“Did you know?” 36 Moments From 36 Years

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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.

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