No one organization, even one as large as The HSUS, can fight animal cruelty all on its own. There are a number of outstanding animal protection groups out there, many that we regularly team up with to advance critical campaigns. One of our most frequent allies is Gene Baur’s group, Farm Sanctuary. The organization has been a stalwart coalition partner in our ballot measures in Florida, Arizona, and California, and I’m sure we’ll be waging more battles for farm animals together in the future.
If you haven’t read Gene’s bestselling book, "Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food," which you may remember my earlier blog about, I encourage you to check it out. Here are some words from Gene himself about his path toward becoming a pioneer on farm animal issues.
Twenty some-odd years ago, when I first started visiting farms to document conditions and rescuing farm animals, I had no idea that Farm Sanctuary would grow the way it has. At the time, I just felt that someone had to challenge the shocking cruelty the animals suffered and expose the abuse that had become commonplace in agriculture. In the 1980s, there was really no farm animal advocacy movement to speak of, and the abuses of factory farming went unchallenged.
Everything changed for me the day I met Hilda, a sheep who we found on a pile of corpses at Lancaster Stockyards in Pennsylvania, where farm animals of all kinds were brought and sold at auction. Unable to stand and walk to the auction block, Hilda wasn’t worth anything to her “owner,” so she was literally left for dead, discarded on a pile of dead animals swarming with flies and maggots. I was shocked when she lifted her head, signaling that she needed help.
We loaded Hilda into our van and rushed her to the nearest veterinary clinic, where she made a seemingly miraculous recovery, standing up and eating and drinking within 20 minutes of our arrival. We learned that Hilda had collapsed not because she was ill, diseased or injured, but merely as a result of the excessively overcrowded, overheated conditions of the transport truck that brought her to the stockyard.
Ever since then, Farm Sanctuary has made advocating for downed animals, animals too sick to stand, one of our signature campaigns. We have gotten footage of downed animals being dragged to slaughter on network news programs, secured convictions for stockyards and slaughterhouses on cruelty charges for abusing downed animals, and successfully pushed for legislation to ban the sale of downed animals for meat. As a survivor of a vile system, Hilda was the impetus behind these and other victories.
Hilda was the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary, and lived peacefully for eleven years at our New York shelter, touching the hearts and minds of millions of people. For me personally, Hilda represented a new way of seeing farm animals, and I learned valuable lessons from her—about courage, perseverance, gratitude, and what’s truly meaningful in life—that continue to guide and inspire me every day. Remembering Hilda and the special friendship we shared gives me strength and motivates me to keep going, to work harder, and to never give up while animals are suffering so needlessly.