Jenny Brown, 41, of Woodstock, N.Y., is proof that following your dreams can lead to incredible things. Years ago, Jenny gave up a flourishing career in TV production in order to dedicate her life to caring for abused and neglected farm animals. A tireless animal rights advocate, she is a powerful voice for the voiceless and vulnerable—largely because Jenny, too, has experienced great suffering in her life.
Growing up in Louisville, Ky., Jenny was 10 years old when bone cancer forced the amputation of her right leg below the knee.
“It was a terrifying time,” Jenny says of the two years she battled cancer. “But through the love of my family and a special relationship with a small adopted cat named Boogie, I overcame the cancer and the loss of my leg.”
Following her illness, Jenny refused to let her disability prevent her from being just like any other child. “I wanted to shed the ‘sick, one-legged girl image,’” she says.
And she did so with gusto, dancing, doing gymnastics and even cheerleading on her artificial limb throughout her teenage years. Later, as an aspiring TV producer breaking into the media world, Jenny once again transcended her physical challenges.
Jenny says, “At first I found it hard to get work in the camera department, especially since there was a lot of schlepping of gear through woods and up hills. So I started working my way up the production ladder focusing more on production management.”
Jenny thrived in the film industry, working for such heavy hitters as Errol Morris and PBS’s Frontline. But in 2002, a life-changing experience motivated Jenny to reevaluate her career goals. After a week-long trip filming farm animal abuse in Texas stockyards, Jenny was profoundly moved—and angered.
Jenny had always been an animal lover, but seeing the cruelty with her own eyes really struck a chord with her. “My experience with cancer as a child has made me particularly sensitive to suffering, especially the suffering of the innocent: children and animals,” she says.
Unable to ignore the systematic abuse inherent in animal agriculture, Jenny decided to quit her job and dedicate her life to caring for abused farm animals.
She says, “Everything I did in my decade working in production was meaningless once I realized my soul’s purpose in life, and that is to rescue and be a voice for farmed animals—the most exploited and abused beings on earth.”
That same year, Jenny relocated from Boston to rural Watkins Glen, N.Y., to live and work at an animal shelter. Two years later, she and her husband Doug co-founded Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit organization located in the Catskill Mountains that cares for more than 200 neglected, abused or abandoned farm animals.
Jenny shares her inspiring journey in her new memoir, The Lucky Ones, in which she introduces readers to many of the lovable animals she cares for at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, such as Albie, the three-legged goat. With her book, Jenny hopes to raise awareness about the plight of farm animals—an issue that is often swept under the rug, she says.
“When it comes to animals, we don’t even talk about the plight of farmed animals,” Jenny says. “TV never shows the images of animals languishing on factory farms or severely confined in crowded pens or cages.”
“I want to show people that farm animals are just as loveable, intelligent and worthy of our love as the cats, dogs and other pets we adore,” she adds.
At the end of the day, Jenny not only accepts her disability but embraces it, recognizing the ways in which her personal story has generated interest in her cause.
“My disability—although I never think of myself as having one—is actually one of the best things to have ever happened to me,” she says. “Years ago I would have never said that. But I am living my dream by working fiercely for a cause I care deeply about. That’s a blessing. So I now I see my disability as a blessing or rather, a good thing, a thing that has brought many opportunities.”
For more about Jenny Brown and the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, please visit http://woodstocksanctuary.org/.