Rescue & Refuge
In 1986, Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder Gene Baur rescued a live sheep from a pile of dead animals during an investigation of the historic Lancaster Stockyard in Pennsylvania. That discarded sheep, named Hilda, was the start of Farm Sanctuary and the beginning of the farm animal sanctuary movement of today.
Since then, Farm Sanctuary has provided a safe haven for thousands of rescued farm animals. These animals act as ambassadors, representing the billions of farm animals currently in the system. Their stories of survival, along with tales of their sentience, reach tens of millions of people through traditional and social media every year—in addition to the thousands who visit Sanctuary annually. Today, at Farm Sanctuary’s Los Angeles, CA and Watkins Glen, NY Sanctuaries you will find nearly 1,000 rescued animals—each with an individual story to tell.
While we know we can’t save all the animals suffering in this oppressive system, we know that Sanctuary can heal the animals who have been rescued, and fundamentally impact — often with lasting change — the people who hear their stories and witness their will to live.
In addition to not-- having never been around livestock, I'd never been in a slaughterhouse either before. So one of the first things that I noticed when we drove up was the hides of animals hanging on this fence. And there were hundreds upon hundreds, probably thousands, of hides, which is-- obviously made me very uncomfortable.
And just the smell and the energy, there is something about it that makes you very uneasy. And there was an area where there were several cattle that were cordoned off. And they were basically there in preparation to be taken inside of the slaughterhouse.
And then off to the side was another enclosure in which I saw a cow and the baby. And the baby, the calf, seemed understandably almost frozen in fear and almost sickly, to be honest. It first was kneeling down and away from its mom off into the corner and imagine it was frightened and exhausted and dehydrated. Who knows what?
And so to see this calf so vulnerable, and then in order to transport the cows, I learned that they had to be transported separately in separate compartments. So we had to get the mom first. And so as we walk into the enclosure, the mom just immediately just urinates clearly out of just fear, an uncontrollable fear.
So you really get a sense of what they must be feeling and how terrifying their lives have been thus far and the transportation from I imagine the feedlots or wherever they were raised and being trucked over to the slaughterhouse. And, of course, hearing the sounds of the slaughter that happening inside and seeing the cows that they knew being pulled away and brought inside, clearly, the smells, they have to understand what's happening.
The best way to help assure that the calf would be just to actually pick her up, which I was afraid that it would frighten her more, you can only imagine, being picked up and separated from her mother. So I was nervous. And I had to tell myself don't-- try not to make her any more nervous. Try to calm your nerves, your anxiety. Just try to be neutral and as much kindness as possible. And I managed to pick her up.
And thankfully, Farm Sanctuary and Gene Baur had offered to take them in where they have several other cows that have been rescued. And so they had a place that they could go, a forever home. Farm Sanctuary offered me the opportunity to name the cows. And I asked my sister Liberty if it was OK if I named them after her and her son Indigo, who passed away several years ago. She said yes, and so I named them Liberty and Indigo.
We drove up there, and I went with my mom. They had to be quarantined for several weeks or a month. So I thought that I would see them in the field immediately with the other cows but then learned, oh, no, that they have to go through this quarantine process, which, of course, you understand.
So there was this great relief in knowing that they had been rescued from this factory of death, that they'd be rescued from imminent slaughter. And yet, I felt a little bit unresolved because I wanted to see them completely liberated. I wanted to see them as free as possible and with other cows.
When I dropped off Liberty and Indigo, they were, of course, nervous and skittish. Totally understandable. But after we put them in quarantine, I had the opportunity to go into the field where the other rescued cows were.
And again, my only interaction with cows in the past has been seeing them on the side of the road when you're driving. When I was a teenager, and I lived in Mexico, there were cows in the fields and stuff. But I'd never been close to any. And so I went in the enclosure. And I was so surprised at how at ease they were with us and how welcoming.
I mean, it was almost like being with somebody's dog or a horse. Really, I couldn't believe it. I imagined they would be skittish and be scarred by the experiences they had and resentful towards humans. But I was surprised that they weren't. And there was a real-- a warmth and an intelligence in their eyes.
I don't even know if it's intelligence. But I dislike that, the whole idea of my standard of intelligence that I put on them. I don't know what they have. All I know is that there was clearly a unique soul in there.
