Kathy Stevens co-founded Catskill Animal Sanctuary in 2001 where she brings together her love of animals and her belief in the transformative power of education. She’s also the author of Where the Blind Horse Sings and Animal Camp.
Catskill Animal Sanctuary is a 150-acre refuge in New York’s Hudson Valley for 11 species of farmed animals rescued from cruelty, neglect, and abandonment. Over the years, thousands have come to this place of profound peace. In the first episode of 2022, Kathy and Ana discuss #Febudairy, the transformative power of rescue sanctuaries, and how non-human animals grieve.
Ana Bradley: Hello, and welcome to the Sentient Media podcast. This is our first podcast of 2022 and we’re sharing this time with a wonderful guest, Kathy Stevens the founder of Catskill Rescue Sanctuary. So for our new listeners, this is a podcast where we meet people who are doing things and creating environments that are changing the way we think about and interact with the world around us. And I honestly cannot think of a more wonderful guest to kick off the year with Kathy co-founder of Catskill Animal Sanctuary started in 2001, where she brings together her love of animals and her belief in the transformative power of education. She’s also the author of ‘Where the Blind Horse Sings’ and ‘Animal Camp’. So Hi, Kathy, welcome. And thank you so much for joining us today.
Kathy Stevens: Hey, Ana, I’m so excited to be here as your first guest in 2022. On this frigid day.
Ana: Yeah, we were just talking about that, we’ve been hearing a lot about what’s happening over there right now, with the storm that you all are facing. How has it been going?
Kathy: Well, you know, this last storm missed us by about a meter, you know, not very much all around us. People were slammed 20 inches, 24 inches, parts of Central Massachusetts got 30 inches, it really missed us, and our struggle this year has been the bitter, bitter, bitter cold. We’ve had a good 10 nights when it’s gotten into the negative numbers. And how did that we just looked it up? How does it translate? Oh, I said right now is one Fahrenheit, and use checked and it was minus 17. So it’s been, it’s been minus 20 Celsius way into the negative numbers. And that’s when you’ve got to make sure that the animals don’t develop frostbite that they, you know, these lots and lots of extra care for the animals when it gets that cold, not to mention the poor people who are taking care of these hundreds of animals.
Ana: Yeah, right. So what kind of things do you have to do to protect the animals in that in this kind of coldness?
Kathy: It depends on the species, our chicken barn has radiant heat, so we turn it on, so that it keeps that barn comfortable through the floors. We use for other buildings, the pigs have heat that’s on timers, we can turn it on to come on at the coldest part of the night. For the other animals, they are hardy or the sheep are comfortable in this weather. And the cows and horses we just offer lots and lots of deep bedding if they’re old, we blanket them if they live outside with a barn that they can access whenever they want come and go as they choose, we blanket them. It really is different depending on the species.
Ana: So obviously, we’ve just spoken a little bit about you have a variety of animals that are you’re looking after right now. And I understand you started the Sanctuary in 2001. Could you tell us, for people who don’t know, who aren’t familiar with you and what you’ve been doing? Tell us just the top-level what it is that you’re doing and why you started this thing?
Kathy: So Catskill Animal Sanctuary, which is in New York, about two hours north of Manhattan is a farm sanctuary for 10 species of farmed animals, from chickens to cows. And we also have horses, which are farmed in a way that people don’t typically think about it. But I had been as a young girl I grew up in the south in Virginia, and my dad raised horses. He was a thoroughbred breeder and trainer, but we always had lots of animals. I had goats that I used to sneak into the house and so I’ve had animals in my DNA. I’ve had this deep love for animals my entire life and the understanding that they are so much more than most humans realize. We know how like us, our dogs are and our cats are with their rich emotional lives and their individuality. We don’t tend to want to know that about the animals we eat. But I’ve always known that because I lived with them. So I moved to Boston became a high school English teacher and a decade into that work was invited to become the principal of a new high school, but decided at that point to pivot and to combine my love for teaching and learning with my love for animals. And that was in 2000 and Catskill Animal Sanctuary was established in 2001 and many years later, good lord. Good lord. Here we are.
