A Word on Compassionate Living, Animal Cruelty (And Appreciating Plant-Based Diets)

Inspired by a trip to a local farm, Mama Greenest makes a heartfelt plea for living (and eating) “green”



On Sunday a couple of friends and I took the kids on a field trip to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. It was such a worthwhile adventure, though I’m sure Coraline will forever be afraid of goats seeing as how she was head-butted to the ground by a particularly feisty one (and later charged by another who wanted a taste of her apple). Goat scuffles notwithstanding, they had a blast. There was an entertaining duck pond, giant cows, and muddy, sociable pigs. Everyone was excited to meet the sanctuary’s newest resident, Mike Jr., a 700-pound calf who escaped from a New Jersey slaughterhouse just a few days ago, but the real star of the afternoon ended up being a fluffy black barn cat. These kids really are easy to please...

The sanctuary was founded in 2004 by two documentary filmmakers who had a life-changing experience when they filmed some footage inside a Texas slaughterhouse. Located on a picturesque piece of once-neglected farmland off Route 212 in Willow (just seven miles outside of Woodstock), it’s home to dozens of animals rescued from farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses where they were victims of cruelty and neglect. The property boasts several barns and pastures (all the buildings and fences were built by volunteers), a visitor center and store, and an on-site bed and breakfast. On weekends during the season (April-October), you can take a tour or just wander around. Some of the tour information is a little intense for small children (talk of chickens being boiled alive, for example), but just hanging out with the animals provides an incredible opportunity to discuss not just food and where it comes from, but the importance of kindness and compassion. Even my friend’s four-year-old son was appalled to learn that Mike Jr. was supposed to be someone’s dinner.

Knowledge is power, but for most people, when it comes to what they eat, they just don’t want to know. As someone who doesn’t eat meat (or dairy or eggs), I often find myself struggling for a way to share information without seeming self-righteous or preachy. But I’m going there: Part of the reason factory farming has become such a serious issue is because people don’t associate the burger on their plate with a living, breathing creature. And if compassion alone isn’t reason enough to rethink your habits, it is worth considering that modern day agribusiness is decimating our environment, producing more carbon emissions than any other industry; that factory farm animals are forced to live in filthy, inhumane conditions before being slaughtered (and that they are often tortured in the process); and that a plant-based diet can combat everything from obesity to cancer. I get that even with all the evidence in the world, most people still won’t give up their scrambled eggs or filet mignon, but even a little goes a long way: Try going veg a couple days a week, and if you buy meat, dairy, or eggs do so from local, humane sources. The Mike Jr.’s of the world will thank you.

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One mom's plan to raise a kid — without raising greenhouse gases

About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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