Interview Series #6: Jenny Brown of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Back in October, when my husband and I made the trip up to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, we had the most energetic and passionate tour guide named Jenny. Jenny took us through the entire grounds of the sanctuary and spent an ample amount of time at each different place, regaling us with the animals' compelling rescue stories and the work that WFAS does to protect these sentient and kind beings. It wasn't until about three-quarters of the way through that I realized it was Jenny Brown leading us around - the original co-founder of WFAS. I was completely blown away that the same person who started it all was taking time out of her busy day to tour a bunch of visitors around - it was so humbling to witness.

Jenny with Pinky the Pig. Photo courtesy of Derek Goodwin.

I kept in touch with WFAS by putting myself on their email list. About three months later, I was so inspired I decided to organize a fundraiser to raise awareness and money for both WFAS and Farm Sanctuary.  Not only did Jenny Brown (and her assistant Rebecca Moore) support the idea for my fundraiser, but Jenny and Rebecca even traveled two hours to Manhattan for Jenny to be a key speaker at the fundraiser and table at my event!

After watching Jenny in action both at my fundraiser and at the sanctuary, one thing is blatantly clear:

I want to be Jenny Brown when I grow up.

Jenny and her husband (and WFAS co-founder) Doug Abel.  
Photo courtesy of Derek Goodwin.

This woman is fearless. Fearlessly protective of the pigs, chickens, cows, ducks, turkeys, sheep, and goats who live in factory farms. Fearlessly open with whatever audience she has captivated as she describes the abuse and terror these animals endure. Fearlessly relentless in her mission - to rescue the helpless and be a strong, brave, and loyal voice for animals who have no voice themseles.

Goat friends on the WFAS farm. Photo courtesy of Bob Esposito.

When I was a little girl, I used to dream of being like some of the beautiful actresses I watched onscreen. Now, I dream of being like Jenny. She has inspired me to be a fearless advocate for a cause that needs an unimaginable amount of help and commitment.

It only takes a few moments in the presence of Jenny to know that you have encountered a spirit so fiercely compassionate that the compassion rubs right off on you. Jenny is that kind of spirit, and her story is powerful, exciting, and best of all - true to the roots of who Jenny is - the consummate activist.

Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you?

Jenny: It was during a trip where I was filming undercover (see below) where I saw the suffering of spent dairy cows who were on their way to slaughter at just four years of age. Their bodies broken and spent from producing far more milk than they were ever intended to. And to think that every calf that had been born to a dairy cow was taken away within the first day or two of birth just so people can drink her milk that rightfully belonged to her babies. Going vegan was the very least I could do to help their suffering. It took me a while to get to this conclusion, but it's the hens used for egg-laying and the dairy cows that suffer worse than animals raised just for their flesh. And of course those egg-layers and dairy cows inevitably become chicken mcnuggets and cheap hamburger meat. For them it's a life of deprivation, confinement, stress, fear, pain, boredom and eventually a trip to the slaughterhouse. 

Rescued chickens on the WFAS farm. Photo courtesy of Derek Goodwin.

I also began to contemplate how wrong it is that we are the only species that drinks milk into adulthood AND drinks the milk of another species. It's just wrong on all accounts, and people need to realize that in order for us to drink that milk (or that cheese - cow, goat, sheep, whatever) that there was a calf, kid or lamb that was born in order to produce that milk, cheese, creamer, etc. -and that those animals are forced to have an offspring year after year to keep their milk production profitable. I just wish I came to those important conclusions earlier.

KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges?

Jenny: I'm no longer a hypocrite-- when I say I love animals - I mean it! I don't want to contribute to animal suffering in any way, and, given that farmed animals are the most exploited and abused animals in the world, a vegan diet is truly the only way to have a guilt-free conscience when it comes to truly caring about all animals--rather than just certain animals, which I really don't get.

Felix the lamb living happily at WFAS. 
Photo courtesy of Derek Goodwin.

