In 1969 a small town in upstate New York was made famous for its festival of peace, love, and happiness. Over forty years later, Woodstock remains as liberal and progressive as ever, most recently made evident in 2004 with the inception of the non-profit organization and shelter, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (WFAS).
Co-founded by couple Jenny Brown and Doug Abel, the sanctuary, which is home to countless cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, sheep and goats, all of whom have been rescued from the horrors of factory farming, impending slaughter, or neglectful and abusive situations, is nestled amongst the picturesque backdrop of the Catskill Mountains.
In the seven years since it’s opening, WFAS has grown in leaps and bounds. What began as a home to a small group of chickens rescued from a factory farm, and a rooster who had been dumped in a NYC schoolyard has evolved into a full-fledged sanctuary, equipped with two large barns, two sheds for the cattle, five chicken coops, a duck/goose shed and pond, a modest animal hospital/treatment room and visitor center–and almost a mile of fencing. All of which has allowed the rescue of hundreds of animals who either stay for life or are adopted out to loving homes that meet Jenny and Doug’s admittedly, strict criteria.
With their mission stated as performing, “the hands-on work of rescuing, rehabilitating and caring for farm animal refugees — as well as educating the public about the horrific treatment of animals who are raised in large, industrial factory farm systems,” WFAS certainly lives up to its aim.
As stated on their extremely informative website, and as evident by a recent trip I made to the sanctuary, “The shelter regularly takes in, or works to place, other farm animals that are victims of cruelty and neglect. Most of these animals are rescued during investigations of farms, stockyards, auctions, and slaughterhouses; others arrive from humane societies and SPCA cruelty cases. A surprising number of rescued animals come from the streets of New York City. For the first time in their lives, these animals that have only known fear, isolation and pain now enjoy warm and clean barns, nourishing food, veterinary care and love.
Apart from their visitor hours on the weekends, they host regional school groups on field trips and other large groups. These days, children seldom have the opportunity to see these animals up close because the small family farm is largely a thing of the past. Few organizations exist that provide shelter and care to farm animals as opposed to the many that exist that focus on companion animals. Seeing these animals in the environment that they were meant to be in is a rare and rich experience. Visitors walk away having learned that these animals are not unlike the animals we call pets—they each have unique personalities and can be as affectionate and loyal as a dog or cat.
Although affectionately and appropriately dubbed “the hip sanctuary,” often hosting fundraising events with the likes of Moby, Sean Lennon, and Chrissie Hynde, Jenny and Doug maintain an environment of professionalism, with the top priority unwaveringly the well-being and care of the animals.
The sanctuary is open to the public on the weekends during the months of April through October, with educational tours offered throughout the day. Guests are encouraged to volunteer at the sanctuary, helping to feed, clean, and care for the animals, enhancing the bonding experience. Each year the sanctuary hosts a Blessing of the Animals, a Thanks-Living Celebration, and numerous fundraising events guaranteed to raise not only funds, but also spirits, as guests come together to party for the animals. For more information, to donate or volunteer check out www.woodstocksanctuary.org