Ana: That’s so amazing. It is incredible to think that it has been 20 years. This is your 21st year, right? Yes, that’s a massive milestone. So I’m curious at what point did you start to change your attitude towards animals as food, were you raised eating animal meat?
Kathy: Oh, good lord. Yes, we had, we had cows, and we named them and my dad would joke that we were eating George or we were eating Ed, or we were eating Peter or whatever. And like, most of us, most of humans, you know, nobody’s intending to harm animals. When we eat. We just live in the culture we live in. And so I didn’t really think too much about it. And then in my 20s, I became vegetarian. And, like, so many people went through a process over many years of reducing A and then reducing B and then reducing C but it wasn’t until right before I started Catskill Animal Sanctuary and saw some documentaries that highlighted the horrors of the dairy industry that I just said, Okay, that’s it. I’m done.
Ana: I mean, thinking about dairy, you know, about Veganuary and then the dairy industry’s response Februdairy. We are speaking today on the first of Februdairy. I mean, at Sentient Media, we are going to be covering the dairy industry, the reality of what that looks like, as an industry. But I’m curious do you have any dairy cows in your rescue farm right now? Can you tell us a little bit about them and their characters?
Kathy: We do, we mostly actually have males from the dairy industry who were lucky enough to escape that fate. In one case, we have a couple of little steers, not little now, named Calvin and Bernard, who were ferried off of a dairy industry farm after they had been separated from their moms and would not have made it they were quite sick when they came here. But in general, we’ve had many many many dairy cows over the years. We now have probably close to 3000 pounds. I’m not sure how many stones that is but a lot. Oh, here goes the calculator.
Ana: I’m getting my trusty friend out. So how many pounds? Did you say?
Ana: Okay. 3000. So we do stone.
Kathy: Yes. I used to live there.
Ana: Right. Oh, really?
Ana: Where were you in the UK?
Kathy: I was in Bath.
Ana: Bath. Lovely. With the beautiful spas and the Roman baths.
Kathy: Yes. Right. Yeah. Breathtaking place.
Ana: Yeah. Gorgeous.
So okay, so 3,000 pounds is 1,360 kilograms. And in stone is… wow 214 stone.
Kathy: Massive. One cow. He’s six feet four inches tall at the shoulder. And he was bought at auction by a buyer who’s a dairy cow. So he would have been veal but bought instead bought at auction by a petting zoo and came here shortly thereafter when a woman bought him to save his life. And cows in general dairy or beef cows, in general, are little understood animals people think they are stupid. And lots of people think we will say well, they just kind of stand there all day. Well, the expression ‘still waters run deep’ describes cows. They are highly emotional animals who love their friends and bond easily and grieve in a way that will break your heart when they lose their beloveds, whether it’s family or friends. We actually thought we had a sick cow, this my bovine best friend the giant when I was telling you about named Tucker, he was in such grief when he lost his friend Caleb, and this was after a succession of losses because he had a lot of friends who are significantly older than he was, he was so ill that we thought he had cancer because he separated himself from the herd, which is what cows do when they’re sick, wasn’t eating wouldn’t accept affection. And he was just grieving. He came out of it, but it took months. So that’s who cows are just, again, breathtakingly loving animals who will just lick your face until your face bleeds because their tongue is a giant cat tongue. And to think what they endure, so that we can have a product that really isn’t that we weren’t designed to consume in the first place is pretty, pretty tough.
Ana: Yeah, I mean, that’s is interesting talking about grief. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much experience visiting rescue sanctuaries, we don’t have many in the UK, I did visit one in California, at the very start just before COVID in 2020.
Kathy: Which one?
Ana: It’s a Hens of the Hills. So small, and micro sanctuary, we visited Sweet Farm as well, which is a much bigger farm set up in California. But at the hens of the hills, this little microsanctuary, she’s just rescued, you know, hens, that have been, you know, from backyard breeders or broiler or all of the usual suspects. And the way that she the woman who looks after them, Deirdre was talking about them, experiencing grief, and when one of the hens passed away, and she bought the body of the hen in for everybody to see, and they, you know, the way that they acknowledged and understood and interacted with this, you know, with their friend’s body, it’s so human-like, and it’s, it’s really, it’s quite troubling to think about when you think about farmed animals, when their lives are surrounded by this trauma, and there’s death constantly, and then they have to watch each other, you know, go to the slaughter. So yeah, it’s a, it’s something that I think we don’t we don’t talk about very often how, how much it hurts these, you know, farmed animals in the factory farm and slaughterhouse conditions.