Eating meat is such a deeply engrained habit that people who visit the farm are often quick to come up with excuses for their carnivorous ways. It's challenging to get people to really think about what happens to these animals that they only know as food - to see their worth, and to rethink everything that has been drilled into their psyches. When you look at the history of our civilization, we've been a slave-owning society for most of civilization and not so long ago women & children were considered property- now we see that as a sad and disgraceful past. It's time to include the eating of animals for the trivial pleasure of our palettes the same way.

The biggest challenge is driving from, oh, let's say New York City to Louisville, KY where I'm from (and my family still lives) and trying to find something other than an iceberg lettuce salad with italian dressing and some french fries to eat! Good luck! I hate how difficult it can be to find HEALTHY food in parts of this country - especially while traveling, when all you can find is the same old corporate chain restaurant crap whose food comes from some corporate factory and is delivered prepared in bags that get heated and served. GROSS.

KMIV: What inspired you to create the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary?

Jenny: I went vegetarian at eighteen after learning about the horrible lives and terrifying deaths that animals intended for food endure. From there I went to film school and after learning quite a bit about videography, I began going undercover shooting video for several animal welfare groups. I saw things during that time (in the early to mid 90's) that affected me deeply and changed me forever. Years later, after establishing a career in television, I went undercover again for the first time in about 10 years. This time it was for a farm-animal focused organization (Farm Sanctuary) and my job was to visit as many stockyards and live auctions in Texas as I could within a week. It was during that trip that I saw farm animals suffering beyond my wildest imagination, and I knew then and there that I wanted to commit my life to doing something about what I saw and raise awareness about the injustices against these animals that so few ever stop to think about-- and to go vegan, which was the very least I could do to help their suffering.

KMIV: What is the easiest part of running a sanctuary? The hardest?

Jenny: The beauty of the sanctuary is that the animals do all the heavy lifting. Once accustomed to human kindness, many of our animals are as interactive as the family dog. Not even the most ardent meat-eater can leave this place thinking that these farm animals aren’t sentient individuals. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, it’s easy to convey that you have no interest in participating in a system that makes the lives of a calf like Dylan or a hen like Scarlett miserable and short.

Dylan the steer. Photo courtesy of Bob Esposito.

The hardest parts are, in this order: 1) losing beloved animal friends, 2) not being able to help all the animals that we get called upon to rescue, 3) raising the money it takes to keep the place running (currently our operating budget is over $450K annually!), 4) MANAGING PEOPLE (having a staff with all kinds of personalities, passions and pasts can be trying), and 5) not being able to get away as often as I'd like! Even when we are closed for the season we have over 200 animals here who require constant care, bills to pay, fundraising events to put on, etc. It's A LOT of work--so much so that I can never catch up to all I need/want to do, and that's frustrating.

KMIV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?

Jenny: Anyone can do it, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise or try to scare you away from it. It's sad, really, how many excuses people will come up with about how they HAVE to eat meat - their doctor said so, or they tried it and lost weight, energy, etc. And the sad part is, some doctors WILL tell you that you need to eat meat, because they too have that engrained into their psyches--same for parents. As a vegan, you do have to have a balanced, healthy diet, though, and not one that solely consists of say, Taco Bell bean burritos or pasta or whatever. Ultimately, going vegan saves an average of 100 animal lives a year, and that's not even including fish. That's powerful. It just takes conviction.

Photo courtesy of Derek Goodwin.

Oh - and I like one thing that PETA points out: If you plan to make the transition to a vegetarian diet gradually, the most important foods to cut out of your diet first are bird flesh and eggs. While many people think that “red meat” and dairy products should be the first to go, this isn’t the case. By cutting bird flesh from your diet, you’ll save many more animals. Because chickens are so small, the average meat-eater is responsible for the deaths of many more chickens than cows. Plus, chickens and turkeys exploited by the meat and egg industries are the most abused animals commonly used for food.