So it had been nearly a year. And I wanted to see what Liberty and Indigo, how their lives were, whether they had assimilated into this group with the other cows, what that was like. So we went back out to Farm Sanctuary and worked with all the amazing volunteers and just to get a little update on where they're at. And it was pretty remarkable again.
My expectation was that they would be standoffish. And I was surprised that once they'd fed and felt more comfortable, I was hanging with Saffron, who's like this massive ton of kindness. And Indigo the calf just kind of walked up towards me.
And I was so surprised. There was no way that she would have come up to me when we first met her. And yet here now feeling the safety of this place, knowing that these humans had been there to care for her and the other cows, she came up with curiosity. I don't know if she trusted me or what, but she didn't feel scared of me.
It was incredible to see them. And Indigo was nursing off of her mom, which was just incredible to see and just their natural behavior and how so often we interrupt that. These are unique lives and that they deserve autonomy and freedom to live whatever lives they wish. And I hope that people get the opportunity to see that. I hope they can feel what I feel when I see them and recognize the intrinsic value that they have. My sister Liberty came and my sister Rain. And it was so nice to introduce Liberty to her namesake.
Just thinking about the billions of lives annually of animals that we kill for our own consumption or for our hats or wristbands or shoes or belts. We spend one day each year paying homage to our planet, Earth Day. But the other 364 days, we consume with impunity. It's really undeniable the detrimental impact that animal agriculture has on the environment.
And so this simple act of rescuing Liberty and Indigo, these two cows, some ways are as simple as just sparing the lives of these creatures. But it's also an acknowledgment of not only the destruction that they experience at our hands, but the environment as a whole, and that by our actions, we either have the choice to continue to destroy other beings and the environment, or we begin the process of reversing the damage that we've done.
In this video, released on Earth Day 2021, Joaquin Phoenix reflects on the calf and her mother who he helped liberate from a Los Angeles slaughterhouse with the help of Los Angeles Animal Save almost a year ago, and the environmental realities we’re facing today.
In this powerful video directed by Earthlings Director Shaun Monson, Phoenix reunites with the pair at Farm Sanctuary, the country’s first farm animal sanctuary and advocacy organization.
Friends for Hayes: Calf Rescued From Solitude Finds Family at Sanctuary
On a late winter’s day, two young steers trekked through mud and melting snow towards a sunny patch of earth to warm their backs. They paused—one in front of the other—and closed their eyes to drink in the rare light. Then, the taller one leaned over his friend to plant slow, cleansing kisses along his neck and back. Grooming is a way that cows show trust and affection—and for these two, a sense of belonging at long last.read more
March 15, 2022
Lemondrop, Cottonball, and Friends: 41 Chickens Rescued From Two NYC Crises
It was a Saturday in New York City and two separate but urgent situations were each unfolding: In one part of the city, rescuers were caring for chickens freed from a common religious ritual sacrifice. Farm Sanctuary, in collaboration with local activists, had already planned to take in a few birds rescued from this first case. That same day, though, other people discovered birds who’d fallen from a truck bound for a Brooklyn slaughterhouse. By the end of the day, we’d be arranging to help 41 chickens in need.Read more
October 5, 2021
Jenny Pig: Abandoned in a Pet Crate, Now Part of a Family
Jenny pressed her snout against the walls of the crate, choking through the blazing heat for a breath of fresh air. She should have spent this kind of day rolling through the cooling mud, coating each outstretched limb with nature’s sunscreen. But her throat was dry; her cramped legs ached. And nobody knew the little pig needed help.Read more
June 1, 2021
For the Love of Biscuit: Teen Helps Sheep Find Sanctuary
Most teens can’t wait for their first set of wheels. Tyler’s car search took a very different turn after checking out a pop-up sale and finding a ram––the sheep kind, not the truck kind.Read more
Farm Animal Adoption Network
When our shelters are at capacity, we depend on the compassionate adopters in our network who want to make a direct difference in the lives of farm animals. Since its formation in 1986, our Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN) program has connected thousands of abused, neglected, and unwanted farm animals with the loving homes they deserve.
Watkins Glen, NY
Nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, the rolling green pastures of our 275-acre New York Sanctuary are home to more than 800 rescued farm animals.
Los Angeles, CA
Our 26-acre Southern California Sanctuary — home to approximately 100 rescued farm animals — is located on a beautiful hacienda ranch in Acton, just 45 minutes from Hollywood.