Forum Summary

UPC’s Forum on the Role of Farmed Animal Sanctuaries, September 16-17, 2000

“What Did They Say?”

United Poultry Concerns has received so many requests for a summary of our historic Farmed Animal Sanctuary Forum in September that we decided to dedicate this issue of PoultryPress to providing one. Even advocates who do not run a sanctuary or have plans to have a stake in the issues we discussed, as they pertain not only to sanctuaries but to our movement as a whole. At the end is a list of the speakers and how to reach them for more information. United Poultry Concerns is grateful to the following organizations for assisting the Forum: NALITH, PETA, The Fund for Animals, and The Humane Farming Association. And we thank Doreen Dykes and Margaret Thompson of the Alliance for Animals in Virginia for their magnificent luncheon with which we concluded the Forum on Sunday at our Sanctuary in Machipongo, Virginia.

United Poultry Concerns’ Second Annual Forum on September 16-17 was the first national forum to examine how farmed animal sanctuaries fit into the animal advocacy movement. The focus was on the concept and ethical role of the farmed animal sanctuary. We say “farmed” and not “farm” animal to emphasize the fact that this is how these animals are used, not who they are.

Karen and UPC Residents
Photo by Sue Brady
Karen Davis, center, introduces UPC's sanctuary residents to some of the forum attendees.

Issues addressed at the Forum:

  • How is the farmed animal sanctuary different from a petting zoo?
  • Is rescuing and giving a permanent shelter to farmed animals “enough”?
  • What is the role of public education in the life of the sanctuary?
  • How does the farmed animal sanctuary obtain respectful media attention?
  • Does the physical labor and veterinary care the sanctuary demands use resources that could be better spent on other projects to help farmed animals?
  • Are “facts” enough? Are graphics enough, to educate the public?
  • How does the farmed animal sanctuary deal with the deluge of animals at the door?
  • Is purchasing farmed animals to save them from abuse and slaughter a morally legitimate form of rescue?
  • Is it right or wrong to rescue farmed animals illegally?
  • Where does vegetarianism fit into the farmed animal sanctuary program?
  • How do farmed animal sanctuaries get funding?

Terry Cummings, codirector of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Md, talked about “how we are different from petting farms.” She said many visitors come to their Washington Metropolitan Area sanctuary with naive assumptions. They ask, “Where are all the baby animals?” and “Why do farm animals need to be rescued?” Many people, she said, are shocked to learn that farmers, who are “nice people,” kill their animals. Visitors have to be educated about why the sanctuary doesn’t hatch chicks or allow their rescued sows to have piglets. Terry preps audiences in advance with color slides (which she showed at the Forum) of factory farming. She said, “You need to point out to your audience why these things are bad. Otherwise, they often don’t ‘get the picture.’”

“It isn’t enough to rescue animals and get a grant for doing just that. You need to have a program, not just a place filled with animals and one person doing all the work, or perhaps living in an insular, shaky paradise with rescued animals.”
– Jim Mason

Jim Mason, director of Two Mauds, a grant foundation, and coauthor of Animal Factories, agreed that the images must be explained. He said, “Looking at pictures of a factory farm, people don’t understand how dirty the place is. The place is seething with bacteria. People think it’s so clean.” Terry said, “We should not just focus on factory farming, but on farming. Nonfarming people are surprised to learn that most slaughtered animals are babies.” She asks visitors “to think about how much of their lives you’ve taken away [if you’re not yet a vegetarian] even if the animals had a good life.” She said the hardest young audience to reach is kids from traditional farming families. One child from 4-H marveled that the Poplar Spring chickens ran up to her, and that some liked to be held and petted. The child said the usual way of handling chickens where she comes from is to kick them out of the way. She seemed genuinely surprised that this could be why her chickens never run up to her or want to be held and petted.

Regarding how “we are different,” Terry also noted, “Sanctuaries takes farmed animals to the vet. Farmers normally don’t. Getting the veterinary profession to recognize an obligation to treat individual farmed animals medically and with respect is one of the changes farmed animal sanctuaries are creating.”

