“As people are becoming more and more aware of the cruelties inherent in food animal production,” said Jasmin Singer, the group’s national advocacy organizer, “they want to not support it. The industry has caught onto that trend and so they’ve come out with a series a labeling schemes aimed at the average consumer—‘humane’ or ‘organic’ or ‘free-range.’ Our campaign aims to shed light on what these labels actually mean for farm animals.”
Concurrent with this growth in awareness has been a burgeoning vegan scene in Syracuse. That’s one reason Jennifer Purcell volunteered to bring the Walk for Farm Animals back to Syracuse after at least a seven-year hiatus. “With the recent influx of Strong Hearts Café, Sugar Pearl and the Syracuse Animal Rights Organization, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the walk back to Syracuse,” she said. “In March I let them know I wanted to be the coordinator, and we probably have 25 online walkers registered and we plan on more signing up the morning of the walk.”
By default, Farm Sanctuary, which formed in 1986, is a vegan organization, but that doesn’t mean meat eaters aren’t welcome. Don’t expect to be immune to some conversion tactics, however. To Farm Sanctuary, it’s all about education. “As people start to make the connection between animal ‘food’ and the sentient creatures who are those farm animals, they start to question if their choices are indeed in line with their ethical values,” noted Singer. “And often, they’re not.”
Based in New York City, Farm Sanctuary is the nation’s leading farm animal protection agency. It traces its origins to an activist selling tofu dogs out of the back of a Volkswagen at a Grateful dead Concert. (Look, we couldn’t make this stuff up.) One of the organization’s two shelters is in Watkins Glen, where hundreds of rescued animals live the rest of their lives, according to Singer, “peacefully, joyfully and with dignity. The issues of farm animal abuse and neglect go largely unnoticed in the vast majority of people. But that’s starting to shift, partially due to campaigns that Farm Sanctuary puts forth, including the walk, which reaches thousands with our message of compassion.
“We like to tell people about the changes they can make in their lifestyle. If you are on your way to becoming vegan, you can start by not eating an animal products three times a week, which is more attainable for people and makes a big difference in terms of the environment and for animals too. The Walk for Farm Animals is something that anybody can get behind and celebrate and enjoy. It’s a time where we all get together and we seek common ground in the fact that animals deserve to be treated humanely and with dignity.”
Purcell can rally behind Farm Sanctuary because they aren’t a militant organization, another reason she was happy to organize the Syracuse walk. “I like Farm Sanctuary because they’re more of an educational group,” she said, “and they do everything in their power to pass laws that protect animals, whereas other groups are more extreme. You get more with honey than you do with vinegar.”
The local walk takes place Saturday, Oct. 3, 10 a.m. to noon, in the Willow Bay section of Onondaga Lake Park. It has a fund-raising goal of $1,500, said Purcell, and so far, a little more than $900 has been raised. Last year, all the walks held nationally raised a record $231,000. To sign up for the Walk for Farm Animals, call Purcell at 200-0637 or visit www.farmsanctuary.org.
Go Vegan!: Walkers gathered at the Ithaca Walk for Farm Animals last year. This year’s event is slated for Oct. 11.
MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO