Longstreet Farm in Monmouth County, New Jersey gives the appearance of a bucolic slice in time. Run by the Monmouth County Park System in the manner of a farm from the 1890s, it is intended to be an educational experience for county residents and others who wish to visit.
“The site is maintained as a living historical farm with the purpose of interpreting the agricultural activities in Monmouth County’s rural past This interpretation includes the breeds of animals and crops raised at this site in the 1890′s,” according to the Longstreet Farm website.
Volunteers, called interpreters, dress in period costumes and go about agricultural and seasonal farm activities in the way people did in 1890. Mules are used to plow the fields and cows are milked by hand. But there’s a side to Longstreet Farm the public may not be aware of. The animals are bred twice a year and the piglets, chickens, sheep and other baby animals are sold to slaughterhouses.
The real tragedy is these litters are allowed to become socialized to humans. Visitors are instructed not to feed the baby animals, but they are encouraged to interact with them and children can be seen petting them and relating to them.
What Animal Advocates Are Saying
There are people who adamantly disagree with this policy, among them Suzanne Dragon, a long time animal advocate. She has been documenting the goings on at Longstreet Farm since 2004. Her goal is to have Monmouth County Freeholders change the policies at Longstreet and no longer breed, buy or sell the animals there.
Dragon believes because there are so many children who are exposed to the farm animals, “it is important to plant the seeds of compassion” and will be gathering petition signatures this Saturday, May 5 — known as Old Monmouth Day — at the farm. She plans on putting enough pressure on the Monmouth County Freeholders to get them to change the policy of selling animals bred at Longstreet. She also wants the county to neuter the male farm animals and allow all of the animals to live out their lives on site without being bred.
Dragon says the pigs are forced to produce two litters of piglets per year. After the public is encouraged to interact with them, they are sold to a slaughterhouse. She says the deception is that the public are told they are going to another home.
What Monmouth County Says
In a conversation with Karen Livingstone, Public Information Rep for Monmouth County Park System, I was told the purpose of Longstreet Farm is to provide education to children on where their food comes from. She said one child asked why the potato had dirt on it, not knowing it was grown in the ground. Clearly, there is a disconnect in our 21st century lifestyle when children do not know vegetables are grown in the dirt, not at the supermarket.
Livingstone also told me the animals are not humanized – a point about which Dragon disagrees – because “we do not name them.” It’s fair to point out humanizing animals isn’t only a matter of providing names for the creatures, but how they are encouraged to interact with humans. The fact that so many people visit the farm for the educational opportunities causes the animals to become more human-tolerant than farm animals who typically interact with the few farm owners/workers they come into contact with on a daily basis.
As far as selling the piglets and other animals to slaughterhouses, Livingstone told me that is not true. “We don’t know where they go to,” she said. “They could be used for breeding at other farms and the piglets are sold when they reach around 50 pounds – not a typical weight for slaughter.”
Documentation and Call to Action
Inventories obtained from OPRA documents indicate pigs, hogs, roosters, sheep and lambs were sold by Longstreet Farm to local farmers, including Godek Farm, known as a local slaughterhouse. “The farm has an abattoir on the premises; customers can pick a live animal to be processed and packaged for home consumption,” according to the Marlboro Patch.
If you are concerned about Longstreet Farm – a county-run park fed with taxpayer dollars – breeding and selling animals for slaughter, Suzanne Dragon asks that you let Monmouth County know how you feel. Sign the Care2 petition and call Dave Compton, Superintendant of Parks (732) 842-4000 ext 4220 and/or James Truncer, Director (732) 842-4000 ext 4215
Photo of piglet used with permission of Suzanne Dragon from Facebook Friends of Longstreet Farm Animals
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