Kathy: And we have a phrase that sort of became our tagline, which is that in the ways that truly matter, we are all the same. And it’s just I know this for a fact, it’s not my opinion, I’ve lived among these animals for 20 years, and there’s not an emotion that you can name that we experienced that they don’t, they’re just, they don’t, because they don’t have the capacity to speak language that we understand. You know, certainly they have language, then it’s easier for us to, to look at them. And it’s also convenient, because if we faced who they were, then that we’d probably be a vegan world. If we truly let in the fact that they are every bit as loving as emotional as individual, as quirky and, and the fact that they want their lives as much as we want ours, it’s all of that, you know, every bit as much as our children, then be a different world.
Ana: I mean, you’re saying, you know, you have animals in your DNA, you’ve grown up, you know, experiencing and being a part of different animals, non-human animals lives since you were a child, but over the last 20 years, coming into 21 years of running Catskill, like, what have you, have you noticed any changes as you’re actively educating and bringing in people to experience?
Kathy: Yeah, it’s a different world. Well, 20 years ago, people didn’t know how to pronounce vegan, and they didn’t know what it meant. And they would believe that, it was extreme, and about extreme deprivation, and that it was almost as if vegans 22 years ago were perceived as sort of a lunatic fringe. Not quite that but almost, and when you went into the store, you could find soy milk, but that’s about it. So now, not only has the market changed, as you will know, you can find cheese or milk that’s every bit as tasty as anything from a cow and certainly healthier Also those all those new makes. But we don’t get the visitor we have 1000s of visitors every year from all over the country and some internationally as well, although COVID has inhibited that, but we no longer get the visitor who says, that’s a nice side of bacon when they look at the pigs, we and we used to get one of those every day, just the snide visitor who was uncomfortable and had to make the dumb joke. And now at least even when visitors are not vegan or even vegetarian, there’s a different respect among certainly among the progressive community who might identify as animal lovers because that’s who comes here we attract animal lovers, there is a respect and a recognition that this is an aspirational lifestyle. So it’s, it’s dramatically different than it was 20 to 21 years ago, whether or not we can make a shift rapidly enough, you know, in response to climate change is that’s a tall order. But there’s certainly a lot to be encouraged about.
Ana: I think that that’s it’s important to note that it goes both ways as well, I think, you know, the protests and the marches that used to be, you know, dominated by vegans that are, you know, saying Shame on you, you know, to meat-eaters, and even vegetarians, I think that the conversation has shifted between these, these groups, that it’s more about supporting each other and having an open dialogue and trying to be free from judging people and letting everybody kind of go on their journey. And for a lot of people going to a, you know, rescue sanctuary just will change everything will change their lives. And I’m sure you’ve had visitors like that as well.
Kathy: 1000s and so has every sanctuary that’s been a good sanctuary, you know, that has been around for any length of time. My favorite story is of a man in his 30s I had walked down the hill to the barn to the main barn, which is where our tours gather, and we locked eyes, he saw me, and he ran up to me and he burst into tears. And he grabbed my forearms. This was before COVID when you could still touch people, grabbed my forearms, and tears streaming down his face. And he just said, “I get it now”. He had just finished a tour. “I get it now, tell me what to do”. People don’t expect for cows to lick their faces, for chickens to fall asleep in their laps, for pigs to come along running when you call their names, for turkeys to lean over their shoulders to hug them. They don’t expect that. And they become unglued in those moments. Because those moments put the lie to all that cultural conditioning that we all grew up with. How powerful is this need in this world for good, responsibly run sanctuaries?
Ana: Absolutely. That’s such a beautiful story. And yeah, I wonder you know, you’re talking about the cow who came from the petting zoo?
Kathy: Tucker, yes.
Ana: A lot of people don’t know the difference between, you know, a petting zoo and a farmed animal rescue sanctuary like what is the difference in terms of how you interact with the animals and the lives that the animals are allowed to lead?
