vegan daemon

Oprah’s Favorite Things: Cracker Box Palace ("<i>You</i> get a rescue goat! And <i>you</i> get a rescue goat! EVERYBODY GETS A RESCUE GOAT!!!")*

So you’ve vicariously tasted the yummy vegan eats at The Owl House as part of veganmofo iv, and last week I introduced you to Ms. Chicktoria. Though it’s now four months after the fact, there’s still one set of vacation photos I’d like to share from my September visit to Rochester. Because they’re from an ANIMAL SANCTUARY and who doesn’t like pictures of SUPER-CUTE RESCUE ANIMALS, hmmmm? Besides, it’s like zero degrees outside and there’s a three-foot snow drift on my patio and I could use a vacation, even if only in my own head.

Initially, my sis and I had our hearts set on visiting Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen – but unfortunately the fall tour hours (weekends only!), coupled with the lengthy drive time and previous commitments, just didn’t fit into our schedule. My mom suggested that we instead visit Cracker Box Palace Farm Animal Haven, a new-ish farmed animal sanctuary located in Alton, NY. (Alton is a short drive from Sodus – which is where I spent the first five years of my life – and Sodus, in turn, is a 45-minute drive from Rochester. In comparison, Watkins Glen is twice as far.)

According to the group’s website, CBP opened in 2001 on a 50-acre former migrant farm. Originally dedicated to horse rescue and rehab, the sanctuary is now home to geese, ducks, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, and several breeds of pigs as well. Currently, it’s leasing and attempting to purchase Alasa Farms, a 500-acre historic Shaker farm.

The weekend we visited, the group was holding a fair to help raise funds for the purchase.

Before we begin, a bit of a disclaimer: on its website, Cracker Box Palace isn’t particularly forthcoming about its positions on animal rights and veganism/vegetarianism. In some newsletters, for example, the founders allude to the cruelties of factory farming and ask for donations of vegetarian cookbooks for CBP’s gift shop. They also speak approvingly of Farm Sanctuary and credit its courses with teaching them the skills necessary to start and run an animal sanctuary. (While you may disagree with some of Farm Sanctuary’s positions – and I do – the group does include animal rights and veganism in its advocacy.)

However, I was unable to find any links or articles on CBP’s website encouraging visitors to go vegan (or vegetarian). In fact, if I’m not mistaken, there was even a booth serving up hot dogs and hamburgers at the fair we attended! Whether it was CBP employees doing the grilling, or the space was simply rented out to another group, I know not. The booth was discretely tucked away in a corner of the picnic area, and I didn’t immediately notice it; once I did, I didn’t go over. Rather, one of my sister’s friends came back to our picnic table noshing on a hot dog – which she then discarded, half-eaten, when my father (a vegetarian of 40+ years) pointed out that she was consuming the dead and dismembered body of one of the animals she was just cooing over.

In any case, exploiting the very animals you rescue? Not cool. Not cool at all.

I suppose it’s possible that the BBQ was really extremely animal-like veggie meat, in which case I have tofu scramble all over my face and apologize profusely for the mistake, but…I doubt it. For instance, another display at the fair involved police dogs attacking demonstrators (dogs used as tools and weapons, yay!), and signage for various local animal exploitation businesses can be seen around the sanctuary’s premises. While the group is clearly in need of funds, providing advertising space to alpaca farmers and horse breeders is not especially suggestive of a cohesive animal rights philosophy.

Anyhow, if you’re interested in supporting Cracker Box Palace, I encourage you to visit the group’s website, look around, and contact them with any questions or concerns you may have. Personally, as radical, “militant,” “extremist,” “divisive” vegan (scare quotes ’cause only the first descriptor is accurate), I’ve arrived at a place where I’m just not comfortable supporting animal advocacy groups unless they’re vocal in their encouragement of veganism. But the animals at, say, HSMO’s Longmeadow Rescue Ranch need love too, and I certainly wouldn’t fault a vegan for donating to their care.


First up are the totally rockin’ goats, whose enclosure is the first you encounter if hang left from the main entrance. From what I could see, the goats are allotted one or two large pastures, one of which is outfitted with some crazy cool diy jungle gym/fort equipment. They were having a blast playing around on it, and we were having a blast watching them (watching us).

There’s a little interspecies intermingling going on too (not that there’s anything wrong with that!): in the larger, goat-dominated pasture(s), one could also spot the occasional alpaca, pig or horse.

Additionally, there’s a smaller pasture adjacent to the large “goat pasture” that houses a few very nosy, very adorable goats (a brother-sister pair recovering from a cruelty case, I believe), along with a terribly sleepy, slow-moving potbellied pig and an amorous male turkey who kept displaying at every human to pass by.

Across the way is a gorgeous black stallion – also confiscated from a cruelty case – named Stormy. You guys, I fell in love. So sweet and gentle, grateful just for some sympathetic company and a kind touch.

