Sanctuary Is Hog Heaven for Farm Creatures : Livestock: Group rescues abandoned chicks and sheep, cattle and swine too sick to be slaughtered. It may be the only such institution in the nation.
If there is a heaven for farm animals, it must look a lot like this.
Enormous hogs weighing half a ton each laze in a sun-splotched barnyard; fat hens and roosters cluck on the veranda of the chicken house; black and white Holsteins meander from a spacious barn into a hillside pasture; an injured calf sleeps in the warmth of a farmhouse kitchen.
Life has not always been so good for the animal residents of the Farm Sanctuary shelter.
Photographs in each barn show where the animals came from: veal calves crammed into tiny crates, turkeys hanging upside down by one leg from conveyor belts, baby chicks abandoned in trash bins, sick and emaciated sheep lying atop piles of carcasses.
The animals, rescued by volunteers for Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal rights group, found a new home in the Finger Lakes village of Watkins Glen, 60 miles southwest of Syracuse.
More than 400 animals live at the sanctuary, headquartered in a century-old pillared white hilltop farmhouse. Nine newly built barns house cattle, turkeys, chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and hogs.
Most of the animals arrived at the sanctuary from stockyards and auction houses, where they were left for dead after being deemed too small or too sick to sell.
The huge hogs snoozing in the barnyard were once sickly heaps of skin and bones weighing less than 20 pounds. The fat hens and roosters were found after they fell off trucks and conveyor belts or were thrown alive into trash bins.
Thirty rabbits living in a cozy indoor-outdoor barn were rescued from a middle school in Maryland after being found sick and starving in filthy cages.
“These are the discards, the throwaways of the industry,” said Gene Bauston, who runs Farm Sanctuary along with his wife, Lorri.
The Baustons, veterans of many public-interest organizations, started the sanctuary five years ago almost by accident. They were doing research for another animal rights group when they found Hilda, a woolly gray sheep who had been dumped on a pile of dead animals.
Hilda came home with them, and Farm Sanctuary was born.
The sanctuary was an outgrowth of the couple’s interest in other causes, said Lorri Bauston, a blonde, curly-haired 32-year-old with two master’s degrees and an upbeat attitude.
“To me, it’s all related,” she said. “It’s because people care about people they get into animal rights.”
Lorri and Gene, 28, first ran Farm Sanctuary out of a donated house in Wilmington, Del., then on a borrowed farm in Pennsylvania. Last fall, they raised enough money to buy a 175-acre abandoned hog farm in Upstate New York where they could expand their rescue and educational efforts.
The shelter is believed to be the only one for abused farm animals in the country. It gets animals from as far away as California and Minnesota.
As the shelter fills up, the group tries to find homes where the animals will be kept as pets. So far, about 350 animals have been placed in rigorously screened adoptive homes. No animal has been turned away.
Half a dozen staff members and unpaid interns work at the sanctuary, which is funded by contributions from about 8,000 members nationwide. The Baustons pay themselves $100 a week and live a frugal life in the farmhouse above the sanctuary headquarters.
Finding support for the fight against farm animal abuse isn’t easy, Lorri Bauston said. Humane societies can rarely afford to be concerned about more than pets. Cows and pigs don’t get the same kind of sympathetic response that cats and dogs do.
“They’ve been viewed primarily as food products,” she said. “That’s one of the big things we’re trying to change.”