By Jenny Canham,Guest Contributor, Sanctuary Spotlight
Today is my birthday! It’s also what I commemorate as my veganniversary. It’s hard to put an exact date on this, as for me it was a gradual process – as soon as I found out something wasn’t vegan, I then replaced it with something that was. Two years ago today, I was given one birthday present in particular that I found particularly intriguing. My mum had bought me a book called The Lucky Ones by a lady called Jenny Brown. She said she thought I’d like it as I’d always been interested in animals, and the lady on the front of the book reminded her of me (as well as us having the same name!). She was right, I was interested in animals, but on that day animal advocacy went from being an interest to a way of life.
Last week in the article, Vegan UGGs Season: An Opportunity for Advocacy, Daria talked about something that I can really relate to – she said, “We are all guilty of doing things we wouldn’t do if we knew that someone suffered because of our choices.” I think many people enter the world of veganism having before been a vegetarian, and wish they had made that deeper connection sooner. It pains me to see it now, but people that live a vegetarian lifestyle often do so because they don’t want to contribute to animal cruelty, yet are oblivious to the suffering that goes on in the dairy and egg industries. This was me. For over ten years I thought I was doing something good for the world by being a vegetarian, and had, like so many others, considered veganism as being “extreme”, but the truth was I just didn’t understand it. There had been a few incidents that made me consider farm animal suffering beyond the meat industry; I talked about one in The Healing Power of Cats. But reading The Lucky Ones was that final push, and a real turning point in my life where I finally opened my eyes to the world around me.
The Lucky Ones is not for the faint of heart. Jenny Brown tells the story of not only the journey of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, but also her own life-changing struggle as she fights through her illness to discover how to live a life full of compassion, which she now dedicates to farm animals in need. It begins with Jenny’s first strong connection with an animal. After having her leg amputated due to bone cancer, Jenny was forced to stay at home while she recovered. During this time she adopted a rescue cat who awakened a compassion towards animals that she never knew she possessed. However, continuing to indulge in animal products, Jenny still hadn’t made the connection between the animals that live in our homes and those we eat; she even worked in McDonald’s without giving the products she was serving much of a second thought. It wasn’t until she started college that she was faced with campaigning material that she couldn’t ignore. Jenny’s curiosity grew and she began to find herself determined to find out the truth behind the meat industry.
“As the nineteenth-century philosopher and animal rights activist Jeremy Bentham said, “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?” – Jenny Brown
Like myself, it wasn’t until later that Jenny discovered that animal suffering doesn’t end with meat, and this is the part of The Lucky Ones that really opened my eyes. Personally, this book inspired me so much because Jenny is so easy to relate to. She gradually awakened to the different types of animal suffering, paying close attention to dairy production, as she explains the suffering dairy cows endure when they are forced to give up their babies. She identifies how this is a never-ending cycle, as the females will endure the same fate as their mothers, while the males, seen as ‘by-products’ of the dairy industry, are placed in tiny crates and killed very young to often be used for veal.
I think the reason why this really hit home to me was because I felt like I was right there all along with Jenny throughout her story. Her realisation that the meat she ate was actually once an animal, the same as those she shared her home with, was the same connection I made as a child. So the next logical step for me was to no longer support this industry in any way.
“If similar mutilations and practices were imposed on cats and dogs, there would be public outrage. But the majority of people don’t realize it’s happening to the animals that land on their plates, or stop to think what animals go through.” – Jenny Brown
Woodstock Farm Sanctuary symbolises Jenny’s dedication and compassion towards farm animals. The sanctuary highlights a concept that seems so obvious, yet is so easily forgotten – life is precious. I found it fascinating to read Jenny’s journey towards starting her own farm sanctuary, and am planning to visit Woodstock Farm Sanctuary next year. I am thrilled that the sanctuary is doing so well – they have recently moved to larger premises in High Falls, to cater to the rising number of farm animals they are providing a forever home for. You can find out about the move here. The demand for their upcoming Thanksliving – A Vegan Banquet has been so high that the event has sold out, but you can put your name on the waiting list in case of any cancellations.
For all the animals she has taken into her sanctuary and cared for, and the awareness she has raised and continues to raise for farm animals, Jenny Brown certainly proves that one person can make a difference. I am hopeful that her story will inspire many more people like it did with me, and that Woodstock Farm Sanctuary will continue in its great success and achievements for farm animals in need.
“I’m looking forward to a day when I have to shut our doors because there are no farm animals to rescue, when animal cruelty is an embarrassment of the past.” – Jenny Brown
Visit Woodstock Farm Sanctuary
Where: 2 Rescue Road, High Falls, New York
When: Woodstock is no longer open for visits this year, but will be opening again in 2016! Check here for more information http://woodstocksanctuary.org/plan-your-visit/
Admission: Adults – $10, kids/seniors – $5, toddlers/members – free (prices include a guided tour).
Connect with Woodstock Farm Sanctuary
Photos courtesy of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and used with permission.