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Humane Agencies and Farmed Animal Rescue: Why We Won’t Work with Mohawk Hudson Humane Society Again

In January, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary received an email from Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, an animal protection organization near Albany, asking if we’d be able and willing to help with a large neglect case at a family farmWe were told there were dozens of cats and dogs on the farm and hundreds of farmed animals like cows, pigs, ducks, and chickensall suffering from severe neglect. We had space here at the Sanctuary to provide permanent homes for a cow and some chickens, so our team rallied and prepared to help. 

The day of the seizure called for up to eight inches of snow. When our team arrived at the property, the conditions were worse than we had anticipatedpigs were walking through layers of plastic garbage, the only hay for cows to eat was wet, moldy, and soiled by feces and urine, birds were without proper bedding and protection from the winter temperatures. Nobody had water and there were dead animals on the property—it was obvious the animals had been treated horribly, neglected, and forgotten. 

Halfway through the day, we were informed that instead of a seizure the farmed animals were all being surrendered and that all animals had to be gone by sundown that day. There were no other efforts to reach out to rescues or find a place to temporarily hold the farmed animals while we and others looked for safe homesWe had already secured one spot for one cow at a sanctuary and told Mohawk Hudson that we could come back and get her and take her to her new home; but they did not do anything to make sure we could pick her up the following day. Instead, they told us a farmer was going to keep her as a pet. Any farmed animal we didn’t leave with that day was being handed over to a farm. We scrambled and started reaching out to friends at out-of-state sanctuaries, racing against the clock to get another vehicle onsite, and transform a staff building into an animal isolation center at the Sanctuary. We were not planning on such an influx of animals. But once we observed that the farmed animals were in jeopardy of being given to farms, our team left the farm with 55 animals in total: 39 hens, one rooster, six ducks, seven turkeys, and two baby cows. We told Mohawk Hudson Humane Society that day and in followup communication that we could help with other placement of animals whom we didn’t take. All of the animals were surrendered to them and they were in charge of placement. But our help was dismissed. After all these animals went through, they deserved proper medical care and sanctuary if there was a chance. They deserved humane treatment. So we kept trying. But it was obvious that the leadership of Mohawk Hudson felt that farmed animals belong at farms (and in one case, a petting zoo)and that there was nothing wrong in placing victims of neglect back in that cycle of exploitation and death, even when there were safe alternatives being offered 

Shortly after the rescue went public on both Mohawk Hudson’s social media and ours, people started commenting on Mohawk Hudson’s posts, asking where the remaining farmed animals ended up. In all their public relations, it was clear that they gave most of the farmed animals directly to farms even as the same communications described the situation as a “rescue.” People also started reaching out to us, asking the same questions. There was such an outrage over the vague information from Mohawk Hudson that a petition with nearly 4,000 signatures was created by an activist to help the farmed animals. We again offered support and placement help to Mohawk Hudson, who in turn kept “reassuring” us that the remaining animals were placed “safely” on farms. The problem was evident: this humane society did not see the issue with sending these animals to farms–they worked with a local network of hobby and production farms, and a petting zoo, to place the animalsMost of the animals will be killed soon or live a life of exploitation then be slaughtered. Meanwhile, the cats and dogs rescued are safe— soon to be adopted and live in loving, warm homes. We don’t doubt that Mohawk Hudson will vet those homes, ask the right questions, and be there if the adopters can no longer take care of the animals. Because they care about the cats they rescued.  

While our continued efforts to help with placement were being dismissed, we learned from a local news story that two cows who had run away from the police and the beef farmers who were rounding them up to bring back to their farm, were never caught and had been loose for three weeks. New York had experienced so much snowy weather by this point, we couldn’t imagine the health conditions of these two neglected cows. We reached out to Mohawk Hudson, again, offering help with placement—even offering to bring fresh food to the loose cows and assist in securing them. They said they did not have any information about the current location of the cows that got loose, other than what they had been told by the police department, and suggested we go to the police. We sent one of our staff up driving a truck loaded with hay to talk to the chief of police in person, hoping someone would care about these cows. Our staff person was told to go to the humane society. 

As we write this, we believe these cows are still abandoned, alone, and the ones with power to help them are not helping themWhen they are caught, they will likely be handed over to a farm as the other cows from their herd were. We are certain if they were two cats or dogs, they would’ve been saved in the first week. This wouldn’t even be a question.  

Why won’t we work with Mohawk Hudson Humane Society again? Because their dismissive speciesism flies in the face of their mission: to provide care and shelter to unwanted, abused animals. Because farmed animals are worthy of being saved and their safety counts just as much as any other.  We don’t trust them to do right by all animals as they have demonstrated a lack of knowledge and compassion in this case.  

It is VERY hard to find safe homes for farmed animals, but Mohawk Hudson barely tried. They did not advocate on behalf of those who they claimed to have rescued.   

We experienced Mohawk Hudson’s speciesism first-hand, but Mohawk Hudson’s perspective on farmed animal rescue is not uniqueHumane societies and humane law enforcement should do better. Many of do them prioritize the care and safety of all animals they are tasked with protecting, but when they don’t, we need to speak upTo claim to rescue farmed animals when they are just going to be given to other farms who will profit off of their trauma is humane-washing and that narrative must be questioned. We hope by sharing this story, more of today’s humane societies consider practicing equal service to farmed animals in need of support. We ask that humane societies assess their current practices and evaluate what they are doing for the thousands of neglected and exploited farmed animals in need of placement each day. What can they do? 

  • Humane societies can build networks of sanctuaries and rescues and educate themselves about what the rescue of farmed animals entails before they conduct rescues.  
  • They can consider what a mandate of protection means for those animals rescued from direct exploitation and harm.  
  • They can do internal education to break down the biases that are culturally held and keep these animals in harm’s way and even abandoned even after they have been through such terrible neglect.  

And we ask all the animal lovers, companion animal activists, and supporters of animal protection organizations to invite farmed animals into their hearts and hold these organizations accountable, because farmed animals deserve—and need—our help more than ever. We should celebrate those humane organizations who do care for farmed animals or who make positive changes 

And if those two cows that have been abandoned for weeks are still living out in the harsh winter, we hope that they will be given some mercy and that sanctuary help with be accepted to save their lives