There are very few people who have the strength and compassion to work in animal rescue and rehabilitation. The average person could quickly become cynical and lose hope in humanity after seeing case after case of abused and neglected animals. But one very special individual, Kathy Stevens, has allowed her heart to grow and seems to have restored her spirit through her animal safe haven, Catskill Animal Sanctuary.
Check out our interview below to learn more about Kathy, the sanctuary, and what you can do to help animals every day. Then check back next Wednesday for a chance to win a copy of Kathy’s book, Animal Camp: Lessons in Love and Hope From Rescued Farm Animals.
Was there a specific animal or instance that inspired you to open Catskill Animal Sanctuary?
No. I’d been a high school English teacher for 10 years when I was offered the principal’s job at a new charter high school opening in Boston. Instead of taking that job, I decided to combine my love for animals, my recognition that they are so much more than most folks know, and my passion for education into a single entity. After a few months of soul-searching (and lots of long walks with my dog, Murphy), I decided to open a “teaching” sanctuary, and that’s truly what Catskill Animal Sanctuary is. So I’d say that it was not a particular instance that inspired me, but rather the desire to merge my two passions, animals and education, into a single entity.
What do you think surprises readers most about the animals who end up at Catskill Animal Sanctuary?
How much like people they are! We all know that our dogs and cats are individuals. Each has his own unique personality and quirks; each has a deep and rich emotional life. Yet in this culture, we’re not given the opportunity to interact with animals most folks eat. In Animal Camp, I’ve shared essays that I hope show the reader that chickens, cows, pigs, and sheep are wonderfully complex, individual creatures who, because they’re in an environment in which they can truly thrive and make their own choices about how to spend their time, exhibit a lot of traits and preferences that we consider “human.” A pig with a sense of humor? Yep. A chicken who befriends a sheep, and a second sheep who’s jealous of that chicken? Absolutely. An affectionate turkey? Yes. A cow who tells us when something’s wrong in her pasture? You got it. The more time I spend with them, the more it’s obvious to me that in ways that truly count, we’re all the same. I hope Animal Camp, as well as my first book, Where the Blind Horse Sings, will convince readers of what I know to be true!
What made you decide to share the stories of the individual animals at Catskill Animal Sanctuary?
Within the vegan and animal rights movements, the emphasis is on three arguments: the suffering of the animals harvested for human consumption, the impact of agribusiness on the environment, and the impact of meat and dairy consumption on human health. What’s not present is a dialogue about who these animals are. In my view, it’s imperative to add “who they are” into the mix, because if more folks see them as we see them, then some of them (those who consider themselves animal lovers, for instance) will be moved to question their eating habits.
There are a lot of wonderful books about agribusiness and animal suffering, planetary devastation, and failing human health. I felt the time for books that celebrated the animals and focused on positive arguments that appealed to folks’ humanity, rather than to their guilt, was long overdue!
What advice do you have for people wanting to help animals in their day-to-day lives?
What everyone says is true: The most powerful way to help is by going vegan. That choice alone saves thousands and thousands of lives over the course of a human lifetime. Feel strong in that commitment to honor every living being. If one wants to do more, the list of ways to get involved is endless: sign petitions, attend demonstrations, organize events for your local shelter or sanctuary, volunteer your time and talents for a reputable sanctuary or shelter. Whether one is 9, 90, or somewhere in between, there’s a way to help. The animals need all of us.
To learn more about Catskill Animal Sanctuary, please click here.