Kathy: Well, at the core of it, one is a profit enterprise and one isn’t. So one exists. Sanctuaries exist to serve animals. Animals are our raison d’etre as opposed to the for profit business whose job it is to make money from the animals so that’s the foundational difference. And from that you can explain everything but typically at petting zoos, in the Northeast where you can’t there you can’t be open in the winter, you’re just not going to have the traffic. They will auction off. A lot of petting zoos have babies, lots and lots of babies and they have them in very confined spaces so that they can’t really move far away from people so that you can go in pay a fee, your kids have the experience of interacting with a confined animal. But what very few people understand is that the end of that visiting season that tourist season, those animals are auctioned off, and auction is literally a euphemism for slaughter because there’s just no demand for pet cows or pet pigs or pet chickens or pet fill in the blank. So they are just cycled through and the cute little baby that your daughter fell in love with in May is going to be dead in November. And that’s one of the many things that’s problematic with petting zoos.
Ana: Yeah, yeah, it’s completely different experience. I think when you allow, when you’re in a space in, you know, in a rescue found Animal Rescue sanctuary, and you’re there and some animals might come up to you some just want to be left alone. And you can, you know, let them be. It’s a very rewarding and wonderful experience. And I feel the atmosphere. I mean, like I say, I have very limited experience, but the atmosphere that I’ve noticed, in my experience has just been one of like calm and peace amongst obviously a lot of busy people too,
Kathy: People cry, here a lot. And their comment is that they feel so much love and peace. And if you ever get back over here and have the opportunity to visit, or if anybody else who’s listening is planning on a trip to New York. One of the things that distinguishes Catskill Animal Sanctuary is that we have a big group of animals that we call the underfoot family, and they are free-roaming animals. And so they will, you’ll literally pull in the driveway and have a goat try to climb in your car, or a sheep run up and bury his head in your thighs because he wants to say, Hello. Or you’ll see Russell the potbelly pig walking by on his way to the compost pile. So that’s when you really, really see their individuality because you’ll see some of the sheep hang back and you’ll see some just run up and just look up and say, I love you. I don’t know your name, but I love you. Because they are so deeply soulful animals.
Ana: It’s such a wonderful picture. Just that feeling of the atmosphere. That you were describing. And yeah, yeah, I mean, that’s just, it just it’s bliss. And one of your speciality, but I am calling it one of your speciality rescues is, is blind horses. And you wrote about Buddy, right? In your, in your book, “Where the Blind Horse Sings’. And I was wondering, for people who haven’t read the book, or who aren’t familiar with this story, like, it just seems like such a, a huge thing, a huge undertaking to work with a blind horse, you know, an animal who’s naturally kind of scared of what’s going on around like, you know, obviously the, you know, the prey drive, etc. So, yeah, I mean, how did your relationship with blind horses even begin?
Kathy: Well, it began with him with Buddy, this woman from a horse rescue that still exists today to place called equine advocates, reached out to us when we had just been open for a few months, and said, it’s a blind horse. His family loves him, but they cannot cope with his blindness. And he’s in a very irregular paddock, barbed wire paddock. So he’s cutting himself and he said, would you take him? Well, I didn’t know blind horses. But I sure didn’t know horses. And I figured he would show us what he needed. And I’ll never forget the day he came to us. I got on the trailer. And he was shaking so violently, so violently. He’s so terrified. And it took to get him maybe 40 feet to the barn. It took probably an hour when he’s just taking a tiny, tiny step at a time. And I had a bowl of grain that I had in front of his nose and he reached for it and take a little bite and then I back up an inch. Well, within a week, I started taking him for walks, long walks, long walks, long walks every day, walking through the woods just to build his confidence. And within a week, probably just a few days. He wanted to run. Well now, I’m sorry, I’m not a world-class marathoner. I could jog along with him, but I couldn’t sprint, I can’t I’m not a horse. So, even though, in general, we are not fans of horseback riding, which is a whole other topic, certainly not for competition. I had to ride him, because he wanted to gallop. And the, one of the most memorable moments of my life was when the first day, you know, the, when I first started riding him, I just take him in circles in a field a little bit. But he just he wanted to gallop, everything in him wanted to gallop. And so the first day, I took him out to this massive field. He started to trot. And then he started to canter. And he started to gallop, and he was running as fast as he could, because he trusted me to keep him safe. And when he was ready to stop, when he was winded, he stopped running. And then he stopped and he blew out his breath and a huge winnie. And I felt like he was saying, I’m free. And it was a moment I will never forget. And he was with us for seven years. And that relationship taught me so much about paying attention to each individual and how not treating them all the same. And in the same way, that as a class in the classroom, as a teacher, you have to respond sort of individually to your students. So it that relationship was one of many that changed my life. And since then, we welcomed nine other blind horses, including one we just rescued, who happens to be our fourth blind horse named Buddy, go figure. And there’s a beautiful video of that, that people can find on our YouTube channel of us working with him.
