THE EXPERIENCE OF VISITING
The view of a lush narrow valley, and lovely hillside as you turn into the driveway of Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS), adds a level of pageantry to your arrival. We chirped like excited children as the landscape dipped to reveal free-range roosters, a goat, a pot-bellied pig and a timid sheep on a knoll.
The public has been fed the “happy American classic red barn family farm” image by agribusiness for over half a century through labels, logos and ads. CAS founder, Kathy Stevens, cleverly chose to paint the sanctuary buildings a deep green.
Not only does this allow the human-made structures to blend into the landscape, sending a message of living with nature rather than dominating it, but it also serves as a visual to deconstruct animal agriculture’s lies to the public.
Corporations often go a step further and design full marketing campaigns aimed at convincing the public that animals want to be consumed. This thickens the veil covering up what is actually being done to the animals.
Today 95% of animal agriculture takes place in brutally abusive factory farms but animals face exploitation and abuse in the other 5% as well. The vast majority of these animals wind up at slaughterhouses. Where there is nothing but pain, terror, violence and a torturous death.
“Over 56 billion farmed animals are killed every year by humans. More than 3,000 animals die every second in slaughterhouses around the world. These shocking figures do not even include fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tonnes.”
This is a beautiful and well-maintained property with stunning old-growth willow trees lending shade to healthy ponds. Some animals are permitted to roam about which allows for some whimsical encounters.
The 90 minute walking tour included a cameo by founder Kathy Stevens.
The Tour Guide focused on education, rather than legislation, and allowing visitors to make up-close personal connections with individual animals. The individual animals’ stories of abuse and neglect were shared along the common exploitation and victimization their species is subjected to.
The guides are careful to avoid using blaming or shaming language which makes the experience more accessible to those typically closed off to compassionate connections.
Unlike many farmed animal sanctuaries, CAS rescues horses.
1) The vegans/animal rights activists — We visit to make a connection with some of the lucky few whom have been rescued and are generally quiet on the tour, while feeling inner despair for the billions of animals tortured and killed by the mainstream food industry every year.
2) The vegetarians/people on the verge of going veg — This group visits in search of a compassionate connection and to gather information. They are often at some stage of making the plunge to commit to helping animals. They will usually ask a few questions and look solemn to near tears. They can often be seen having an introspective breakdown/existential crisis and making inner vows to make changes as soon as they get home.
3) There are the people who thought they were at a petting zoo – The children are too young to comprehend what the guide is saying and are having an incredible time loving up the animals. The adults usually space out and put up a wall against the life-changing information that they could be letting in. I always imagine this group sitting down to a big meal of tortured animals’ parts after departing.
4) Then there are the mainstream meat-eaters whom are so uncomfortable with the information they are hearing that they get defensive. Sometimes they lash out verbally but they mostly make inappropriate comments that let’s everyone know that “no one is going to take away their meat”.
Eating animals is too much apart of their identity to allow it to be threatened with something like compassion and knowledge of corrupt corporations. The loudest members of this category are older white males.
They are usually dragged along by a veg/vegan family member who are attempting to awaken their compassion.
What I love about this category is that they are often the people who are most impacted by visiting. Something magical happens half way through the tour and you can see their behavior shift. The seed of compassion has been planted and a sprout of awareness begins to grow. They become present and begin to see the animals as individuals with feelings.
Eavesdropping on their whispering conversations toward the end of the tour often includes hearing such wonderful thoughts as “we should cut back on the meat” or “I didn’t know how veal was made, I’m never eating it again”. It is rare that they pledge to become vegan champions for animals on the spot, but that happens too.
If you visit, be sure to drop by the gift shop to make a donation, purchase some merch or load up on yummy vegan snacks. Your purchase helps the animals.
You can also intern, sponsor an animal to receive updates throughout the year, send them an item from their wish list or add CAS to your Amazon Smile account. Visit their website for more ways to help out.
Guided tours are $12/person on weekends only 10:30AM-2:30PM
316 Old Stage Rd
Saugerties, NY 12477
(Less than 2 hours North of NYC – an easy day trip)
CAN’T VISIT IN PERSON?
Check out the Catskill Animal Sanctuary’s YouTube Channel
(The video below contains no graphic footage.)
SIGNAGE FROM AROUND THE SANCTUARY
(photography by C.A. Moss)