It was one week before Labor Day weekend 2015 and my family and I had a last minute idea to take an end-of-summer trip. Not looking to take a flight nor leave behind our beloved Newfoundland mix, Oliver, we decided upon a quaint looking homestead in the Hudson Valley. Entranced by the rolling green farmlands and animal-friendly hosts, we booked it on the spot. To our pleasant surprise, we realized that the homestead was located at the top of a 110-acre sanctuary for rescued farm animals, called Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS).

Staying at CAS was particularly fitting, as my parents and I have been vegetarians since I was a young child. The combination of my love for animals and my mom’s realizations about climate change motivated us as a family to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle just as tofu began to hit the shelves of mainstream grocery stores. As proud animal lovers, veganism crossed our minds, but it always seemed too far-fetched to remove eggs, yogurt, and cheese from our diets.

Fast forward back to Labor Day weekend where CAS changed our way of life for good.

The homestead, supporting the mission of the sanctuary, is kept fully vegan. This means that no animal food products are allowed on the property. CAS encourages a plant-based diet by providing guests with a (delicious) vegan breakfast each morning.

Inspired by CAS’s values, my family decided to use our three days away as an opportunity to experiment. Why not take the no animal products rule one step further and follow a vegan diet the whole trip?

In addition to hiking the Hudson Valley with Oliver and challenging ourselves to stay away from eggs and dairy, we toured the sanctuary, met the resident animals of the farm, and learned about the realities of factory farming in an informative, yet non-intrusive manner. Spending the weekend with the animals as we listened to their rescue stories was enough for my family and I to commit to at least trying to bring our new vegan habits home.

And try we did. One week, then one month, then one year passed. Being vegan is now built into my lifestyle and identity, and I’m proud to reflect my values through my every day actions.

Catskill Animal Sanctuary rescues farmed animals and champions veganism. CAS is located two hours north of New York City in Saugerties, New York. To learn more, visit https://casanctuary.org
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