EP012 My Conversation with Kaden of Catskill Animal Sanctuary

While vacationing at the Homestead B&B at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, I booked a tour to get a close-up experience with some of the animals. Kaden was my tour guide – his knowledge and compassion impressed me. The next day, I asked Kaden if he would join me for a 10-minute chat.

 Duration: 11:26 minutes

Dee:                    Hello, welcome to my podcast. My name is Dee, and I am The Introverted Advocate. The mission of my podcast is simply this: to create a kinder, more compassionate world through advocacy. I began advocating back in 2014, and I have a few stories I’d like to share. Advocating is like an adventure, and it can be done from the comfort of your keyboard at home, or it could be an adventure of meeting new people, learning new skills, or finding out that the world is full of caring individuals who are ready to lend a hand, or their heart, when they see a need. I invite you to look around in your world, and see who might need a little support and kindness. It could be one individual, it could be a group or a cause, it could be a community. Are you ready? All right. Let’s get to it.

Dee:                    While on vacation last month, at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in New York, I booked a tour that lasted about an hour an half. That day it started to rain a little bit, but as the rain subsided, we entered the turkey house, and Michael the Turkey, a girl turkey, was there to greet us, but she seemed a little bit unsettled, but our tour guide, Kaden, knew exactly what to do. He noticed this, and so, apparently Michael, the girl turkey, likes massages, and so Kaden knew exactly which spot would work best. Since I sponsor Michael by donating a small amount each month, I asked if I could give it a try. I’m not sure if I was doing it right, but Michael did not seem to mind too much. Anyway, the next day, I asked Kaden if we could just sit down for a chat for a few minutes. Here is our ten-minute conversation.

Dee:                    I’m at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Today is Saturday, September 29th, 2018, and I have Kaden, who was my tour guide yesterday. Thanks for sitting down with me.

Kaden:                Absolutely.

Dee:                    Yesterday was wonderful. I learned so many new details that I didn’t know about farm animals. It looks like your tour, looks like these folks that just left had a pretty good tour with you.

Kaden:                I hope so. They seemed to … yeah, they were a great group.

Dee:                    Did they ask a lot of questions?

Kaden:                Actually, they didn’t ask us many questions as some other groups do. It was a mixed bag. Sometimes you get folks who just sit there, and are just learning so much new information that they’re just absorbing all the stories that they’re getting. Then, other times, you learn a different way, and are hyper-curious all of a sudden, and have a million and a half questions to ask you. There’s no one better way, but this was a quieter, listening group for sure. But they seemed to enjoy it.

Dee:                    Has there ever been a question from a guest that’s really surprised you, that you can recall going, “Whoa, that was a doozie.”

Kaden:                I’m sure that there are. I’m used to people asking if we eat their eggs. I’m used to people asking how often we have to milk our cows, who haven’t given milk in years.

Dee:                    They ask that?

Kaden:                Yeah.

Dee:                    Okay, see, that surprises me, right there.

Kaden:                It’s often thought of that they need to be milked here at Sanctuary, because we associate cows with producing milk, and that they just do that naturally outside of having a baby. But our cows at Sanctuary rarely produce any milk, because don’t breed any of our animals here. They only produce milk if they happen to have been rescued pregnant and are nursing their babies, or on the rare occasion that our animals are goats and cows who have been specifically bred for the dairy industry, have precocious udder, in which case they produce a pretty nasty, infected [crosstalk 00:04:04] a lot of the time. I assure you, nobody would be interested in drinking milk if they saw that.

Dee:                    But let’s change directions. Do you personally have a favorite documentary on veganism, or plant-based living, or any special books that you would recommend?

Kaden:                The book that sent me, or made me go vegetarian originally, was Eating Animals by Johnathan Safran Foer. I decided I was going to go vegetarian,, it was the summer before college for me.

Dee:                    Wow, that’s early.

Kaden:                I wanted, I was thinking about veganism, I was thinking about eggs and dairy as being sort of an issue as well, but I wasn’t interested in not eating anything dairy at first. I told my mom I was going to go vegetarian, she said, “Don’t. Don’t go vegan at all. Don’t be one of those crazy vegans [inaudible 00:04:58] “Oh, ma, I would never … I’m not gonna be one of those.”

Dee:                    You said that?

Kaden:                Yeah, something along those lines.

Dee:                    That’s okay. I understand.

