GIF of cows at Farm Sanctuary

The Power of Sanctuary

GIF of cows at Farm Sanctuary
The Power of Sanctuary
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[MUSIC PLAYING] Sanctuaries are a place where cruelty is met with kindness. It's about kindness to animals. But it's also about respecting others, respecting ourselves, respecting the earth, living in a way that doesn't cause unnecessary harm.

We live at a time when there's immense oppression and strain and ugliness out in the world. And this harms all of us. The reason things are as bad as they are is because we have infrastructures and systems in place. And those need to be shifted. It actually undermines our empathy. And that's a very important part of our humanity.

For me and for many people, this begins with recognizing trauma and violence and cruelty in the world and not wanting to be part of it. These animals, like other animals, want to live. They don't want to be abused. They don't want to be killed. They don't want to be eaten. They want to live just like cats or dogs or us. We're all animals. And we all have pretty much the same desires.

I got this van in California in the early mid-1980s. We use this van to do investigations of farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses. And the way we funded the organization back in those days was selling vegan hot dogs at Grateful Dead shows out of this van. It was an open-minded crowd. And I remember on occasion, somebody would come up and stand in front of our table and look at these images and just be affected by them and start crying.

Hilda, our first rescued animal was rescued in this van who we found left on a pile of dead animals behind the Lancaster stockyards in Pennsylvania. So we took her off the dead pile, brought her to a veterinarian thinking she would have to be euthanized. As the veterinarian was examining her, she actually started perking up and then she stood up. And she lived with us for more than 10 years. And she's actually buried up on the farm right now.

It's not possible for sanctuaries to rescue all the animals who are currently being exploited and slaughtered. So we need to change the system. And farm sanctuaries play a very important role in modeling a different kind of relationship with other animals. The animals become ambassadors. And people who are touched by them can go out and educate others.

I want everyone to cozy up. My name is Jo-Anne McArthur. I'm a photojournalist. I've been photographing our relationship with animals around the world for over 15 years now. This is one of the most important things about sanctuaries that we have to take into account, you rescue animals, and you invite people to meet the individuals.

They might come here and decide to eat fewer animals, or go vegan. Or they might go out into the world a changed person. They might become an activist. How can you possibly put a dollar sign on that? You can't.

It changed me. And as I said, it set me on this path of activism for life. And I have reached millions of people now through my work because I was inspired by sanctuary.

Farm Sanctuary has been a touchstone for so many people who have gone on to do amazing activism. Some of them have founded organizations. Some travel the world exposing cruelty and educating people about what humans do to other animals.

I did furniture moving for like 16 years in the five boroughs. I knew nothing about farms, man. So she asked me, hey, can you help me with this little piglet. I fell in love like instantly. So all that Spanish stuff, eating pork my whole life went right out the window, man. Any rescues, any emergencies, yeah, I'm there for them.

So I haven't had an animal food product since the day after my heart attack. With distance from the eating machine and propaganda, I was able to kind of see, oh, there's a whole completely different way to live, ironically healthier.

It took me my first 10 years before I became a vegan for ethical reasons. Seeing them in this environment being well cared for, it can be life changing.

Part of coming here to Farm Sanctuary made me aware of these invisible animals, as I call them, and that they're not represented. We don't see them. And how can we start to consider them at all if we're not seeing them and talking about them.

Sanctuary to me just meant a safe haven. All beings deserve that. We have people who are escaping horrible situations. Animals that are escaping horrible situations and need they need that sanctuary.

Every animal should be in one, and every person too.

This part of Western New York was not too far from the roots of the Underground Railroad. And when Farm Sanctuary first got this property, I felt pretty good knowing that this tradition of liberating individuals from oppression and exploitation had been part of this area.

Providing a level of education so people can mindfully change their actions works to the goal of rescuing all the animals.

You know, Farm Sanctuary is a place. But it's also a mission. The idea is to rescue individuals and then ultimately to change the world.

Sanctuary is a place, a mission, a way of life, a state of being.

