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8 Things We Didn’t Know Until We Went Vegan

At Catskill Animal Sanctuary, we often say that the animals are our teachers, and over the past 20 years, we’ve learned a lot from them. Even better, we’ve watched as thousands upon thousands of visitors have their “Aha!” moment as a chicken like Travis falls asleep in their arms, as a turkey like Imogen purrs contentedly while receiving a hug, or as a cow like Tucker kisses them voraciously with a long and rough tongue. Suddenly, their worldview shifts as the billions upon billions of animals who fall victim to our food system suddenly have a name, a face, and a personality they could never have dreamed of.

While all of us are born with compassion and love for animals, very few of us were born vegan. Rather, veganism was something we came to with heavy yet full hearts as we learned about the truth of factory farming and the traumatizing operations of small and large-scale farms. The lessons we learned were difficult ones, as we rescued animals who lived through unspeakable neglect and abuse, and buried the ones who did not survive. And worst of all, we learned that most of these things are not even illegal, but are protected by law under that blanket term “standard practice.” Truly, we didn’t always know these things.

But in the name of autumn’s arrival, and to celebrate the pursuit of learning that comes along with this “Back To School” time, we set out to share our knowledge by putting together a list of things we think that more people should know. Over the course of September, we shared many of these things, and today, we’re compiling them for you.


1. I didn’t always know that cows dance when they’re happy… but when they’re free to be themselves instead of tied up in a barn, their personalities come shining through!



2. I didn’t always know that pigs laugh, cry, and even have temper tantrums! They are highly emotional beings, just like us… and they don’t always like being woken up from a nap! Forehead scratches do help, though…



3. I didn’t always know that turkeys are incredibly loving animals who run with excitement to their people and give wonderful hugs. Turkeys are love on two legs. Their amazing capacity to express warmth and compassion blows people away— we see it all the time! Just like any other animal, turkeys feel joy, pain, fear, and love.


Photo by Mo Hertz


4. I didn’t always know that cows have to be made pregnant in order to be milked. Thankfully, because of the kindness of the family who saved her from a small dairy farm, Darwin will never have to know the anguish of that separation or the strain of the physical demands of the industry that would have shortened her life.


At only one, Darwin would already have begun the cycle of impregnation after impregnation, and then, separation from her baby.


5. I didn’t always know that sheep can not only recognize the faces of their friends, but they can also recognize individual faces of humans, too! Anyone who has spent time around our sheep herd will tell you that though they’re shy at first, once they trust you, their true personalities will take your breath away!

6. I didn’t always know that chickens (and other birds raised for food) aren’t even mentioned in The Humane Slaughter Act. That means that the few, largely ineffective practices that are in place for cows, pigs, sheep, and goats, are not part of the equation for chickens. Knowing chickens as well as we do, this breaks our hearts. But it’s an important reminder that in the end, there is truly no humane way to kill someone who doesn’t want to die. This includes cows, pigs, sheep, and goats, and YES, it includes chickens, turkeys, and ducks, too. As our founder, Kathy Stevens, says, “In the ways that truly matter, we are all the same.” ⠀

Rocky, a Humane Educator, gives Miles the rooster a snuggle


7. I didn’t always know that horses could live well into their 30s, but we’ve known several horses live well past that. Our man, Buddy, is a perfect example of that at 34 years old.

Buddy first arrived at Catskill Animal Sanctuary in 2006 after his loving family surrendered him when he started going blind.


8. I didn’t always know that dairy products made with goat’s milk are just as cruel as dairy products made with cow’s milk. Goat milk products are often associated with small and humane farms, however, the same ethical issues that arise in cow farming also exist in goat farming. Just as cows are impregnated and then separated from their babies, so too are goats. Last year, we took in four baby goats who were rescued when the “humane” farm where they were born went out of business. When they arrived, many asked us, “Where are their mothers?” Unfortunately, we don’t know, as they had already been separated at the farm so that their mothers’ milk could be used to make cheese and other products. As a result of the conditions they were living in, they were also riddled with disease and parasites. Goat-based dairy products are not a more humane alternative to cow-based dairy products, but luckily, there are delicious options in just about every grocery store — vegan products

Levi with a tag in his ear on the date of his arrival at Catskill Animal Sanctuary.



We didn’t always know these things, but now that we do, we’re so proud to fight for a more vegan world every day. Will you join us? Sign up for our 30-Day Vegan Challenge, Petunia’s Pledge, and we’ll be there for you every step of the way!



Love Spoken Here


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