This brings us to the “Cow Barn” – which is odd, seeing as there are no cows to speak of at the sanctuary. (The building’s name must be a holdover from the farm’s previous agricultural life.) In a stall inside, we found a pig slumbering away. Hard core, y’all. Check it:

The building itself is charmingly quaint; the font of the barn is decorated with a gorgeous mural based on the story of Noah’s Ark.

Also in this general vicinity is the “chicken run,” which includes both an indoor and outdoor area for the domesticated birds. In addition to the hens and roosters, we saw one especially beautiful blue peacock.

Speaking of birds, there’s also a terribly cute group of ducks roaming around the sanctuary grounds. Permanent – but free-living – residents, I think.

This brings us to the horses and donkeys, of which are many! (Unfortunately for me, most were grazing at a distance, so I didn’t get too many photos of them all.) Their pastures are on the opposite side of the farm; if you’re coming from the main entrance, you can find the equines due right.

My mom, she has a thing for horses. She’s “girlie” like that. Probably read a lot of pony novels as a kid.

I can’t help but wonder, if we loved pigs and ate horses, would she have canoodled with the noisy, snoring pig instead? (Dear Mum – GO VEGAN ALREADY! DO IT! You’ll feel loads better. xoxo – Kelly.)

Some of the special needs animals at CBP include a blind horse (whose name I didn’t catch)

and Mirabelle, a pregnant donkey who was being offered for sale on Craigslist when she was rescued and taken to CBP.

I saw in a recent newsletter that Mirabelle has since given birth, and mother and baby are both doing well! Apparently Mirabelle is a minor celebrity; a New York – state? federal? – congressman visited and proclaimed her his favorite. She is awfully adorable, don’t you think? She reminds me of Kaylee, all cute and scruffy and scrappy. Then again, everyone reminds me of Kaylee.

Last but not least are the “exotic” or non-native animals. Among the groups renting booths at the fair was a wildlife rescue/rehab organization. As part of their display, they brought a variety of free-living rescued animals who were in need of permanent care, including an armadillo, an Australian jackrabbit (?) and a rakunk. (Kidding! I can’t even hazard a guess as to the third animal’s species.)

The armadillo was the cutest! She wasn’t even fazed by one of the volunteers’ noisy, sweater-wearing Chihuahuas.

I would totally nurse an armadillo back to health, need be. Come to mama! So snuggley.

Now that we’ve toured the sanctuary, let’s return to THE GOATS! Seriously, I think I spent more time around the goats than any of the other animals. Not that they don’t all rock, but the goats are especially fun to watch; so playful, curious and inquisitive.

And mouthy!

(That goat? He’s totally trying to take a nom out of my camera there!)

While we were sitting around, goat-watching, there was a goat care seminar happening under a tent nearby. One attendee allowed her goat – who was outfitted, adorably so, in a harness – to explore in the nearby vicinity. He had some fun with the tent’s ropes, rubbing his horns up and down their length and dancing to and fro.

As he carried on, one of the sanctuary goats came over to observe and engage, with little luck.

Play date FAIL.

The little guy did eventually wander over to the picnic area, where my sis and I managed to sneak some cuddle time in –

around his grass noming, that is.

Cute: cuteness coma.

Well, that’s the end of the tour; if you’ve lasted this far, let me offer my sincerest thanks for your indulgence. The downside of caring for six (SEVEN!, ack) nonhumans is that vacations are a rarity, if not a downright impossibility; and so, with the exception of Lollypop Farm’s outdoor/large animal care facilities, Cracker Box Palace is the first farmed animal sanctuary I’ve ever visited. (Crazy, right? Me, of all people.)

If anything, the experience has only strengthened my resolve to (eventually) adopt some farmed animals (goats, come to me!)…which means that I’ll never leave the house! Well, property. You know what I mean.


My sister and I took upwards of 400 photos during our trip to Cracker Box Palace; you can view a small selection of them on Flickr: Cracker Box Palace (set). Ditto: all my vacation photos, assuming you’re the kind of sicko who’s into that sort of thing!: Rochester 2010 (set)

* Since my visit in September, the founders of Cracker Box Palace – along with their sponsor, a volunteer – were recognized by Oprah as “Hometown Heroes” and invited to attend the taping of her “Ultimate Favorite Things” episode in November 2010. Crazy, right? Is there anything that Oprah doesn’t touch?!? **

** Also, I didn’t dare watch her extra-special vegan episode – call me clairvoyant, ’cause I knew it would be a train wreck – but luckily other vegans did, and there’s some excellent analyses floating ’round the interwebs.

See, e.g.,: FARM Blog: Oprah’s Vegan Challenge: The Good, The Bad, & The Truth. and

Andrew Kirschner: My Analysis of Oprah’s Vegan Challenge Show

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