You were raised in the South, what made you decide to open the Sanctuary in the Catskill Mountains?
I was born and raised in Louisville, KY but moved around quite a bit in my youth, living in Chicago, Boston, New York City and in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It was the Finger Lakes region experience that made me want to get out of the city—even though I love it—and back into nature. In the Catskills there is the same culture but on a smaller scale. When I need the city, it’s accessible. We chose this location for its beauty, progressive community and its draw for tourism. We want to reach as many people as we can with our mission to make people aware of the miserable lives of food animals—to help people see these beings as something more than nuggets or chops. In a town known for peace, love and freedom, we’re just extending those same ideals to other species as well.
Do your animals have a favorite time of year?
Spring is the happiest time for the critters. After months of trudging through the frozen pastures or mainly hanging out inside the barns, you can see the joy in the goats and sheep as they run through fields, butting heads and skipping or the pigs stretching out to soak up the sun while wallowing in their mud baths or the chickens stretching their wings and dust-bathing in the earth. It’s a magic thing to witness. It literally makes me giddy!

What is the most amazing change you notice when these abused or neglected animals spend time in Nature at WFAS?
We’ve had animals arrive here who have never known life outside of a cage or crate; ones who have never felt the sun on their backs or the softness of grass underfoot or that have ever stretched their wings, fully extended their limbs or come in contact with others of their own kind; ones who have had countless babies torn from them or have been tethered inside a barn unable to walk for years. But unbelievably, after a while, almost every one of them has the ability to engage and fully embrace the life that they’ve never known or have perhaps forgotten. They explore, play, make new friends and tackle the daily challenges of living a normal life again—or for some, the first time. Seeing a battery-caged hen (a typical egg-layer) walk across a yard with broad, awkward steps or pecking at the ground or preening herself in the sun always brings tears to my eyes. We live to make those moments happen for as many farm animals as we can.

How can people contribute to a cruelty-free holiday season this year?
The greatest gift you can give to animals this holiday and every day is to not eat them! A vegetarian saves over a hundred lives a year. There are many amazing meat and dairy-free holiday recipes that are easy to make and incredibly satisfying. Go to our Web site and check out some of our favorites. Sponsoring one of our rescued animals is a cool and compassionate gift for someone you love. For people who already have too much stuff, it’s a wonderful way give consciously and help us continue our important work for farm animals.