In the summer of 2016, Mike Lanigan, a multigenerational farmer and cattle rancher, decided he no longer wanted to raise animals for slaughter. He said it felt too hypocritical to continue loving the animals on his farm as much as he did, only to send them to violent, unnecessary, early deaths. With the help of an employee, Edith Barabash, who had gone vegan while working on the farm, he decided to turn the farm into a sanctuary and to switch to growing organic vegetables for a living. Edith now runs the sanctuary side of things and hopes the experience of meeting the cows and other animals there will help more people make the connection and choose to take animals off their plates. I asked Edith how she went from working on an animal farm to becoming an ethical vegan. She had this to say:
“I had just gone “plant-based” when I started working for Mike, but it was mostly for health reasons. I was still really young, and had no real ethical vegan influence or community in my life. However, throughout my internships on the farm, I began to connect more with the animals and to learn more about the ethical reasons for veganism. I continued working there because I was very interested in organic and sustainable agriculture, and thought it would be a good learning experience, but I felt increasingly bad about the animals there. I’d feed and bed the chickens every day, and I knew they were well taken care of, but I always felt guilty knowing that they each had an “expiration date” built into the arrangement.
One day, it was time to send one of the cows to the slaughterhouse and I decided to accompany him. I remember the car ride there so vividly, and then our arrival at the local “humane slaughter” facility… there were rows of gentle animals standing there quietly. I remember being told “the first time here is unpleasant for everybody.” I didn’t stay to witness our cow being killed, we just dropped him off and I took a look around. But it was very difficult to leave him there. The cow was obviously disoriented and he didn’t want to go into his stall, so they had to force him in there… that happens pretty often. There was a large room filled with goats, sheep, and alpacas, and they were all just standing there quietly, nervously looking at me. They were scared and disoriented. It really seemed like they knew what was going on. It was horrifying to see so many babies in one room, waiting for their death.
I never went to the slaughterhouse again, but that day really strengthened my resolve to help animals, and I became a passionate vegan. I didn’t stop working for Mike, though, because I felt there was still a lot for me to learn. And so began the first of our many, many conversations about animal rights. I couldn’t be more grateful for where those conversations have led us today.”