The Lucky Ones by Woodstock FAS Founder Jenny Brown: Review & Giveaway!

June 24th, 2013 12:00 pm by Kelly Garbato

Update, July 1, 2013:

& the winner is (*drumroll please*) #8, Kenney!

Check your email to claim your prize!

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In anticipation of the upcoming July 2nd paperback release, Penguin generously provided me with two copies of The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals, written by Woodstock FAS founder Jenny Brown and fellow vegan Gretchen Primack – one to review, and one to give away!

To enter to win a copy for your very own self, simply answer this question in the comments: if you could visit Woodstock tomorrow, which of the residents – human or non – would you most like to meet? (Hint: there’s a partial list available on Woodstock’s website.) Or just tell me why you need this book! I’m not fussy.

For a second entry, tweet this message and leave a second comment telling me you did so.

THE LUCKY ONES by @WoodstockFarm Founder Jenny Brown: #Review & #Giveaway! Enter to #win your own copy here: http://bit.ly/12PyHx8 #vegan

The contest is open now through Monday, July 1st at tPM CDT. I’ll randomly choose and contact a winner shortly thereafter. The winner will have 72 hours to respond, after which time I’ll choose someone else. Please leave an email address in the form when commenting (don’t worry, it’s private!) so we can get in touch. I’ll ship the book anywhere in the United States and Canada.

Good luck, and happy reading!

 

A Five-Hankie Review

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review at the publisher’s invitation.)

“I often envision a giant protective bubble over our property, and inside it a place where everything is right in the world, the way we want it to be. Animals roam free, living happy and peaceful lives the way they should. They are free to be themselves, among friends and, in some cases, family. There is no fear of harm, no want for food or water, warmth or shelter. They have everything they need. They are loved, and treated with respect and compassion, until their dying moments in our arms, when they are wet from our tears. We coexist with them, never considering ourselves superior or their ‘owners.’ We don’t use them as commodities or exploit them in any way. They are our friends. Beloved friends. They owe us nothing. But what they do give, unconsciously, is the greatest asset to our work. They are ambassadors for all others like them, showing humans that other animals are not mere automatons.” (pp. 223-224)

As a teenager slinging burgers at the Doublemeat Palace in Sunnydale – errr, serving burgers at a Louisville McDonald’s; sorry, I got my superheroes confused for a second there! – Jenny Brown never imagined that she’d one day devote her life to rescuing the very animals she enjoyed sandwiched between two slices of bread – let alone give up a promising career in film to do so.

Along with her husband, film editor Doug Abel, Brown founded Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in 2004; their wedding ceremony served as the nonprofit’s inaugural fundraiser. Located just outside of Woodstock, New York, in the neighboring town of Willow, Woodstock FAS is home to over 200 rescued “farm” animals, including runaway cow Kayli, who literally escaped death in a New York City “live kill” market when she bolted for it through the city streets; the infamous goat Albie who, like his guardian, sports one “fake” leg; and Petunia, a “Thanksgiving” turkey purchased as a gag. They are the lucky ones – a precious few of the ten billion animals enslaved and slaughtered for meat, dairy, and eggs every year in the United States alone (not counting fishes and associated “bycatch”) who are fortunate enough to find sanctuary with human allies.

A small-town Kentucky girl raised by a single mom, Jenny and her sister Loren were never what you’d call well-off. But things took a turn for the worse when, at the age of ten, Jenny developed bone cancer. Ultimately the disease would rob her of more than two years of her life – as well as her right leg, just below the knee. During months spent in social isolation, Jenny found herself yearning for a friend: and she found one in Boogie the cat. Though it required many years to take root and blossom, the tiny calico kitten (who – spoiler alert – lived to the ripe old age of eighteen!) planted in her heart the seeds of responsibility, compassion, and justice toward nonhuman animals, feline and porcine alike. (“Look what we made, Boogie.”)

Her struggle with cancer also instilled in her a sense of kinship with other survivors: battery hens whose broken, mangled bodies bear witness the horrors of the egg industry; broiler chickens bred for such unnaturally fast growth that their legs can no longer support them; and of course dear Albie, who lost a leg due to a lingering infection, possibly from having his limbs bound during transport to one of NYC’s hundreds of “live-kill” animal markets. In his struggle to adapt to his prosthetic leg, Jenny saw flashes of her own childhood.

Brown was introduced to animal rights her freshman year of college (University of Louisville); after discovering some pamphlets produced by PETA in the student union lobby, she swore off products tested on animals in short order; next came meat and, eventually, eggs, dairy, and other animal products. She volunteered her skills as a filmmaker to help the cause, at first videotaping protests organized by PETA and later graduating to undercover work for Farm Sanctuary. After a breakup, the death of dear Boogie (in a tearful passage with which I could all-too intimately relate, having lost my eldest two dog friends to kidney failure in May), and a successful yet unfulfilling career as a documentarian, Brown decided to dedicate her life full-time to animal rescue. Caring for abused and neglected animals gave Brown the immediate and satisfying sense that she was (is!) doing something, right in the here and now, to help animals. Direct action.