For me, when talking about my path to veganism, one thing that helps is to let people know that, although I live in Woodstock, I wasn't raised here, and I wasn’t raised by hippie, vegetarian, tree-hugging parents on a commune or anything like that. Growing up in the South, there was hardly a vegetable that wasn’t stewed to death with a ham hock. My sister and I would fight over the chicken heart, which my grandpa told us was the best part. So at least I’m coming from a place that’s not so alien from the average meat-eater.

KMIV: Okay - you're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?

Dehydrated kale chips, Dr. Cow Nut Cheese and Coconut Bliss ice cream! Can I choose a liquid too? Beer!

An immense amount of thanks to Jenny Brown for sharing her story through this interview. To learn more about Jenny and the work that she does at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, please visit

A few P.S.'s from Jenny:

- Volunteers are ALWAYS welcome! We really need NYC based volunteers to help us stock brochures, table at events and "man" (or "woman") our "Ask A Vegan" booth that sets up at different public parks in NYC throughout the summer.

- ALSO! WFAS was chosen as the PPK's NYC Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale recipient! Very exciting! FB page here:
- ALSO! March with us a the NYC Veggie Pride Parade on May 16th! Just write to us at



What a cool chick! Thanks for posting another great interview Lindsay.
Myra Wolf said…
Having met Jenny at the Rock it Out fund raiser and hearing her speak...all I can say after reading this interview is..WOW!
Since the fund raiser I have stopped eating all meat, eggs, cheese, milk and dairy. I
I giggled about her talk of Kentucky..I know the area well, because my Mom is from West Virginia and I took many trips all over the area as alittle girl.:)
Jenny walks the walk and talks the talk and is beautiful inside and out. It is an honor (and I am smiling really big as I type this), to have my first born say she wants to be like you. (I want to be like you too :)).
I am beyond excited to visit your santuary in June (with all the family except my daughter Whitney, who will be at a music concert)!
I would also love to find out how you started the santuary from the time you decided on the location.:) What a story! xo
Plate+Simple said…
Amazing. Just amazing. What an inspiration!

I have already convinced my husband to plan our next family vacation to go and visit the WFAS. I am so in love with what they do, I just want to support them in any way I can. These folks are truly heros.

In the meantime, while I'm waiting to plan our trip, I just bought four WFAS t-shirts! hehehe

CurlyLocks said…
After hearing Jenny Brown speak at the Rock It Out fundraiser, I was deeply impressed by her passion. She is an amazing lady! Lindsay, thanks for another inspiring interview.
wendy said…
great interview!
Whitney said…
great blog and great interview! I'm sitting at work with tears in my eyes! see linds- i finally found out how to follow you!
M. said…
I just discovered your blog and I'm obsessed! You're a great writer. Thanks for the interview from Jenny - she sounds amazing! I'm planning on making a trip to Woodstock Sanctuary this summer, and I can't wait!
GodsDreamsForMe said…
So very inspiring. I'm totally uplifted by her convictions and courage to take action. What an example. Retweeting for call to financial support and check out what we can do in our communities.

God Bless You.
Jeri - Oahu
Tour Wonk said…
I want to be Jenny Brown when I grow up too... Met her when she visited friends in Bisbee AZ. One of the most dedicated people I have ever met!

Great post!

Curry St John said…
Great post! I wish I could be like Jenny Brown too. Maybe one day we will all be Jenny Brown. :)
Vanessa said…
Great blog post, Lindsay! I visited the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary a few years ago. Your post reminds me to pay them another visit. Jenny also gives good advice about going vegan. It doesn't have to be cold turkey (no pun intended here).
Lindsay said…
Thank you for all of your beautiful and thoughtful comments! Whit - I'm so glad you found out how to follow me! :) xoxo
David K. said…
omg i love jenny brown!
Joshua said…
AWESOME! I love Jenny and WFAS. thanks for posting this!
Anonymous said…
Planning a trip to the farm this summer---can't wait!
Rory said…
I LOVE Jenny Brown! Few people have as much passion and drive as she does. It is no surprise that WFAS is so special!
Lindsay said…
Thank you everyone! She's one amazing lady!! :)