 and we haven’t really opened up yet. Our onsite inn, The Gray Barn, is a big source of revenue for us and that’s been mostly not operating—although we are opening it up for full-space, five-day rentals in April. We also haven’t been able to have many volunteers or visitors which are so key to our operating and also our educational programming. And like many nonprofits, our donations are way down. We’ve had to be creative to keep doing this work and keep all our team safe … it’s been a very rough year. But the animals don’t know there is a pandemic, so the work of caring for them is grounding for all of us.
KB: How does going vegan (and not just vegetarian) help animals like the ones at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary?
RM: Everyone here has been liberated from animal farming and many directly from the egg and dairy industries. We have targeted campaigns with information directly about those two industries where so many kind-hearted people assume nothing too terrible takes place. Our egg campaign is at www.considertheegg.org and our dairy campaign is at www.meetjo.org. The amount of suffering, family separation, and death that happens because of dairy and eggs is staggering. When you rescue animals from these industries they are traumatized emotionally from having their babies taken from them, losing their herds and flocks year after year, and being treated as objects. But in addition, they are physically traumatized by what the forced, intentional breeding does to their bodies.
KW: What are some easy first steps someone can take towards going vegan?
RM: The best advice I heard is to go plant-based for one meal first! So try breakfast and then lunch and then dinner (or whatever order makes sense to you). That way you can make your adjustments and figure out new foods. For me personally though, what worked was that I immersed myself in who these animals are who we call farmed animals. I was vegetarian for nearly 15 years before I went vegan and what pushed me into going fully vegan was just learning about who cows are and who chickens are and how my decisions were impacting them. There was no going back once I educated myself. It’s also so very helpful to find a community—be it in person or online! Having friends who are vegan will keep you from feeling alone and will provide a lot of resources and support. Following sanctuaries and rescued farmed animals on social media is actually a great way of meeting other people and staying connected to why you are making this very important decision.