Considering Going Vegetarian? Visit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Three legged Albie the goat was sprawled on a patch of hay with his nose glued to his food, Timmy the wild turkey strutted his stuff and the two recently rescued cows, Kaylie and Mike Jr., relaxed in a green paddock under an overcast sky. Chickens ran freely, the pigs made contented grunts as they ate their greens and the woolly sheep patiently let visitors pet their thick coats. This was the scene on a Saturday afternoon at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (WFAS), located in upstate New York.

Rescued farm animals from all over the Empire state and the surrounding areas find their way to the Sanctuary, where they live out their lives in peace. Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary is home to more than 200 rescued farm animals. The friendly staff and volunteers of the Sanctuary give tours and educate the public about factory farming and the impact it has on the environment, our health and the defenseless animals that live in horrible conditions and give up their lives so humans can eat meat. Most of all, the Sanctuary reminds one and all about the way animals ought to be treated- with compassion and respect.

Spending time with the animals at the Sanctuary always reminds me how similar they are to pets. The pigs love getting belly rubs, the goats bask in the attention and the chickens just want to run around and have fun. The sheep enjoy the fresh air and simple life among the herd. The friendly cows approach visitors to be fed fruit.  

Mike Stura, a longtime volunteer at the Sanctuary, said that even though the animals all seem to look alike, they have different personalities. Pointing to Kaylie and Mike Jr, two cows that have escaped slaughterhouses at different occasions and were rescued by the Sanctuary, Mike said, “Most cows are docile, but some are feisty like these two, just like people.”

Jenny Brown, co-founder of the Sanctuary, spoke to us about wild turkey Timmy as if he were a person. “He’s feeling a little shy right now. He’s losing his feathers and doesn’t look his best, but he wants your attention” she said as the turkey ruffled his remaining feathers and trotted over to greet us.

Visiting the Sanctuary and spending time with these feeling, thinking beings, I was more sure than ever that I made the right decision to forgo eating meat ten years ago. Other visitors felt the same too. Michael Venzor, a computer specialist born in meat loving El Paso Texas, said it re-ignited the passion he felt for the vegan lifestyle he’d chosen a decade ago. “I always wanted to try vegetarianism, but was never really supported by parents, friends or anyone else.” He said, “There’s not any vegetarian superheroes. When you see vegetarians in movies and TV shows, it’s usually the weird crazy neighbor. It took me actually meeting someone who is vegetarian who is cool, healthy and that inspired me to actually try.”

Aviv Roth, a musician and former carnivore, said “Sometimes, you need a little encouragement. They have happy animals living good lives here, and they are friendly and seem to love people. It boggles my mind that they can be considered food.”

It is indeed mind boggling to think that we call some animals companions, while some are considered food. There was a time when I enjoyed goat curry my aunt made, but meeting a goat face to face reinforced my decision to go meat-free. A gracious goat I met at the Sanctuary had sparkling eyes just like my dog. I rubbed his back and chatted (a habit I formed thanks to my furry friend), as he moved closer to me. I could tell he was enjoying the attention. When I looked away for a moment, he raised his front leg and patted my thigh a few times, just like my pet, trying to get my attention back.

It was such a simple act, yet so endearing, showing acknowledgment and emotion.

There are millions of animals that are sacrificed every day. Every single one of them is special. Their suffering is just one of the many bad consequences of factory farming. Raising animals for food has impacts on both the people and the planet.


If more people turned vegetarian and vegan, we would have less torture of animals, less pollution-causing factory farms, and decrease in horrible working conditions for food production employees.  Consumption of meat, which most often comes for animals raised with hormones and antibiotics, is known for increasing heart disease, cancer, obesity, reproductive disorders, liver and kidney disease among other ailments. The amount of food, water, and energy used to raise 10 billion animals for human consumption could be used to grow food for the hungry in this world.

A healthier and more compassionate world is possible for us and our farm animal friends.

For more information:

Previously published on NBC Petside

Published by Lavanya

Lavanya Sunkara is a writer, animal lover, and globetrotter based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Architectural Digest, Fodor’s, Forbes, USA Today and many more in a career spanning ten years. She covers travel, eco-lifestyle, culture, pets, and wildlife conservation.

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