Woodstock FAS is open to visitors on weekends from April 1st through October 31st. Brown jokes that the “price” of a sanctuary tour is an honest, open discussion of animal agriculture – including an introduction to veganism and animal liberation. As with her guided tours around the sanctuary, Brown doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the exploitation of nonhuman animals: equipped with both general statistics and individual stories, she denounces so-called local, family, “organic,” “free range” farms and giant industrial factory farms alike.

Interwoven with Brown’s life story are profiles of and anecdotes about the many animals who call Woodstock FAS (and Farm Sanctuary, where Brown spent a year training) home: Judy and Patsy the pig sisters; the three wise men, Alphonso, Herschel, and Boone – turkeys, them all!; Dylan the would-be veal calf and his surrogate mom, Olivia the goat. “Everyone here has a story” – and Brown is more than happy to share them all. By putting faces to (oftentimes incomprehensible) numbers, it’s Brown’s hope that she can compel at least some visitors – and readers! – to empathize with the animals on their plates. Contrary to what the terminology would have you believe, for example, chicken(s) aren’t just one individuated mass of identical animals: each bird has her own personality, quirks, friends, and special preferences. Those cows who were ground into beef? They loved, grieved, played, and enjoyed life, much the same as you. Just because emotions are unrecognizable to us when expressed on turkey faces, doesn’t mean that birds are unfeeling masses of flesh.

The result is a story that’s at turns heartbreaking and inspiring – although thankfully not as gruesome and graphic as, say, Karen Davis’s Prisoned Chickens Poisoned Eggs or Gail Eisnitz’s classic Slaughterhouse. Especially disturbing is Brown’s account of the time she spent surreptitiously filming inside Texas stockyards. Here we see cows penned for hours in the hot summer sun without a drop of water to drink; injured animals left to suffer and die a slow, lingering death; animals who are too weak to walk to auction, so are dragged instead (“downers”). Working undercover, Brown was powerless to alleviate their suffering, let alone save them from their hellish fates; all she could do was bear witness to their suffering, in hopes of preventing future atrocities.

Yet through it all, Brown manages to retain a playful – if delightfully foul – sense of humor. Upon finding that her severed leg was shipped, in pieces, to various corners of the U.S. for study, Brown expressed disappointment that she’d be unable to keep and display it in a Plexiglas case as hoped. (I wanted to do that with Lemmy’s testicles, but they were pulverized during the operation.) While lancing abscesses and popping puss-filled pimples might seem a downside of farmed animal care, Brown delights in the grosser tasks. A woman after my own heart!

My only complaint lies with the appendix, in which Brown recommends resources for readers who’d like to learn more. Understandably directed at newbies, Brown falls into the all-too common trap of relying on some of the largest and most well-know animal rights and welfare organizations, including PETA. Though the group is inarguable a treasure trove of information – in its thirty year plus history, PETA has amassed a wealth of photos, documents, undercover footage, and the like – in recent years it’s best known for its racist, sexist, and sizeist campaigns. Likewise, the Skinny Bitch series engages in fat shaming and the promotion of the beauty/diet industrial complex to push readers (primarily women) towards veganism. Widely touted by many vegans – most likely because its Republican author is an unexpected and welcome ally on the right – Matthew Scully’s Dominion starts out with a bang, but ends with a whimper. Scully spends most of the book meticulously and depressingly chronicling the many abuses perpetrated on nonhumans, and then ends his treatise with a call for…more humane standards of animal use (!). An animal rights book, Dominion is not.

Buy it for: your uncle who claims to love animals – but still eats them; that vegan friend who not-so-secretly fantasizes about opening her own animal sanctuary.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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9 Responses to “The Lucky Ones by Woodstock FAS Founder Jenny Brown: Review & Giveaway!”

  1. Michelle Says:

    I’d like to meet Clover, because she is one lucky clover and just so darn precious! <3 her!

    http://www.woodstocksanctuary.org/meet-the-animals/goats/clover/

  2. Holly Says:

    Do I really have to pick just ONE? :-) I would have to say Dylan!

  3. Holly Says:

    I tweeted THE LUCKY ONES by @WoodstockFarm Founder Jenny Brown: #Review & #Giveaway! Enter to #win your own copy here: bit.ly/12PyHx8 #vegan

  4. Patty Says:

    I would like to meet whoever wants to meet me! I’d love to just sit in the middle of them and visit with everyone who comes over!

  5. Patty Says:

    tweeted

  6. Laura Says:

    Curly! So cute!

  7. Chrissy Sippel Says:

    I would like to meet Little Dude!!! Absolutely precious! 😍

  8. Kenney Says:

    Albie, for sure!

  9. Christine Says:

    Any of the pigs because Wade loves pigs! :-)

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