Farm Sanctuaries in Texas

Sweet Pea, from Sunny Day Farms. Sweet Pea was lucky enough to be found by the kind folks at Sunny Day Farms, rather than “euthanized” with a pick ax by workers at E-6 Cattle Company. Photo from Sunny Day Farms

Farm animal abuse videos are really important. There’s evidence that they decrease the amount of meat people eat. On average, people who see these videos don’t just switch from, say, beef to chicken, but actually reduce the total amount of meat they eat.

But they’re hard on animal advocates, who already know all the terrible things that can happen to animals raised for commercial use. I really admire the people who can take these undercover videos, since I can’t bare to watch even thirty seconds of them, much less experience it in person.

Confronting images of animal abuse can get you down if you’re already doing what you can to end animal cruelty. I think it’s a good idea for animal advocates to recharge through positive experiences with animals. Farm animal sanctuaries are a great way to do that. They allow people to interact with animals, learning that, yes, a pig does have a personality, just like a dog or cat. And they have the added benefit of not making you want to curl up in a ball in your bed for a week.

Texas has three farm animal sanctuaries devoted to caring for abused and unwanted farm animals. I’ve talked a lot about Sunny Day Farms in La Coste, outside San Antonio. A big part of Sunny Day Farms’ mission is to introduce kids to farm animals. You can schedule a school field trip or Farm School, an age-appropriate introduction to life on the farm through stories, activities, and interaction with the animals.

Willey at Serenity Springs Sanctuary. Photo by Serenity Springs Sanctuary

There’s also Serenity Springs Sanctuary in Forestburg, Texas, northwest of DFW. Serenity Springs has a variety of farm animals at their sanctuary, though they specialize in pot bellied pigs. These pigs are increasingly kept as pets, and often owners find out quickly that they’re not up to caring for a pig.

Chester at Dreamtime Sanctuary. Photo by Dreamtime Sanctuary

Dreamtime Sanctuary is just outside Elgin, a little east of Austin. Dreamtime Sanctuary began when Nancy Jensen-Case and her daughter wanted to help abandoned horses in a neighboring pasture. With a little help from a sanctuary in Arizona, Dreamtime is now the home of 14 horses, 3 burros, 30 sheep, 8 goats, 18 pigs, 8 dogs, and 14 cats.

All three organizations encourage visitors and volunteers, though it’s a good idea to schedule a visit ahead of time. Volunteer with some friends. Take your favorite kid to pet the animals. Or plan a bake sale to raise money for your favorite sanctuary.

Mercy for Animals Video: Hart, Texas

I really hate to write about this, but I don’t think it’s something I can leave unsaid. Mercy for Animals has done another undercover animal investigation, this time of a calf farm that raises animals for use in dairy farms. The farm is in Hart, Texas, between Lubbock and Amarillo. The video they released yesterday is horrifying. I was only able to watch the first few seconds of it, and even that haunted me all last night.

According to Mercy for Animals, the video shows workers
  • Workers bludgeoning calves in their skulls with pickaxes and hammers – often involving 5 to 6 blows, sometimes more – before rendering the animals unconscious
  • Beaten calves, still alive and conscious, thrown onto dead piles
  • Workers kicking downed calves in the head, and standing on their necks and ribs
  • Calves confined to squalid hutches, thick with manure and urine buildup, and barely large enough for the calves to turn around or fully extend their legs
  • Gruesome injuries and afflictions, including open sores, swollen joints and severed hooves
  • Ill, injured and dying calves denied medical care
  • The budding horns of calves burned out their skulls without painkillers
  • MFA has turned their evidence over to local law enforcement, but how many other similar farms are there out there without undercover investigators documenting cruelty like this?

    The video is here on MFA’s website. It plays immediately when you click on it.

    I’ve got my Thanksgiving turkey! Have you?

    I adopted a turkey at Farm Sanctuary. You can do the same here.


    Turkey Myths

    Is it true that turkeys are dumb?
    There is a tendency for people who eat turkeys, or other animals, to perceive “food animals” as unworthy or undeserving of respect and compassion. One way for people to rationalize their choice to eat animals is to dismiss these beings as dumb. There is even a rumor that turkeys are so dumb that they will look up in the rain and drown. This claim is ridiculous and false. Farm Sanctuary has cared for turkeys for more than 20 years, and when it rains, the turkeys go inside their barn. No one who works at Farm Sanctuary has ever seen a turkey drown in the rain.

    Do turkeys really suffer?

    Every year, between 250 and 300 million turkeys are bred for slaughter in the U.S. Sadly, these turkeys are not protected under most state anti-cruelty laws, and they are specifically exempt from the federal Humane Slaughter Act. To meet consumer demand for white meat, commercial turkeys have been anatomically manipulated to have abnormally large breasts. As a result, the birds cannot mount and reproduce naturally, and the industry now relies on artificial insemination as the sole means of reproduction. In addition, most factory farmed turkeys, comprising the vast majority of turkeys raised for holiday dinners, endure painful beak and toe mutilations, because they are given only about three-square-feet of space on which to live. Through all of this physical manipulation, the industry has yet to grow an animal who does not feel pain and is not curious, social or friendly.

    Thanksgiving Tradition

    But Thanksgiving is a tradition – why do we need to change it?

    Using a turkey as the centerpiece and symbol of Thanksgiving is a relatively new tradition invented and actively promoted by the poultry industry during the 20th century. Thankfully, humans are not bound by cruel traditions. Just because we’ve done something routinely in the past does not mean that it is automatically right. Traditions must evolve over time in order for our civilization to thrive. We must strive for better, more compassionate ways to interact with one another, and with other animals. Find more information on the history of Thanksgiving here.

    What do vegetarians eat for Thanksgiving?
    In addition to staple Thanksgiving foods like baked squash, savory stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and cornbread, there is also a growing variety of products that have been developed specifically to take the place of turkey at the Thanksgiving table. One popular product is called “Tofurky,” a meat-free, faux turkey roast made by Turtle Island Foods in Hood River, Oregon. If people want to make something themselves, they can just stuff a squash or pumpkin, instead of a turkey. After all, celebrating a compassionate Thanksgiving entails celebrating ALL life by giving up the broiled bird. Find vegetarian holiday recipes and more here.


    Mercy For Animals Does Dallas

    Hey Veg-Heads and Veg-Friends!

    Wow—what a fab time to be in Dallas! So many great things are happening in our city—and much more to come! We’re well on our way to making Dallas an urban-green-hip place to live!

    So did you guys see what went down at this year’s Chicago Pride Parade?

    Well, with the help of seasoned activists Ari Nessel, Nathan Runkle, and the awesome peeps of Mercy For Animals, we’re looking to do the same here in Dallas at the 2009 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. What a great way to celebrate our diversity and spread the word that “no one is free when others are oppressed.”

    Dallas is on the brink of veg-explosion! Places like Spiral Diner and Bliss Raw Café & Elixir Bar have already put us on the veg-map, and it’s only a matter of time before our city is recognized as one of the top veg-friendly hotspots in the nation! Believe it.

    But we need your help!

    If we want to make some WILD, AWESOME NOISE, it’s time for us to come together as a people and show our support for the animals and for each other!

    March with us and help spread the word about our compassionate way of life.

    Hit me up at and let me know if we can count on you!

    Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade
    September 20, 2009
    Parade starts at 2:00 pm