Kaden:                Then a month later I was in college and I met my first ever vegan. She was in my little freshman group, and she was alive, and healthy, and happy, and [crosstalk 00:05:19] oh, maybe I could try this. Less than a month after meeting her, I was vegan, and I’ve been vegan ever since. That was-

Dee:                    That was fast, but you were ready.

Kaden:                I was. People in college, generally are still forming their own identities-

Dee:                    And looking for a new-

Kaden:                Oh yeah.

Dee:                    New avenues, new opportunities, wide open hearts for different things.

Kaden:                And definitely Johnathan’s book Eating Animals, really primed that for me. Since then, I think that the most interesting two books that inform how I think about animal agriculture, are Lesser Beasts, and the author is escaping me right now, it’d be Mark something.

Dee:                    I haven’t heard of that one.

Kaden:                It’s not a vegan book at all. It’s a book about the history of pigs and pigs’ exploitation in the world, but it’s just truly fascinating. The author is definitely a carnist, but he really exposes a lot about we are casually thinking about pigs. I found that has reinforced my veganism, and my desire to advocate for animals, and then Big Chicken, another book where the author is a carnist but really explores the impact of animal agriculture on humans, and who’s again reinforced my desire to advocate with animals, and advocate for those of us humans who are so impacted by the cruelty that we’re inflicting on animals as well.

Dee:                    Right, so, what is your outlook for planet Earth? What feeling do you have … the vegan community, and the plant-based community, is really growing, we know that. We haven’t reached the 10% tipping point where social change really takes off and gathers momentum. We’re all working towards that, in our different ways of advocating, but just in a quick opinion, what do you see coming down the road in 5, 10, 15, 20 years?

Kaden:                Oh man, I’m someone who kind of bounces back and forth on that. Sometimes I have my optimistic days, and I have my pessimistic days, but I think that we’re going to be compelled to change our lives. I think the change, for animals, is going to happen just out of necessity for our own environment, and physical health, before it necessarily changes completely how we think about animals. But I’m really hopeful, because we do know that humans have a great deal of sympathy and compassion for those individuals who we know in our lives, so be they humans who are like us, who we’re familiar with, be they cats and dogs who’ve shared our homes. I think that with the work of farm sanctuaries, and more and more people hearing individual stories about farmed animals, and seeing them in a more personal light, that is growing sympathy and it’s going to change, I think, most people, on an optimistic day, are good and want to do the right thing. They just need the right story to hear, the right access to-

Dee:                    That’s a good way to put it.

Kaden:                Knowledge.

Dee:                    The right story. That’s true. I am writing my stories about my visits to sanctuaries, you’re telling stories here, which a lot of it is factual research that you impart to the guests, so you’re right, if we put enough stories out there, especially from the heart, and it seems to me our world is just moving so fast. People are working, and taking care of families … if we could all just slow down a few paces, then we might be able to absorb the information, and then maybe take a look at what we’re doing. Mindfulness is a big … is a big topic.

Kaden:                I think that would be a beautiful world, for sure. Yeah, that would be a good world.

Dee:                    It sure would. I’ve been here for a few days and my perception when I got here, it was very peaceful, because I was one of the few guests here. I’m staying at the homestead, your bed and breakfast. Just listening to all the stories, seeing all the animals. I saw two goats earlier. You had said that goats use their … they head-butt for every emotion, and every type of … and I saw two that were interlocking their horns, and it was like, “Oh that’s …” and they were doing it very affectionately, very calm, and … these are the little moments that you see when you come to a sanctuary. Today, my attitude is just more peaceful and more relaxed, because I’ve been here for a few days; and yet, at the same time, I’m watching all of you … everyone on the staff here at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, works very hard.

Dee:                    There’ve been guests, and tours, and food demonstrations, and Kathy Stevens gave two of her Break the Rules tours, which I took the 11 o’clock. That was magnificent. If you come to Catskill Animal Sanctuary, you stay at the Homestead, you just feel your stress level go down, and you’re like, “I could just sit there on the bench and watch these animals interact with each other, and … ” It’s an extraordinary place. You all do an excellent job.

Kaden:                Thank you.

Dee:                    You really do.

Kaden:                Thank you.

Dee:                    And I really enjoyed the tour yesterday.

Kaden:                I’m so glad.

Dee:                    Thanks for sitting down and talking to me, Kaden.

Kaden:                Absolutely. My pleasure.

Dee:                    I’ve enjoyed it.

Dee:                    So thank you for listening to my podcast, where kindness is the theme, and advocacy is the action. Until next time, this is Dee, The Introverted Advocate.