“I think giving sanctuary is an important form of direct action. It’s an action that actually does something about a problem. If there is no direct action of this kind, you get either demoralized doing animal advocacy work, or you become abstract—abstract as a defense against demoralization. Will our educational efforts make a difference? This is purely speculative, but saving that chicken is saving that chicken.”
– Pattrice Jones

Use of the sanctuary to promote public education was a priority issue at the Forum. Kim Sturla, codirector of Animal Place in Vacaville, Ca, said, “Facts aren’t enough.” A farmed animal sanctuary is doing more than education. “You can educate people about the Civil War, and they can do whatever they want with the information. It’s a matter of ‘low involvement’ behavior, whereas we’re asking people for ‘high involvement’ behavior—not just information to be absorbed but information with consequences people care about. We’re asking people to do something with what we’re teaching them.” She said, “The beauty of farmed animal sanctuaries is that they fit into all stages of change. Adding dissection and the cafeteria to a discussion of ‘cycles of violence’ changes the dynamics of the discussion. Even if people come to Animal Place for health reasons, we show them the ethical. When we do our annual Veggie Cookout, we’re showing people how great vegan food is, but the ethical reason for changing one’s diet is integral to our teaching.”

Regarding schools, Pattrice Jones, codirector of the Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary in Princess Anne, Md, said we must demand “Accurate Education,” and exploit the undercurrent of discontent among poultry “growers.” She said, “Accurate Education means the whole truth or both sides, not just the exploiters’ side, as is normally now the case.” She said that as far as the race-sex-class connection goes, “it took years, but we finally got there. The connections are being made. Now we’ve got to get race-sex-class—and animals.” She said the fundamental obstacle we face is economics, “and under that it’s spiritual. The approach to poultry industry workers is not to help them get better wages, but rather, ‘You need to get a job that doesn’t make you behave in brutal ways.’”

Pattrice, whose sanctuary is surrounded by Perdue chicken growers [the people who raise the chickens under contract to the company] and slaughterhouses on the Delmarva Peninsula, said growers she’s talked to often know almost nothing about the birds they raise for the company. “They ask, ‘How old are they when they lay eggs? What are they like?’ One ‘grows hens’ and another ‘grows males.’” Some growers, she said, want to keep the chickens left behind by the catchers, but Perdue doesn’t allow this. She said, “The very quick, clever chickens and the lame ones are the ones who get left behind. The chicken house smells like terror, not just shit.”

Is rescuing farmed animals valuable apart from educational purposes? Is giving them a permanent shelter enough? Jim Mason of Two Mauds said, “It isn’t enough to rescue animals and get a grant for doing just that. You need to have a program, not just a place filled with animals and one person doing all the work, or perhaps living in an insular, shaky paradise with rescued animals.” Pattrice Jones offered a different angle: “I think giving sanctuary is an important form of direct action. It’s an action that actually does something about a problem. If there is no direct action of this kind, you get either demoralized doing animal advocacy work, or you become abstract—abstract as a defense against demoralization. Will our educational efforts make a difference? This is purely speculative, but saving that chicken is saving that chicken.”

Terry Cummings pointed out, “You never know what effect you may be having upon your visitors.” For example, a group of staff people from a local humane society who toured her sanctuary showed “no reaction.” Terry felt they were unmoved, but later she encountered one of them who told her that after their visit, “they all became vegetarians.”

Lorri Bauston, codirector of Farm Sanctuary, put the animal rescue and public education issues together this way. She asked, “Why is public education as well as saving animals so important? We owe it to all the animals who didn’t get away to tell their story.”

Farm Sanctuary is a leader in using the media to tell the animals’ story. Lorri said, “The sanctuary needs to have an upbeat approach to the media and good sound bites.” She illustrated this by showing TV clips of Farm Sanctuary through the years. In particular, a feature of her surrounded by rescued “turkeys in the straw” at Thanksgiving combined every element of a successful media presentation.