Ana: It’s such a beautiful story. Like, I’ve always been obsessed with horses since being a child. So like, you know, this story just speaks so much to me that time where you have to the horse genuinely wants to be ridden, and you have to listen to them and, and take them and help them and then helping you.
Kathy: I wouldn’t say he wanted to be ridden. He wanted to run, he wanted to gallop. And that was an the only way for me to allow him to do that. Because blind horses don’t run. They don’t run for obvious reasons. What if they are startled? They’ll spin in circles, but they won’t run. Which is true, actually, because we’ve had so many blind animals, ducks, chickens, cows. That’s, that’s a stress response. Right? Because when they have something frightens them, and they have this energy that needs to be released, and they can’t just sprint because they don’t know where the fence or the next tree is. That’s the way to keeping them safe and releasing that stress.
Ana: Right so yeah, I mean, it’s just incredible. The patience, I did watch the YouTube videos with the latest Buddy. The white horse, right? Yeah. And it’s just incredible. Like you’re there, you know, saying stop and then patting the ground. And then he knows, you know, oh, this is water or this is around or whatever. It’s absolutely incredible to see like the horses pick it up, like you said within a week with Buddy in the book, but they pick things up really quickly.
Kathy: Well, all animals have the capacity to learn. I’ve been astonished at how quickly chickens learn their names for example. But it’s very individual some have a stronger capacity for language and learn more quickly but all of our blind horses learned stop, water, up, down the basic things that they need to keep themselves safe. And then we do other things, like put them in a very symmetrical field so that they can memorize it quickly. But it’s just it’s a privilege to work with them and give them the kind of confidence that they’ve never had because of the circumstances that they’ve come from. And they live very, very, very happily, this newest Buddy is a piece of work. He’s a handful.
Ana: I mean, he looked he looks like a very, very good boy in the videos. But did the blind horses, like do you have horses with sight there as well, like, do they kind of learn from each other as well?
Kathy: We’ve done it differently, depending on who we’ve got here. And right now we have 4 herds of horses into which it would be tough to introduce a blind horse. So we now we’ve had blind horses live with a guide horse. We also had a guide horse, who we had a bell on him who was not interested in that role, and you put the bell on, he instantly stop moving so the blind mate would have no clue where he was, that didn’t work. But this Buddy, Buddy 4, who is 31. And which means he’ll be 32 very quite soon, because generally horses are born in the spring lives with Buddy three, who we can’t believe is still not going strong. But he’s, he’s gonna be 36 years old this year. So they live, they live in stalls next to each other with a big window cut out so that they can hang out together at night. And I’ll often go down there at night, and one of them is nuzzling the other one. And then they’re turned out during the day together.
Ana: That’s just incredible. Like, it’s just such a wonderful. It really touched me watching those videos and hearing you talk about it. I just it’s so magical, that you’re talking about, you know, the guide horse, you didn’t want to be a guide horse, you know, with the bell like and it’s one of the things I have noticed, at least online, in a lot of farmed animal sanctuaries, where animals of different species are allowed to be together and roam together, they often form like little cross-species relationships, like a sheep who, you know, just stays with the cows and doesn’t look at other sheeps. Do you have any kind of cross-species friendships?
