A Fire in Our Hearts…Despite the Snow Thursday, December 28, 2017It’s cold here at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and ice covers our 160 acres. While I’ve lived on the East Coast for a while, the snow that falls and then stays and waits for another layer of snow is new to me since moving here to the Hudson Valley this year.I needed to clear my mind today, so I walked to my favorite place here at the Sanctuary, the Goat and Sheep Barn. It’s cozy inside with sleeping animals and piles of hay. If you’ve visited us, you’ll know that the sheep stay away from strangers and crowds, so you may not have met one. But the secret to sheep is that they can recognize dozens of faces and they are very tuned in to facial expressions. So if they know you and like you, they can be the most cuddly animals at the Sanctuary. The sheep and I sat in the barn and looked out onto the snow. Dixie and Marin, two of the most social sheep in this flock, put their heads against my chest and asked for scratches under their thick wool coats. And Bert the goat, who lives with the sheep and considers himself to be one of them, came up and used me as an itching post for his face.I remember that Bert was one of the first animal residents here that I felt a connection with. And then I fell in love with our beloved and lost Star and Louise, and Dixie, Marin, Roger, Clyde, Kayli, Fawn, and on and on. They are representatives of the billions who stand behind them, whose names we will never know. And that’s why we do our work here at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary– to rescue those farmed animals who we can…and to tell their stories to save so many more lives. I’m so proud to be able to be here in the last few days of 2017 with Bert and the sheep… thinking about what Woodstock Sanctuary has done this year: Gave specialized care to our 380 rescued farmed animals, including physical therapy, cold laser therapy, acupuncture, and even emergency eye surgery to Dylan the cow to eradicate his eye cancer For the first time ever, we rescued 26 terrified birds from a rooster fighting training quarters Built a horse barn that allowed for us to rescue a former work horse, Atlas, who suffered years of exploitation and abuse Converted an old building into a pig barn where Hurley’s family now lives.Welcomed hundreds of volunteers who are here every day of the year to help the animals! And implemented our new intern program which resulted in the best intern class in our historyPredator-proofed our duck coops Advocated for animals in alliance with other social justice movements by marching in the People’s Climate March in DC and the Pride Parade in NYCPride March 2017Tabled and extended our outreach to new locations in Connecticut and Pennsylvania at vegan festivals Rescued dozens of animals like Hurley’s family, lambs Tammy and Jolene, Kaporos victims The Beloved Birds, ten Lucky Ducklings, baby goats Pia and Zia, and many more Educated thousands of visitors on the horrors of animal agriculture, 70% of whom vowed to change their eating habits Introduced millions to our Sanctuary residents through social media, as well as through features in major media outlets including One Green Planet, The Dodo, LAIKA Magazine, Thrillist, Hudson Valley Magazine, and The New York Times.Watch our end-of-year video for more of the work we accomplished in 2017:We also navigated a very fraught political and social landscape this year and decided to redo our mission and vision statements to reflect our commitment to inclusivity and social justice across movements. This lost us some supporters but it was important to us to focus on the birds-eye view and acknowledge that all exploitation and suffering is connected – as is all justice. Our new mission statement is: We rescue farmed animals and give them care and sanctuary, connect animals with people to advance veganism, and advocate for animal rights in alliance with other social justice movements. I’m proud that our first steps in backing up our mission included inclusivity workshops for our staff, forcefully speaking out after the violence in Charlottesville to make clear our commitment to fighting bigotry, and adding two women of color to our board that is increasingly headed by woman and LGBTQ leaders. With their leadership, we are going to be expanding our advocacy and alliance building in 2018 and continuing to work on our own role in breaking down systemic racism in the animal rights movement while championing animal rights in other social justice movements. Rebecca of the Beloved Birds. Rescued in 2017.This is the root of the work that we are doing here at the Sanctuary: rescuing individuals and giving them care and lifelong sanctuary, including elder care and hospice. This commitment to them as individuals is powerfully illustrative that every sentient being is deserving of consideration and kindness. Your giving and advocacy does that too. Bert the goat, who always cuddles up to me, his caregivers, and his favorite sheep friends, is kind. And his kindness and his right to be unharmed and not exploited is paramount in our philosophy and our work here at Woodstock Sanctuary. I am humbled to be here in this role. And I feel that every day I am here at Woodstock Sanctuary, I make another animal friendship and my commitment to seeing the industries who brutalize and harm their bodies come to an end is strengthened. Our lives are so brief and we have to work towards reducing suffering and restoring kindness in all our actions. Goodbye to 2017. Join me and this goofy, kind goat in looking toward 2018 with hope and fire in our hearts. For the animals, Rachel Woodstock Farm Sanctuary envisions a peaceful world rooted in respect and justice for all living beings.