The EF! Newswire was able to conduct a brief interview with Gene Baur, President, and Susie Coston, National Shelter Director, of Farm Sanctuary. We talked about the mission of Farm Sanctuary, the case of Conklin Dairy Farm and about factory farms in the USA. For more on Conklin Dairy, see this prior post.
Gene Baur – Photo by Derek Goodwin
Gene Baur lives in rural New York state and is the co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, America’s leading farm animal protection organization, which runs the largest rescue and refuge network for farm animals in North America. He answered these questions for the EF! Newswire about Farm Sanctuary and the Conklin Dairy Farm.
Q: What is Farm Sanctuary?
A: Farm Sanctuary is a national nonprofit organization that works to
change how society views and treats farm animals. We operate sanctuaries
for animals rescued from agribusiness – one in Watkins Glen, NY and one
in Orland, CA. We educate citizens about the harms of animal agriculture
and promote vegan living, and we advocate for policy changes that stop
factory farming cruelties and advance a healthier, plant-based food
Q: How did you become involved in the Conklin Dairy Farm case?
A: Farm Sanctuary has been actively working to rescue and place farm
animals for nearly 25 years. We are in touch with law enforcement
officials working on the Conklin dairy abuse case and have offered to
provide permanent care and sanctuary for any animals in need of rescue.
Q: The footage captured by undercover Mercy for Animals workers has
instigated a campaign to pass modest reforms in factory farm industries.
Would more of these daring sorts of undercover investigations have a
similar effect around the country?
A: Agribusiness treats living feeling animals as mere commodities, and
fails to provide basic humane consideration. I believe further
undercover investigations would expose additional abuses that are
outside the bounds of acceptable conduct in our society, and when
citizens learn of intolerable cruelty they often push for legislative
Q: You write, “Bad has become normal on today’s farms as workers brag
and gloat about torturing animals and agribusiness leaders insist that
it’s humane to keep animals confined in cages so small that they can’t
walk, turn around, or even stretch their limbs.” What, if anything,
distinguishes Conklin Dairy Farm?
A:The main thing that distinguishes Conklin Dairy Farm from others is
that it’s practices were caught on videotape and exposed.
Q: What is the goal of Farm Sanctuary regarding this case?
A: Besides offering to provide sanctuary for rescued animals, Farm
Sanctuary is urging law enforcement officials to prosecute the case to
the fullest extent of the law and will provide whatever assistance we
can. We are also using the heightened awareness surrounding this case to
help advance an initiative effort in Ohio that seeks to outlaw several
cruel factory farming practices.
Q: How can people assist in making this goal possible?
A: People should stay informed about the Conklin case by checking Farm
Sanctuary’s website (farmsanctuary.org) in case letters to authorities
are necessary, and they can get involved with the Ohio initiative effort
by going to ohiohumane.com.
Susie Coston – Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur
Susie Coston is the National Shelter Director of Farm Sanctuary.
Q: What does the job of national director entail?
A: I oversee both shelters- our east and west coast, although I have a
director, Leanne, at our West coast facility so currently I am running
day to day in NY and she is running day to day in CA.
Q: What kind of things drew you to Farm Sanctuary?
A: I love FS because it combines the care of the animals with education
and advocacy. The animals here allow people to connect with what they
have often seen as food. By doing this they realize that these animals
have deep feelings, form bonds with each other, and because they are
rescued from places where they have been abused or neglected, they show
that they are capable of forgiving and trusting again. The place is
really magical- since most people rarely get the chance to spend time
with these amazing beings. The fact that FS is not just a place for
rescue and care but that it also educates so many people and goes even
further by working on changing the way they are treated through
legislative and legal means makes it unique.
Q: What does Farm Sanctuary want to do with regards to Conklin Dairy
Farm case? How is it going?
A: We offered to take in any of the cattle in need of rescue. Local
authorities are still trying to track down all of the animals involved.
It is not surprising that when they went to the farm they were not able
to locate any of the cattle who were seen being abused in the video,
since Conklin Dairy sells cows and calves each week, but we really
wanted to be ready to take in any one of them and give them a chance to
live a very happy, safe and long life with us or with one of our
adopters at their homes.
Q: How are animals rehabilitated at Farm Sanctuary?
A: Medically, we give the best care for farm animals in the world. We
have access to Cornell University, where any surgical needs can be met
and any diagnostics you could imagine can be done. We currently have a
team of six full time caregivers, five living on site, that are
available for round the clock care, which we provide any time necessary.
We also have a project staff for building and repair needs as well as a
staff who clean the barns. The last six calves we brought in from a
horrible abuse case required hours of care each day on top of caring for
the over 500 residents here. They arrived too weak to stand and were
carried into our trailer when we picked them up. We really were
concerned about losing three of the six, but after over a month of
rehabilitation all six are happy, healthy and amazing.
As for their emotional health we also put so much into making each
animal, each individual, feel safe and loved. Some will never fully
come around and remain shy- but the majority do come back emotionally.
For those animals who do not come around they are not put in situations
where they have to deal with people and have the safety of their flock
Q: Would the animals abused at the Conklin Dairy Farm be rehabilitated
fully if you were able to shelter them?
A: When I saw the video of the calf being stomped my heart broke
knowing the damage that was just done to that completely innocent being.
Medically I cannot imagine what happened to that calf or the others so
brutally beaten. Calves are fragile and the ones in the video are days
old. I am guessing no one will ever know what happened to most of the
animals who were tortured there, which is the saddest part of this
story. They will likely never have the chance at a normal, secure and
Q: Do you believe all animals in factory farms undergo trauma and are in
need of emotional rehabilitation in some way, or is it just the ones
that have been tortured to the extent that we’ve seen in the video?
A: Of course. We have seen obvious posttraumatic stress in gestation
sows and my assumption with these cows would be that we would have seen
the same, although again we may never know what happened to them. We did
a huge rescue in Iowa during the flooding of 2008 and many of the sows
from that rescue would scream when they were touched- and arch their
back like we were going to hit them. One of the sows, Rose, was found
on the levee with ten dead piglets, still using her nose to try to get
them up. She was emaciated and weak and had no milk, so they likely
starved to death. The industry says that pigs have to be kept away from
their babies because they will kill them- by rolling on them or even
eating them, but these pigs proved to us that they would do anything to
save their babies. Rose spent the first week in Iowa with me and would
not eat or drink and had to be on fluids and syringe feedings to keep
her going. She spent hours rubbing her nose on a rubber bowl. It was
the saddest thing to watch. When we brought her home we put her with
Nikki, a gestation sow who had her babies on the levee and Rose took
over co-mothering them. Since then she is happy, although not 100%.
She finally lets us touch her- which she would not for nearly a year
without screaming and running away. It takes time, but thankfully we
have the time and the love to give them. I guess that is the thing I
love most about FS- that these animals are individuals and they count-
their life means something. If you see them and meet them you will see
exactly what I mean.