Kathy: Oh, yeah, we had an amazing friendship between so many, but one of the most powerful ones was between a pig Jasmine, and a rooster named Travis. And we just lost Travis after a long, long, long, long life, but they loved each other. And go figure, what go figure. What was it about? Why does a dog choose a particular family member as his very, very, very best friend, even though he loves everybody in the family? I don’t know. But yes, we’ve had many of those. A cow and a turkey, a pig, and a chicken. Sheep and goats just Yeah. And when you have so many who are allowed to roam free, then they get to make so many choices about how they spend their day. And it’s wonderful to watch what those choices are. Even though in the case of goats, those choices are always to get in trouble.
Ana: So, obviously, we have like this beautiful story, lots and lots of beautiful stories about individuals living their lives and getting to make these choices at Catskill. But what like in terms of thinking about a future, a different future, and a different approach to food? What should the role of farmed animal sanctuaries be if we moved into a plant-based food system?
Kathy: Well, I think we are moving into a plant-based food system, but I think we’re moving gradually. And if you know this is so hypothetical and so massive, but you know, and I never know how to answer this question, because it’s not going to happen tomorrow. It’s going to happen gradually. And of course, all these animals exist, because we, we breed them, we inseminate them, we capture and confine them and then we produce billions more of them year upon year to feed us. So much of that will, you know, if you take away the demand, then you can see it see that those animals, you can almost see your way to the extinction of certain species over time. But there would be a vital role for sanctuaries because there’d be an urgent need for the placement of the ones who weren’t going to be consumed. And even though sanctuaries are popping up every day, I feel like I believe there should be a sanctuary in every region of the world so that everybody can go no more than an hour to get to one to have those transformational experiences, because they do change people profoundly and permanently. So my hope, and I certainly been involved in supporting a lot of new sanctuaries in whatever way we can with guidance, is that the sanctuary movement will continue to flourish and that we’ll see more good sanctuaries supported by the organizations who, you know, make us make us mind our P’s and Q’s that we’re doing it properly. But I certainly hope that as we move more plant-based, you’ll see a rapid increase in the number of sanctuaries for these animals.
Ana: Yeah, I mean, that would be incredible. And it would also be incredible if we took, you know, the zoo, you know, the essentially mandatory zoo visit of the curriculums and changed it to you have to go visit a farmed animal rescue sanctuary instead and interact and look at the land and look at the Earth and look at the environment around us and how these animals live, instead of looking at lions and tigers in cages.
Kathy: I totally agree. We had a visitor who, this was so sad to me. She came from the city, and she left with a branch, a branch had fallen off a tree. And she got back on the bus with the branch because she wanted something that represented nature in her house.
Ana: Yeah, that’s like where I am right now. It there is so much brick and tarmac. And there’s tiny little bits of grass. And there’s one tiny bit of grass at the end of all of these rows of houses. And they’re about to knock it down and build more houses on this one little bit of grass that we have. And it’s terrifying. And I definitely feel you know, what this woman felt. And in parts of London and places there are kids that literally never get to see anything apart from concrete and high rises.
Kathy: Yeah. And Earth is not getting bigger people. The Earth isn’t doesn’t have the capacity to grow bigger to accommodate more of us.
Ana: Exactly, exactly. We’ll accommodate all of the animals that we need to grow our feeders and all of the feed all the animals. It’s madness. I was wondering, well, I have a couple more questions for you if we have time, but you have a really a wonderfully realistic, but also hopeful take on, like, behavioral change. And I’ve heard you talk about, you know, yes, we are seeing an increase in people moving plant-based we are seeing an increase in people adopting a vegan lifestyle, but we are also seeing an increase in meat consumption and dairy consumption and production when we look at the global picture. Yeah, I wonder if you want to tell us a little bit about your take on the best steps towards creating a bigger scale of behavioral change.
