Sadness Lies Ahead.

Tonight I am in a sad mood. I have Iron & Wine’s “An Angry Blade” playing at the moment, as tears are wandering through my eyes with only Kitty to hold me tight. Today was a good day, but tomorrow will be sad, probably one of the saddest days that I will ever experience. We all go through problems and issues in life, and when we come out on the other end, it usually makes us stronger.

I have been trying to think of the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I have seen a lot of awful videos and heard a lot of terrible screams, but I cannot think of anything that I have seen with my two eyes that has really traumatized me. I’ve never watched someone kill an animal before, I’ve never watched someone beat or brutalize one, not in person at least. I’ve seen animals get hit, but those were accidents, as sad as they were, they were cases of beings being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, on both ends. But tomorrow, I am going to see something that I never wanted to see in person.

Tomorrow we are going to a stockyard, a livestock sale. Just the word alone makes me cringe, live…stock. This simply put, translates to living things being sold as stock. Things for money. But they aren’t just things, they are beings. Beings who have just as every right and want to live as we humans do. But it’s not just the sale that hurts to think about, it is something much deeper than that. What we are going to see tomorrow are animals being sold for profit, to be taken to slaughter, many within 24 hours, and to be consumed.

I was just looking at my blog entry that I posted a few days ago with the male calves. They are so incredibly beautiful. Looking at them just makes me smile, it warms my heart, just as the deepest of love that I have ever felt, and then I cry. I cry because I think how wonderful these creatures are, so full of life. They want to live. They have each been through unspeakable horrors, but found light here at Farm Sanctuary. Those calves that I am going to see tomorrow, they aren’t going to be so lucky.

What we will see tomorrow are many many calves who are but a few days old. They have been ripped from their mother’s because they are of no use to the dairy industry. They will be young male calves. Young males serve no purpose to the dairy industry, with the exception of a few who are raised for sperm production. These young boys are going to be scared and confused as they will be alone and in a scary environment that screams fear and terror. I cannot exaggerate this experience, as I have seen many videos and heard of other’s experiences. There is no way around the fact that these babies simply put, have been taken from their mothers, and are going to be forced to move around, be poked and prodded at, then ultimately pushed into a vechicle and for most, taken to slaughter later in the day.

How do I know they will be slaughtered that day? The newborns are sold for quick cash,  they are known as bob veal. It’s not as highly prized as regular veal, where the calves are kept in extreme confinement and fed a poor diet to encourage anemia, which creates the pale “desired” coloring.  Bob veal is from newborn aged calves. It just breaks my heart to know that all of these calves are going to be there, be scared, and will later lose their lives. All for what? So that us humans can drink a product that is not only, not intended for our bodies, but also bad for our health, the environment, and the lives involved in it’s production? Simply put, if your consume any dairy products, you are supporting veal production. There is just no way around this. This isn’t the worst of the worst, it’s just the truth.

I can’t help but think that when I look into these little calves’ eyes that I am going to cry. Not only because I will want to save them, but because I will think of the other wonderful calves here on the farm that have really touched my life. Tweed, Milbank, Orlando, Arnold, and Conrad have all shown me how excited they were about life and how much they wanted to play with me and have fun. They showed me what how much they wanted affection and to be loved, just as we humans want to be. They are a lucky few. They have names. They are beings. They deserve more in life than to be “stock” or “it(s)”. Each one has personality. But these calves at the stockyard tomorrow, they will never know this love or kindness from a human being.

On a whole other realm, I would never be able to watch someone kick a dog without going to stop it and help. It is in my nature to help those who are around me. Especially creatures  who would otherwise be living a natural life if humans hadn’t used/abused/destroyed their homelands. Whenever I see a hurt bird on the road, I always take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center. When I see a turtle trying to cross a busy road, I always pull over to help it cross. Whenever I see a lost dog wandering the streets, I always stop to find it’s owner. It is in my nature to be compassionate and to do whatever it is possible to help those without a voice.

