Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary Exclusive: Co-Founder Jenny Brown
As Ecorazzi mentioned earlier, last night we had the privilege of watching some hysterical comedians at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s second annual Komedy For Karma event at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC.
The evening was a blast and not only did I have a delicious (vegan, of course) coconut and lime cupcake, but I also got the chance to chat with a few of the headliners (check back later today for the exclusives). But before the show began I sat down with Jenny Brown — co-founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and all-around super gal. I think ya’ll will really enjoy what she had to say!
Ecorazzi: Hey Jenny! Thanks for having us here tonight. Talk to me a little about your animal sanctuary up in Woodstock.
Jenny Brown: Well, we are a 23-acre farm animal sanctuary in the Catskill Mountains — just two hours north of New York City. We have about 150 rescued farm animals, but they are really just a fraction of the animals that suffer in modern day agriculture. They are sort of the ambassadors to our cause.
We’re in a real tourist hot-spot because it’s Woodstock and people love to come visit. Most of the population in Woodstock are second home New Yorkers and there’s a bus that actually takes people straight up from New York City and drops them off at the farm. On the weekends from April through October we have people up and do educational farm tours. We’re so disconnected as a society from the meat and dairy industry. So it’s an opportunity for people to come and, while they’re giving the pig a belly rub or being nuzzled by some sheep, to make the connection that the wool industry is responsible for the lamb industry, and that these are pigs that bacon and lamb chops come from, and these are the egg-layers, and these are broilers and look how genetically messed up they are.
E: How did you first get involved with animal-welfare issues.
JB: Well I use to work in film and television. I went to film school and worked my way up from production assistant to producing and directing shows for the Discovery channel. But in the early nineties, while still in film school, I hooked up with a woman who worked at PETA and did an event as a school project that covered their annual fur funeral. I met a lot of these people from PETA, decided I wanted to do more for them, gave them this little video I did covering their annual fur funeral down Michigan Ave. and got involved.
And so they did a couple things to sort of test my will. I did some crazy undercover animal-rights stunts. And then they started sending me around the country to do things like break inside of Premarin farms to get the horses that are impregnated and producing their estrogen-laden urine for millions of women to take estrogen replacement pills during menopause. And I got involved with them and did a number of jobs: headed up some protests for circus’, tried to get into laboratories…stuff like that. And it was that experience in the early nineties that kept me going as an animal rights activist.
It wasn’t until 2002 that I got more involved. I had been a supporter of Farm Sanctuary and told the founders that I had done undercover video and would be willing to do it again. And literally two weeks later I was flown out to Texas to go undercover and document downed animals while they were trying to pass the Downed Animal Protection Act. I saw things that week that just totally changed my life. It was during that week with farm animals that I went from vegetarian to vegan. These are animals that are so much a part of our culture and we rarely ever even stop to consider them. They are without a doubt the most abused animals in the world. And these are other beings that share the earth with us. You know, we should give a shit. Quit being a speciesist and stop and think about the other species that share the earth with us and how much they suffer for something as trivial as the pleasure of our pallet.
E: I know you’ve worked a lot with celebs in the past and I see Janeane Garofalo here tonight. Tell me about how you got these celebrities involved and what inspired tonight’s event.
JB: Well luckily my husband, who is the co-founder of the farm, is a film editor. And he’s done a ton of work for Comedy Central. So he’s got these great comedic contacts because of the work he does. Janeane on the other hand, we just sorta contacted out of the blue. She’s very progressive. She’s not vegan or even vegetarian at this point in her life, but she cares. Not only does she care, but she’s incredibly proactive at promoting the work we do. So you don’t necessarily have to be vegan or put us in a different classification of people who care just because of our diet. She cares. The thing is she’s putting her celebrity appeal out there for a cause and that is beyond a doubt incredible and we love her for that.
E: Now I always end with the same question for all the famous vegetarians I interview. If you had the chance to meet one person who you’ve found specifically instrumental in the vegetarian community – dead or alive, past or present – who would it be and why?
JB: Well the answer is two-fold. First of all it would be Ghandi because of the good that he did and how non-isolating he was, how inclusive he was and how it all stemed from a human rights standpoint. The real answer though is Thom Yorke because I frigin love Radio Head.
You hear that, Thom? You should give Jenny a holler and get involved!! A big thank you to the fantastic crew over at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and everyone who came out to support last night’s event. It was a hoot!