To help defray those monetary costs, Fine has coordinated with Brown and Abel to produce a first-annual concert series, to bring musicians to the Catskills for the purpose of entertaining us and raising money for the Sanctuary. It came about serendipitously, as things often do. Fine and Bonham happened to visit the Sanctuary one afternoon after having read an article about Brown in The New York Times. He says, “She’s doing something really ambitious and important for the world. As part-time residents up here, we wanted to get involved with people doing interesting work. It’s incredibly inspiring to see what they do here.”
Fine describes sitting on the back deck and talking about Brown’s plans to produce a large fundraising concert next summer. “We got excited about doing something this summer to lead up to that. The deck looks out over the mountains and the farm; you can see the chickens from there, and the pigs. And we said, ‘This back deck is like the perfect stage! Why don’t we just do it?’ I just started bringing it up with people I was talking to anyway. For a lot of musicians who are touring, coming to Woodstock is a thrill. I’m finding that everyone is open and willing to do it.”
Everyone may not be ready to consider going vegan, but understanding the devastating effects of producing and processing animals for the food industry might inspire an attitude of moderation and respect for them as sentient beings who share our world. Fine reiterates that everyone to whom he has reached out wants to learn more about the important work done by Brown and Abel, whether they are curious about eating less meat for health reasons or because of the damage to our environment wrought by meat production. He says, “Spending an hour at WFAS will change the way you think about eating meat forever.”
Brown’s mission is clear when she explains, “We strive to be a voice for farm animals everywhere. No laws protect them. That’s an injustice. This is the social justice movement of our time. Farm animals are the most exploited and abused animals in the world. People would have to change their habits if they thought about it. We try to raise awareness with the over 200 rescued animals here – helping people to learn about the animal food industries and the grotesque cruelties involved in raising them. We [humans] have a schizophrenic behavior with animals: Some are in our bed, and on the other hand we torture farm animals.”
She mentions the statistic thrown around since Frances Moore Lappé published Diet for a Small Planet in the 1970s – that it takes 30 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef, an amount of vegetation that could instead feed hungry people directly – and I wonder how many such inefficiently produced meals I’m guilty of consuming these past 40 years. I don’t even want to think of how many animals have been slaughtered in that time.
But instilling guilt is not the mission at hand. Creating a bucolic, fun and informative forum in which to examine one’s food habits – to take a serious look at what is in one’s refrigerator and on one’s plate – is the purpose of the concert series, which has already brought big names into the mountains to play recently. And now Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is slated to appear on the stage at Woodstock Animal Sanctuary on Saturday, August 21 at 6 p.m. Their new album Acoustic Sessions is due out in October on their own label, Chimera Music. Opening for GoaSTT, there will be an acoustic set from Undersea Poem, followed by Woodstock locals Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev and Amy Helm of the Levon Helm Band and Ollabelle, performing as a duo that they call Love Is for the Birds.
Local independent station Radio Woodstock 100.1 WDST is supporting this show. The concert will be held on an open lawn at the Sanctuary, rain or shine. Bring blankets and lawn chairs. The gate is open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door. All proceeds will go directly to the care of over 200 formerly abused, abandoned and discarded farm animals. Find the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary at 35 Van Wagner Road in Willow (in the Town of Woodstock), and check out its website at www.woodstocksanctuary.org. Call (845) 679-5955 for more information.