It is a space of refuge and tranquility, where life is sacred and trauma is healed, where humans and other animals are free from harm and live in peace with dignity. In the physical world, as in our hearts, Sanctuary is a safe place where transformation can occur.

For 36 years, Farm Sanctuary has provided that place of peace for thousands of rescued farm animals. In turn, these animals are ambassadors, representing the billions more like them currently suffering in an unjust food system.

These survivors’ stories — which illustrate their sheer will to live, their sentience, their awe-inspiring resilience, and their unending ability to love and forgive — create deep connections and compassionate understanding in those who open their hearts to them and face the realities of their pain.

While we can’t rescue all the animals in animal agriculture, we know that Sanctuary can heal the animals who have been rescued, and fundamentally impact — often with lasting change — the people who hear these messages of hope, healing, compassion, and love.

At Farm Sanctuary, we meet people where they are on their journey, without judgment, and model a new way to live with farm animals without exploitation of them, our shared planet, or the workers and communities impacted by an oppressive food system.

By meeting cruelty with kindness, and treating all beings with respect, we can all demonstrate the Power of Sanctuary.

Our Vision

We envision a world where Sanctuary replaces exploitation.

Our Values


    We recognize trauma and healing and we prioritize kindness, health, and well-being.


    We meet people where they are and acknowledge that context may impact choice.


    We ground our actions in truth, inclusion and equity.


    We believe knowledge, empathy, and experience are valuable catalysts for change.


    We believe all beings deserve respect and the right to live free from violence and oppression.

Our Sanctuaries

Sheep pasture landscape at Farm Sanctuary

Watkins Glen, NY

Nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, the rolling green pastures of Farm Sanctuary’s 275-acre New York Sanctuary are home to more than 800 rescued farm animals.

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Cows outside Farm Sanctuary

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.

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Sheep Farmer Chooses Sanctuary Over Slaughter
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The difficult part, I take them to the market, and I take them to the slaughterhouse. And they can smell it. That's one reason they don't want to come out of the trailer because they feel the stress.


Got a very long surname called Sivalingam Vasanthakumar, but everybody knows me as Kumar. It's easy to remember. I come from Sri Lanka. And mainly, all my grandparents, we go several generations, all farming community. The dish I serve it's called masala dosa. So it's a vegetarian, vegan meal, and a healthy meal.

I always wanted to farm. But the issue for me was taking livestock for slaughter. It was a big issue for me to say, why am I doing it, why am I doing it. But I carried on doing it because I just couldn't tell anybody. I couldn't tell my farmer friends that are contractors. If you start telling them, hey, I can't do this anymore they go, oh, you-- Kumal, you became-- you're soft now. I fed them, and then I loaded them in the trailer. It was hard. But I make a connection with the animals.


Livestock, all animals have feelings. All animals have-- there is a fear in them. Now, we need to find a sanctuary to take them where they go as a flock rather than splitting them. And we did quite a lot of research and came across Good Heart Animal Sanctuary. And they said they'll take my 21 lambs. It's a moment to say, no more livestock farming for me. I took 21 boys from this batch to the sanctuary. And this is all-- they all related, and it's a very close flock. Come on. Come on.

But I still got about 70-odd ewes.


I'm happy there watching them. And I don't have to even think that they're going to be taken to a slaughterhouse or to a market. You can't talk about monetary value for that.

You're a good girl.

I mean, my message was, give up livestock farming. That's my personal decision to do it. But I had a lot of other farming friends. I mentioned to them. And they did say that they felt the same when they take the animals to slaughterhouse. So every farmer feels that. But it's their livelihood, so they have to take them.

I must go now here.

The main reason is a lot of them, it's generation of livestock farming. The son follows the father. It goes on five generations, six generations. That's what they did. That's what they know.

And also, it should come from your own conscience. And that's where it will change. But it's a slow process. It's not going to happen overnight. So we'll hope for the best.
Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all.
- Emily Dickinson
Connie sheep at Farm Sanctuary

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