However, tomorrow, I will not be able to take these calves and run. That would be illegal and in the end, be rather counterproductive, just as purchasing them would also be funding this awful business. Instead, I will merely have to see them with my own eyes, watch people purchase them, and then I will leave. I will have left with doing nothing. I will not stop their pain. I will have to leave knowing that I did nothing. I will not help, I will just observe. I will try to numb the pain, but I suspect that it will not go away anytime soon.

To me, it is sort of like when someone watches a video of a cow being abused, then slaughtered, and that person still decides to eat a hamburger. There is a part of the human brain that just shuts off, it only sees what it wants to see. It is those horse-blinders that we all put up in certain situations that allows us to numb us from certain things. I don’t think I will be able to numb this experience tomorrow. For whatever reason, I can’t bring myself to “numb” myself of what/where/and how animals are raised for food production. I know what happens, and I have chosen not to ignore what goes on for the sake of a taste of something. With animals, I cannot turn this numbing condition on. Sometimes I say my heart is too big, but it is those big hearts that stopped to save Tweed, Milbank, Orlando, Conrad and Arnold.

It is only in my greatest of hopes to not force anything down people’s throats, but to give them a better understanding of the personality of farm animals and how they are raised for human consumption. The next time you drink a glass of milk, enjoy a pint of ice cream, or put a slice of cheese on your sandwich, think about those calves that will never get to enjoy life, to run, to play, and to breathe the crisp winter air…that is all.

Finished Film & The Day Ahead

(Photo: Kittah keeping me company while writing this morning)

Yesterday was a great day, aside from the fact that my only date was with Kittah, I got to work on something really awesome at FS. Although right now it’s mums the word until I get approval to talk about said things, but it has something to do with this video: Valentine’s Day at Farm Sanctuary. That’s all I can say right now, and if you know me, I’ve got a big smile on my face right now!

As for the rest of the day, I got to go on a shopping trip to Ithaca with the housemates. Wow is Wegmans much bigger than the one I’ve been to back home. We also hit up GreenStar. Yay for bulk rice & $2.50 Kombucha! I wish we could have spent more time up there, I really love the area, there is just so much to do. It was cool driving into town at night though this time, because the city was lit up. Ithaca is apparently much larger than I thought it was. In any case, growing up I always wanted to live in upstate New York area. Not that this is completely considered “upstate”, but I had thrown out the idea years ago and replaced it wth cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, and New York City. However, I’ve come to find that I really love it up. I could definitely see myself moving to the area for a bit.

As for today, the rest of the interns and myself get to have lunch with George Eiseman, who is actually a good friend of a friend and I can’t wait to meet him. He happens to be a registered dietician and the author of “The Most Noble Diet”. I really love talking about the nutritional aspect of eating a plant-based diet. It is something that I am definitely passionate about. Having worked at a health food store on and off for two years, I was able to extensively learn about nutrition and the health food industry.

Considering I would really like to get into documentary work about nutrition surrounding plant-based diets, this should definitely be a good talk. I have found that documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and May I Be Frank were all very successful in showing different sides to eating a plant-based diet. They have all been very great inspiration to me and I can’t wait for what the future holds.

Well it’s off to my internship!

New Website Shout Out & Mid-Afternoon Update

Just stopping in over lunch time, but I wanted to give a shout out to my good friend, Scott Kowalski, at 464 Media for setting me up with this brand spanking new website. I’m very excited to have finally moved my blog content over, and I look forward to adding tons of photos and film footage in the near future. Thanks Scott!

As for today, it’s a great day! The sun is out, the snow is still hanging around, and the air is crisp. I’ve been working on helping to archive FS’s literature and using new (to me) fancy cameras. I’ve also learned more about Photoshop this morning from my “boss” Nick Ugliuzza, than I ever learned during my 3.5 years at college! Thanks Nick! It’s very exciting to be learning new programs, techniques, and equipment during my stay here.

