Tara Oresick, formerly the manager of our New York Shelter, recently became the director of our Northern California Shelter.
My journey to Farm Sanctuary’s Northern California Shelter began more than three years ago and almost three thousand miles away. In September 2008, I visited Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter in Watkins Glen. I was already a vegetarian and had begun to learn more about the egg and dairy industries. Meeting the shelter’s animals sealed the deal for me: I became a vegan. What really did it was encountering the elderly cattle in the shelter’s special needs herd. I had always been so opposed to veal and had never eaten beef in my life, but suddenly I was faced with a visceral illustration of the connection between those products and the dairy I was still consuming. Here I was meeting 20-year-old Holstein cows, who in the industry would have been deemed “spent” and killed for ground beef by the time they were three or four years old. And those years would have been full of the misery of confinement, the exhaustion of constant milk production, and the grief of bearing calves only for them to be immediately taken away. I was also meeting magnificent adult Holstein steers, who in the industry would have been killed as babies for veal.
The one-two punch of that trip was this: I recognized these animals as individuals with their own, wonderful personalities, and I also had to confront the fact that, as much as I said I loved animals and thought my diet was aligned with my beliefs, by continuing to eat eggs and dairy, I was supporting something I was completely against. It was realizing that, for every animal at Farm Sanctuary, there were so many more who would never be seen as anything more than commodities. I knew I couldn’t contribute to that exploitation anymore.
And more than that, I knew I wanted to provide comfort to farm animals with my own hands. By the end of the year, I had quit my teaching job in Rochester, NY, (where I had grown up and earned my Masters in Inclusive Education) and began an internship at the New York Shelter. The work was hard, but I loved it. This was the job for me. When my internship ended, I became a caregiver. About two years later, I became the shelter manager.
When the opportunity to direct the Northern California Shelter arose, I took it. As sad as I was to leave the New York Shelter and the animals and people who had taught me so much, I was also excited to embark on the next leg of my journey. As I settle into a new home, a new climate, a new position, and new responsibilities, I’m grounded by what remains the same: I’m still helping animals with my own hands, every day. Yep, this is the job for me.