How to deal with the deluge of farmed animals who need homes was raised by Cayce Mell, codirector of Ooh-Mah-Nee Farm in Hunker, Pa, a rural area where they receive many calls from local shelters to take in neglected and abused farmed animals from cows to chickens. She said, “You have to set limits to avoid becoming a collector or burning out altogether. You have to have a budget and other resources, like food, space, and medicine, in place.” (Ooh-Mah-Nee was put to the test right after the Forum when the million hen Buckeye battery egg farm in Croton, Ohio was hit by a tornado, and Cayce and codirector Jason Tracy helped rescue and transport hundreds of hens).

To handle the “deluge” and other matters, Jim Mason said that a strong organization must be put in place at the sanctuary, to ensure security for the animals, continuity in its work for animals, and a firm decision making process. He asked, “What if the person running the sanctuary gets sick or dies? What happens to the animals if there is not a strong, well-staffed sanctuary?” He said the ABC’s for grant consideration by Two Mauds are Animal Work, Building a Better Business, and Community Change. Building a Better Business includes an organizational structure, a membership or active donor list, and networking with local animal shelters.

Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns and director of UPC’s chicken sanctuary in Machipongo, Va, discussed “Rescuing versus ‘stealing’ animals,” and purchasing farmed animals as a form of rescue. She said she considers it totally ethical to rescue abused and neglected farmed animals, legally or otherwise. It is up to the farmed animal sanctuary to redefine the Action and the animals: we are not “stealing property’; we are rescuing living beings.”

Regarding purchasing animals to live at the sanctuary or be adopted, Karen said she understands the opposition to the practice, like putting money into the hands of exploiters, but asks whether animals who cannot otherwise be saved should be abandoned because they are in an economic situation that defines them as property and merchandise. She asked, “Is this not a way of making these innocent victims pay the ultimate price because they happen to be defenselessly defined as objects for sale?” She said in addition to obtaining birds under other circumstances, UPC has purchased “spent” hens who instead of being dead are running around in the yard. They too have educational value and illustrate the cruel conditions they came from including the fact that they had to be bought to save their lives. Karen recalled that in the 19th century, people bought many slaves their freedom, and today, adoptive parents must buy children as part of the adoption process.

Cherylynn Costner, codirector of Hillary Chicken Memorial Fund in Ojai, Ca, said farmed animal sanctuaries need to talk people who find chickens into keeping them, by showing them how. Unlike cows, sheep and pigs, chickens can be companion animals in smaller places. It’s possible to keep roosters without annoying the neighbors at dawn by lining a room with egg cartons. She said “black gel Kava Kava” relaxes tension in birds (and others), often helping sick birds to recover (faster) which is important because veterinarians don’t dispense painkillers, and pain and stress retard healing. She said we need to help shelters, individuals, and veterinarians learn how to care for chickens and other farmed birds, because they often don’t know what to do. Cherylynn uses spiritual and alternative medicinal therapies with the birds at her sanctuary. During the forum she put Ruby, a feisty UPC rooster, in an alert but peaceful condition to illustrate the power of one of her remedies in conjunction with tender loving care.

Speakers and Contact Information:

Lorri Bauston, Codirector
Farm Sanctuary East
PO Box 150
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Ph: 607-583-2225; fax 2041
Cherylynn Costner, Codirector
Hillary Chicken Memorial Fund
PO Box 5469
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Ph: 310-455-0390
Hotline: 877-452-4425 (45CHICK)
Terry Cummings, Codirector
Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary
PO Box 507
Poolesville, MD 20837
Ph: 301-428-8128; fax: 349-3850
Karen Davis, President
United Poultry Concerns
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405
Ph: 757-678-7875; fax 5070
Pattrice Jones, Codirector
Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary
13981 Reading Ferry Road
Princess Anne, MD 21853
Ph: 410-651-4934
Jim Mason, Director
Two Mauds Foundation
PO Box 381
Mt. Vernon, MO 65712
Ph: 417-466-4213
Cayce Mell, Codirector
Ooh-Mah-Nee Farm
RD 1, Box 409
Hunker, PA 15639
Ph: 724-755-2420; fax: 2421
Kim Sturla, Codirector
Animal Place
3448 Laguna Creek Trail
Vacaville, CA 95688-9724
Ph: 707-449-4814; fax: 8775