Kathy: I think whole-scale change as the window as we see the climate get worse, year after year after year in measurable ways, right? Whether it’s fires or crazy winter weather or floods or drought or you know, fill in the blank, then more and more of us are waking up and all I think and is it it is incumbent upon if we each of us has the gift of being good of a human body, we were lucky to have been born human and if we are further lucky to be able-bodied and in most parts of the world white and lucky enough to be educated and on and on and on to have come from a family that loved us if and I would wager that a lot of your listeners fall into some of those categories. Then we are among the luckiest alive and it is incumbent upon each have us at this critical time in the history of the Earth to say, there will not be a planet, a livable planet, for living beings in 50 years, unless we radically change our behavior. And the thing that must change is our consumption of animal products for reasons that I’m sure your audience is aware. And so then to reflect back on oneself and say, What can I do? Because this movement, meat, we’re running out of time, and this movement needs the best of any of all of us. And there is something that everyone can offer. Whether it’s on a volunteer basis, there’s a look at your skills, and you can find a niche that will put those skills to work. And so am I excited about innovation in the plant-based space? Yes. Am I excited about the big funding that is coming into the plant-based space? Yes, am I excited about this change I’m seeing in the grocery stores, even in institutions, I’m seeing, you know, the big organizations like in the United States Humane Society for the United States, they are in the institutions working with the chef’s to make our hospitals, our prisons, our schools, more vegan friendly, there are wonderful initiatives like, Veganuary. And I had Matthew, he was wonderful, on my podcast recently. So there are wonderful initiatives at the institutional level, but that does not let the individual off the hook. So that’s my answer to your question.
Ana: I mean, that’s a really great answer. And I completely agree with you, it’s the same as this idea of like, we need to create change, you know, for the animals who are currently in factory farms to help them, you know, have a little bit more of a pleasant existence while they’re in there. But we also need to incite this institutional change, where we shift away from that as a way of looking at food.
Kathy: That’s right, and it’s in the problem, the challenge is so massive that the idea that there is a single solution is ridiculous, and that those incremental changes don’t matter to those particular animals, while the rest of us are working toward a different world. Of course, they matter.
Ana: Absolutely. And I think that, you know, like, our role at Sentient Media is to you know, to shine a light on what people are doing, like you and what people are doing in the meat and dairy industry behind closed doors. And then obviously, people like you need to be there to rescue these animals and give them this life in this wonderful experience. But to close things off, I’m wondering about you and your you know, you do so much and it takes a lot out of you know, anybody who is around, you know, this many animals who require, you know, obviously a lot of attention like physical, you know, raising money like making being present showing up every day and being there for the human animals and the nonhuman animals. What do you do to unwind to reset or does being with the animals kind of energize you?
Kathy: Being with the animals, energizes me. But that is not the bulk of my work, right? The bulk of my work is to set the vision to write to speak to keep the money coming in. We’ve got an extraordinary team of people. I, you know, I pitch in when we’re shorthanded. I pitch in I go down and see my four-legged children and love all over them but the heavy lifting the animal care team does it and then behind the scenes you know we’ve got all the others who keep the whole piece moving the communications people and the development people and the wonderful programs people but that you know, I come from a hard-working dad and hard work is also in my DNA but yes, I do unwind and I do recharge and major is my church, some outside absolutely as much as possible, long hikes, long walks with the dogs, long bike rides. I read I write and love to cook my partner David and I love to cook and entertain which is more challenging with COVID But I have a great life. I have to say.
Ana: Sounds amazing and I cannot wait to come and visit you I will be trying to get into the states this year at some point. And when I do, I shall come to you and experience all these wonderful animals.
Kathy: Oh, please do it would be my absolute joy to introduce them.
Ana: I hope that everybody who’s already close to you, geographically, can pop up and see you and visit the animals.
Kathy: Yeah, we open in April on weekends and can’t wait and we’re actually excited to offer later in the year our the head of our programs team is bilingual, and we’re working toward offering Spanish-speaking tours as well. So it’s gonna be a great year here.
Ana: That’s so wonderful to hear. It’s so inspiring and, you know, touching to listen to you, like myself and my team and a lot of people I know who advocate for animals, don’t get the time to spend with them. You know, you’re doing a lot of online kind of, you know, type of activism and it’s wonderful to speak to somebody like you and hear your stories. And, you know, this is why we’re all doing what we’re doing to build these better lives for these wonderful animals.
Kathy: Well and you need to recharge by making sure you sit down in the dirt with these wonderful friends.
Ana: I can’t think of anything better.
Kathy: We will see you in 2022 Anna.
Ana is the Executive Director at Sentient Media. Her background is in content production and startup consultancy.