Friday, August 8, 2008

Lowdown on the Hoe Down

This post is about a week overdue and I apologize for making a new ‘blog and immediately going M.I.A., but it’s been a dizzyingly tiring week and I’m adjusting to a new sleep schedule. I will post more links, pictures and updates this weekend, but first things first – the Watkins Glen, N.Y. Farm Sanctuary 2008 Annual Hoe Down! After my orientation and tour I delved into helping out as the Farm commotion was pretty much divided between Pigs (Iowa rescue) and the Hoe Down.

The Hoe Down is officially August 2-3, but the 1st was all preparation. Though a great deal of my time was spent on manual labor and serving food, I did catch some of these speakers and events:

* Bruce Friedrich (PETA) presented “Animal Rights: Social Justice for the New Millennium.” Though I have qualms with some of their tactics, PETA definitely does some good work and Friedrich was entertaining, tongue-in-cheek, heart-on-sleeve informative.

* Susie Coston, national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary, narrated a slideshow of Sanctuary residents and their stories supplemented with general information on the “food animal” industry. Susie is incredibly passionate and knows the names, stories and personalities of every animal at the Sanctuary. She’s pretty fearless and amazing.

* George Eisman gave a lecture on vegan nutrition and led a brief nature walk, “Wild Edibles,” where he showed us how to identify edible “weeds” and raved over their nutritional value. Eisman also has a self-launched “dairy isn’t necessary” campaign. And, well, it’s not.

* Herbivore clothing/magazine entrepreneur, Josh Hooten, gave a hilarious intro to his presentation, “We Can’t All Wear the Big Chicken Costume: Effective Activism Your Way,” where he demonstrated that we really can’t all wear the chicken costume – by wearing a “hot cop” costume instead. Unfortunately, I was assigned to tasks during this presentation but had a great conversation with him at his merchandise stand. Bonus: the proceeds from his merch sales at the Hoe Down all went back to Farm Sanctuary. I picked up a “Wings are for Flying, not for Frying” sticker and was glad he didn’t bring any “Cow Hugger” shirts, since I’m on a budget and would have been far too tempted to splurge.

* Captain Paul Watson, a self-proclaimed pirate and founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, took the bold stance of saying Yes, I am an animal rights activist and I care more about animals than people (paraphrased). Former Greenpeace activist, Watson now takes his own approach to bringing justice to the sea and its inhabitants.

Farm Sanctuary’s own Gene Baur, founder and president, and Jeff Lydon, executive director, also gave short, inspiring speeches (incidentally, both are tall and inspiring).

Saturday night concluded with a barn dance (in the People Barn) DJ’ed by Farm Sanctuary’s own “Big Daddy Don.” The music was utterly undanceable but it was fun watching others “get piggy with it” and “bust a mooove.” Yes, I really did just write that. It’s what farm life does for your sense of humor.

Persistent attendees insisted on keeping with the bonfire tradition in spite of the rainstorms of the day and succeeded. Stragglers, intellectuals, and walking bottles of vegan wine gathered around the cozy but smoky clearing and deep conversations that would be forgotten the next day abounded over the strumming of a single acoustic guitar.

I truly wish everyone could have experienced this weekend—I think, acknowledging the title of Gene’s book, it truly would have changed a lot of hearts and minds.

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