Walk Coordinator Calla Wright at the 2009 NYC Walk for Farm Animals. Photo credit: Nicholas Laccetti
Put on your (non-leather) walking shoes and join Farm Sanctuary for the annual New York City Walk for Farm Animals on Sunday, October 24 in Central Park. Over 70 of these fundraising walks are occurring around the world this year, and the New York edition is the biggest by far. In 2009, over 800 NYC Farm Sanctuary supporters came out to the Walk and raised nearly $80,000 to benefit Farm Sanctuary’s rescue and advocacy efforts.
I recently sat down with the coordinators of this year’s event, Calla Wright and Jennifer Parrucci, to talk about the significance of these walks—and why the 2010 NYC Walk for Farm Animals promises to be the biggest and best yet.
SuperVegan: Thanks so much for joining me today, ladies. Can you tell me a little bit about the NYC Walk for Farm Animals?
Calla Wright: Farm Sanctuary’s New York City Walk for Farm Animals is the biggest walk for farm animals in the country. It’s going to be a day of activists getting together to raise money to benefit Farm Sanctuary and, more importantly, to come together as a group to show our vegan pride and our compassion for farm animals. The walk takes place in Central Park, and the route will be about an hour from start to finish. After the walk, everyone gets a free vegan lunch donated by generous local businesses, and there will be speakers including Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur, vegan NBA star John Salley, Joshua Katcher from the Discerning Brute, and Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart from vegan fashion house Vaute Couture. We’ll also have musical performances by Jenn London and Dan Mims. Walk participants also have a chance to win dozens of raffle prizes, all donated from local businesses.
Jennifer Parrucci: The Walk for Farm animals isn’t a protest—it’s a celebration. We really like the positivity of the day. You know, most of the time, activists get together to voice their unhappiness with a company, like anti-fur protests at Macy’s or anti-vivisection protests. It’s not often that activists come together to celebrate our love and compassion for farm animals. It’s going to be a great day.
SV: And what are some of Farm Sanctuary’s current campaigns? What will all this fundraising support?
CW: Farm Sanctuary’s efforts are both legislative and grassroots. We have the No Downers campaign, which we have been working on pretty much since the farm was founded. A downed animal is one who is too sick or injured to walk to her own slaughter. Normally, these animals are dragged along with a forklift or dragged behind a truck just to get them onto the kill floor. Farm Sanctuary has been working to prevent those animals from going to slaughter. Not only is it a health concern, but it’s obviously incredibly inhumane treatment of these animals.
Our biggest effort, which the Walk will help support, is the anti-confinement campaign. We’re working to ban some of the most intensive, abusive farm practices, like veal crates, battery cages, and gestation crates. To do this, we actually try to get these practices put onto state ballots so that the people can vote for their elimination. So far, we have had successful bans passed in Florida, Arizona, Michigan, and Ohio, and in the summer of 2012 we expect to launch a new campaign in another U.S. state. We’ve partnered with organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals, but these are really labor-intensive, financially draining campaigns that need all the support we can give them.
We also have the Veg For Life campaign, which is all about encouraging people to go vegan. Volunteers around the world hand out literature and table at businesses and festivals, trying to explain to people that a plant-based diet is better for you, better for the environment, and better for the animals. This is more of the grassroots activism vs. legislative reform.
And, of course, money raised at the Walk will also benefit the animals living at Farm Sanctuary. All of the animals on the farm are sick, having come from intensive confinement systems or other abusive situations. The fundraising done on Sunday will go toward their medical care, housing, food, and upkeep of the farm. It’s a huge undertaking.
SV: How did you get involved with Farm Sanctuary?
JP: On our anniversary in 2008, my husband and I decided to take a weekend trip to Farm Sanctuary. We had been vegetarians before that point but not really activists. When we got to the farm, we took a tour and heard all the terrible things about factory farming; we basically went vegan that day, and we wanted to get involved with vegan activism back home in New York. We learned about and participated in the NYC Walk for Farm Animals and the Farm Sanctuary ACTivist group and have been advocating ever since.
CW: I have been a vegetarian almost my whole life, and I went vegan four and a half years ago. I met a Farm Sanctuary supporter in one of my classes at the New School who encouraged me to go to events and meetings in the city. Knowing him from school was really helpful, because I felt comfortable attending these events knowing I would at least know one person there. When I lost my job a couple of years ago, I had all this free time and wanted to find an animal rights group to volunteer for. Farm Sanctuary felt like a natural fit.
SV: Do you have a favorite animal on the farm or favorite rescue story?
JP: I’m partial to Echo, the turkey. I actually have a tattoo of him on my arm! My husband and I sponsored him for Thanksgiving in 2008, and ever since he’s been really special to me.
CP: I like Echo a lot too. When I first went to the farm, I had never seen a turkey before—who am I kidding, I’d never seen a cow or any farm animals before—but I didn’t know what to expect from a turkey. I thought maybe they wouldn’t care about humans or want to interact with us at all, but Echo was so social and friendly. I was just like, “Oh my god, turkeys!”
Lilly is another wonderful animal on the farm. She’s a goat who had been purchased as a birthday present, but the girl who was supposed to keep her didn’t actually want a goat. Her father was going to take her to slaughter but felt bad and decided to drop her at Farm Sanctuary instead. She had only ever been around humans before, not other goats, so she always wants to nuzzle and play with the humans on the farm.
You can help support Lilly, Echo, and the hundreds of Farm Sanctuary’s rescued and rehabilitated farm animals by walking in this year’s NYC Walk for Farm Animals. Online registration is open until October 22nd and costs $15. You will receive a free vegan lunch, a Walk for Farm Animals t-shirt designed by Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, and a free online fundraising page to send to all your friends and family members. The walk begins at noon on Sunday, October 24th at the Merchant’s Gates, W. 59th St. and Central Park West.