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Home / Articles / Columnists / Healthy Living /  A Special Kind of Animal Sanctuary
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Friday, February 8,2019

A Special Kind of Animal Sanctuary

By Karen Ellis-Ritter  


Animal sanctuaries can specialize in a variety of different species, including primates, birds, reptiles, big cats, and domestic animals. There are several wildlife sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers that offer public tours, especially here in Florida. They play a critical role in supporting the abundance of indigenous species that face environmental and existential threats (mainly man-made). Though I am truly grateful for the existence of all sanctuaries, I would like to focus on a different kind of sanctuary this month - “farm” animal sanctuaries.


For those who are unfamiliar with “farm” animal sanctuaries, they mainly give refuge to animals regarded by the public as “livestock” - pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, cows, donkeys, goats and sheep. Note: You will see me put words like “farm” and “livestock” in quotes, because I don’t identify these animals as commodities - and don’t wish to lessen their intrinsic value with the words I use.

These animals come from many places. Some suffered horrific abuse or neglect in commercial farms. Others come from hoarding raids, backyard butcher operations, livestock auctions, or fall off transport trucks. There are animals that come from families who can no longer afford to care for them. Due to financial hardship, I’ve heard cases of farmers shuttering their doors and abandoning the animals to slowly starve, without concern for their well-being. Regardless of how the animals get to the sanctuary, they are the extremely lucky ones - and they know it!

Their traumas, personalities, interests, and social proclivities are unique to their personal experiences and individuality. Watching these animals open their hearts to love and human affection is a glorious thing to behold! The bonds that the animals form with their caregivers, when given time to heal, are often deep and intense.

There is no ticking clock… they will never be killed for their flesh. They will never again be forced to breed. They will never have another child taken away from them. Their days are their own, and they can form new friendships and explore their natural curiosity. Most will intuitively sense this, and they come alive for the first time, allowing their hearts to open and their full personalities to blossom. So many show a heartening resilience that humans would be challenged to achieve.

Sadly, most people are disconnected from the reality that the flesh on their plate once belonged to someone who wanted to live. Meeting these animals in person, hearing their stories, seeing their individuality… it’s a lot harder to look away, or to dismiss their similarities to our companion animals in our homes. And the truth is, we owe this to them. They are each a precious someone – not a momentary flavor.

Please consider visiting a “farm” animal sanctuary. Or even better, donate or volunteer!

Find a sanctuary near you today - go to CFEI’s U.S. animal sanctuary directory:


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