As for the rest of the afternoon, we are going back out to the animal pens to photograph and film some more, since it’s a beautiful day here! Not only do I get to enjoy filming, but I get to be around so many awesome creatures, I couldn’t ask for anything more right now.

Welcome to the new page, kick off your shoes, grab a cup of jo and stay awhile!

 

Snowfall at Farm Sanctuary

 

Well this weekend it finally snowed! So much so that I decided not to take my car out anywhere, so although I didn’t get to go explore Ithaca again or hit up some new local trails, I did get to go out and photograph the farm as well as hang out with some pretty rad beings, which was just as exciting.

 

Also Friday night I went and hung out at Rooster Fish where I struck up conversation with some pretty interesting locals. I found out some cool hot spots that I need to check out, as well as tons of trails around the area that I didn’t even know existed. There just isn’t enough time to do all the things I want to do! From what I hear though, the area between Watkins Glen and Ithaca is pretty progressive and there are lots of like-minded people around here. It’s nice to be somewhere where you can just strike up a good conversation with someone. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had that back home. This place definitely has a different vibe to it, and I love it.

 

Saturday, my housemate’s friend came to visit, who just so-happened to have been working with film for the past seven years. So of course I had to pick his brain about how to get started with documentary work. Ever since I graduated here this past December, I’ve really wanted to get started on my documentary, but I never knew where to start. I had been waiting to take that next dive, but not knowing where to begin. Now I feel like after a few hours of chit-chatting with someone whose been there, I now have the resources to get started on my big project. The universe is a strange bird, you never know who your going to meet and where it’s going to take you. I however cannot wait to start planning my documentary. It’s a good day to be alive again.

 

Today I am going to work on finishing up the FS Valentine’s Day segment. After some technical difficulties, I’m hoping to get a good piece put together today. Then hopefully I will take some more time to go chill with the creatures and photograph some more. Enjoy the photos!

Full Circle & Things to Think About

Yesterday I had a really amazing day. I spent all of it out on the farm filming various animals with my supervisor, along with shelter director, Susie Coston who gave us the rundown. This was especially exciting for me because I hadn’t been in any of the animal pens since orientation last week. I was really happy to finally be able to go shoot footage for an upcoming Valentine’s day project I’m going to do for FS. I was like a kid in a candy store out there with the animals while I was filming.

 

The first group of animals we got to film was a mother goat whose baby had never been outside yet. This was a really neat experience, as I have never really been around goats much in my life. The mother goat was diligently trying to teach her little baby how to go up and downstairs until the baby finally learned and began doing sprints around the yard just to run up the stairs and jump off the porch. They truly are animals full of personality, silliness, and sweetness.

After this, I got to go in with two of the newer calves  who have been in insolation. Once again, I’ve never really been around young calves before, so this was a whole new experience for me. As soon as they set foot out in the pasture though, they took off and they began chasing one another and playing. One of them was a by-product of the veal industry, the other was a downer calf. It made me feel good to know that they were lucky enough to find their way to FS and be able to live out their lives. It was definitely a cool sight and I’m really glad I was there to record it all happening.

It was the next part of filming though that really got at my heart. We got to go up into a herd of 6 young calves. Now, once again, I’ve never really been around cows. On orientation day I got to go into the area with the older cows, and I found them to be friendly, but also mellow, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Boy was I in for a surprise, these young males were so full of joy and excitement. They began romping around and playing just like dogs, or horses.

 

They also responded to human touch just like a dog would. They loved to be petted, especially on the necks, it just made their eyes go crazy with contentment. There was one calf in particular who I had been petting and giving him a rub down. I then just put my arm around him and hugged him. It was at this moment that everything came full circle for me. These calves were so full of life, they enjoyed one another’s companionship, human interaction, the sun, the snow, and love. They have feelings and personality and each one of them wants to live.

