Farm Sanctuary is the original farm animal sanctuary in the U.S. founded in the mid eighties by a couple of vegan activists who made money selling soy hot dogs at Grateful Dead shows. One fateful day they rescued a sheep named Hilda from the Lancaster Stockyards "dead pile" and needed to find her a home. In the years since Farm Sanctuary has rescued thousands of animals, operates two sanctuaries, and has grown into one of the largest animal rights organizations in the country.
For a vegan the place is truly paradise, seeing farm animals living their full lives with dignity and the chance to be happy. I have been to photograph the sanctuary in Watkins Glen NY many times over the last decade. It is my retreat to nature. The animals give me inspiration to lead an ethical life. I try to render them photographically in a way that will give the viewer a direct experience of their being. Hopefully my photographs will influence people to choose compassionate lifestyles centered around a vegan diet.
The Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down is a chance for vegans and vegan curious people to get together. People like me come from all over the place to build solidarity and to celebrate our veganity. There are speakers and workshops, farm tours, food, and plenty of other activities to participate in during the weekend. Most participants sleep in tents on the farm, but some choose to stay in hotels nearby. On Saturday night there is a big dance party with more food as well as beer and wine. It is really fun to see people let loose. I get the added benefit of being able to put on a hula hoop performance that freaks people out every time.