How people can coddle their labradoodles, pookimos and schneagles and still gorge on bacon, burgers and chicken is beyond me. It's believed that a mother hen's vocalizations are more complicated than those of a dog, an animal whose intelligence is bested by the pig. Yes, the pig! Babe wasn't just veggie propaganda. U.S.-style factory farming is not only extremely cruel but bad for human health as well: Factory hens develop uterine cancer thanks to hormone injections; factory turkeys, if allowed to live past their sell-by date, eventually grow so large their legs can't support their weight. And let's not even mention beef. Ellie Laks founded the Gentle Barn in 1999, a haven for cows, pigs, horses, goats, llama, turkeys, chickens and others rescued from severe abuse, neglect or slaughter. More than 130 creatures roam here, providing therapy for special-needs and at-risk youth, while living out their natural lives in peace. The Gentle Barn Spring Festival invites you to come celebrate four new rescued calves, as well as groom the horses, hug the cows, give the pigs tummy rubs … even hypnotize the emu, while enjoying vegan food, face painting, arts projects for the kids, a Native American drum circle and a beastly blessing. You may never look at meat the same way. The Gentle Barn, 15825 Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita; Sun., March 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.;. $10. (661) 252-2440,

Sun., March 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 2012

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