I initially went vegan because I could no longer support the dairy industry, as it is a direct link to the veal industry. Every year a cow must give birth to a calf in order to keep producing milk. The females are kept to replenish the herd, and the majority of males are then sent off to the veal farm. There is no way to consume dairy products without directly supporting the veal industry, they both go hand in hand. These veal calves of course go through absolute horrible lives from the day they are born till they day they die. Not to mention how painful it is for a mother cow to have her baby ripped from her.

The part that always got to me though was this notion that we need to have dairy products. I mean just think about it, A) We are the only species on Earth that still drinks milk into adulthood, and B) We drink another species’ milk. This had always befuddled me when I was younger. So I started looking into it more, and when you do, there are a lot of politics in the dairy/meat industries. For instance, did you know that many of the people who sit on the FDA have direct ties to the dairy and beef industries? This seems a little biased to me, it’s just another way for corporations to pump their ideas into the American’s heads and they make tons of money off of it. They have purposefully fed the public propaganda. There are lots of subsidies in animal agriculture, and the government is allowed to dictate how that is used, thus they’ve admitted to providing misinformation to the public.

It is also commonly accepted that milk is needed in order to have strong bones. However, animal proteins actually leech calcium from the bones. Did you know that the U.S. has the highest rate of dairy consumption in the world, but also the highest rate of Osteoporosis? There are numerous studies done that suggest In fact numerous studies have shown that dairy intake increases risk of brittle and broken bones. For instance, a study done by the Harvard Nurses’ Heath Study found that those who consumed the most calcium from dairy broke more bones than those who rarely drank milk. This 12 year study concluded that dairy increased risk of fractures by 50%! Interesting huh? In fact, over 75% of Americans are deficient in calcium intake.

To top this off, the increase in dairy intake has also been linked to various cancers, in particular prostate cancer. Dairy proteins have even been shown to promote the cancer’s cells growth by 30% as well. Research as also shown that a higher intake of dairy products may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 30-50%. Also on a whole other note, animal protein consumption has been directly related to cancer.

Not to mention, eating animal products increases your cholesterol, which clogs your arteries and ultimately leads to heart disease and stroke. By cutting out dairy products, not only are you decreasing your risk for cancer, but you will also improve your blood flow in your arteries. You can only get cholesterol from eating animal-based products, not plant-based ones.

When you start looking at the big picture, there are a lot of issues at hand, and as far as calcium goes, there are lots of great sources out there. Dark leafy greens have the highest calcium content, such as turnip greens, bok choy, collards and kale. Beans and nuts are also very high in calcium, as well as various sea vegetables. There are just so many ways to get calcium out there that its really not an issue.

There are also numerous alternatives to milk now a days that are great for drinking with cookies, pouring on cereal, and baking with. Some of these various choices are: almond milk (my personal favorite, price & flavor), rice milk, hemp milk, soy milk, coconut milk, oat milk, and flax milk. As far as butter goes, Earthbalance makes great buttery-tasting spreads (they are high in fat). There are also great alternatives to mayonnaise such as Vegenaise and Nayonaise. As far as cheese goes, Daiya is my favorite. What’s even better is that these products are all widely available now a a days at your local supermarket, not just speciality/health food stores.

I suppose my point is that, it’s really hard for me to look into a calf’s eyes knowing that it was the by-product of an industry that doesn’t need to happen. Not only do thousands of them suffer and die every year, but its all for the wrong reasons. Dairy consumption has been proven over and over again to be bad for our health, and with so many alternative choices out there, its easy to make the switch to a more healthier lifestyle.

Some Interesting Link to Check Out:

25 Vegan Sources of Calcium

Why Milk is Bad for You and Your Bones

6 Reasons to Avoid Dairy at All Costs

Milk-It does a (baby cow’s) Body Good

The Food Pyramid is Illegal

(Photo Credit: Nick Ugliuzza; Edited by: Ashley Nottingham)