Patty Shenker

Activist and animal rescuer.

SS: What made you go vegan and why?

PS: I am sorry that it took some 31 years after I became vegetarian to become vegan. Cheese is a very addictive food and I loved it. But I could no longer deny that there is what I now call “living violence” and that every time I had cheese, I was supporting the horrible veal industry. To support the dairy and egg industries was going against the non-violence to which I had dedicated my life so I finally made that much more difficult change. To take a baby calf away from his/her mother, both crying for the other, and to then further exploit them both, is violent behavior- as is confining mutilated birds in cramped cages with no opportunity to live out their natural instincts or to see and feel the sun.

But it was really in 2005 that my life as a vegetarian/vegan came to a new level. Volunteering weekly for Animal Acres, a farm animal sanctuary outside Los Angeles that I co-founded, I have grown to know and love these gentle beings in ways similar to my pets. How well I remember our first rescue- a “veal” calf we named “Gandhi” who was left to die after he was not sold at an auction due to his front legs being crippled. Because his newborn leg muscles hadn’t yet extended since birth, he was considered worthless and literally left to die. He was rescued & brought to Animal Acres where he received 24 hour supervision while he recuperated. He was able to walk & enjoy his life for a short time but he, too soon, succumbed to immunity problems due to his lack of colustrum, a natural immunity suppressor in mother’s milk. Why? Because he was taken away from his mother within 24 hours of birth and therefore didn’t get enough of this immune strengthening milk from her to fight off infections.

Due to foreclosures, we rescued a goat we named Hope whose hooves were so overgrown that she could no longer walk & was slowly starving to death. She shocked us by giving birth to a healthy baby, Faith, the day after we rescued her. However, after giving birth, she could no longer stand; her strength was gone. Despite months of veterinary care, hot baths, massages, & lots of food & love, we lost Hope. Our hearts were broken but we find solace and joy in watching her daughter, Faith, living happily at the farm. I find solace in knowing they all died at a loving, peaceful place with people who cared for them, not exploited them. There are so many stories- some sad like Hope & Gandhi but many more of the lucky animals who came to us- abused, scared and distrustful and were turned around due to patience, care and love. Food helps too! I encourage you to visit Animal Acres or the other 24 farm animal sanctuaries around our country and meet these magnificent animals. It just might change your diet & your life!

SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes, what was difficult and did it get easier?

PS: Because I consider myself a reformed cheese addict, I have to admit that I did miss it, especially the pizzas & mac ‘n cheese but now, with Daiya, I’m quite satisfied. Also, there are so many incredibly delicious vegan restaurants in so many cities that I hardly miss it anymore. However, I do believe that life is about making some sacrifices- and this is one I am happy to do- for the animals, the planet and me. As an IDA t-shirt reads- Veganism is Direct Action.

SS: What are some animal rights related things you participate in?

PS: I am active in many ways but it never feels like enough. I co-founded Animal Acres and have over 1000 acres in Northern California which is home to over 200 horses and the organization, DreamCatchers. I also stay involved politically as I think we need animal friendly politicians to make pro-animal laws. You will find me at LA City Council meetings as well as wherever else I can speak to support better laws for animals. I protest, I write letters, I have a blog- & I make bumper stickers and, I trap, spay & neuter feral cats.

SS: What are your favorite AR organizations?

PS: My new favorite is Animal Rescue Corps, founded by the incredible Scotlund Haisley. This newly formed group has already saved thousands of animals- either from horrific puppy mills or hoarding situations to natural disaster relief. I volunteered for their first two rescues and there is really nothing more gratifying than rescuing animals from devastating conditions. They recently rescued 4 macaque monkeys living in filthy, small barren cages, with little to no food or water, who are now safely living at a sanctuary. I also love PCRM for their incredible work, and, of course, PETA. I have been a PCRM & PETA member for many, many years and I think both groups do awesome work through education, investigations and other campaigns. I am also a big fan of PAWS Sanctuary in Northern California, which cares for retired performing/abused wild animals, and the many local animal rescue groups who work so hard to make life better for the poor animals we call “pets”.