When going vegan, it’s common to wonder, “What do I eat?” and “What can I wear?” At some point, though, we yearn to help in ways that reach further than our consumer habits. Supporting sanctuaries is just one way that we can help animals in which the focus shifts from what we are (or aren’t) purchasing to what we can do for the animals themselves, which is the crux of the matter. These places are, quite literally, heaven on earth for animals who have seen the merciless depths of hell, and they are the embodiment of the change that we vegans would like to see in the world: compassion towards, and peace for, all living beings.
Larger sanctuaries typically have more reach, resources, funds, and celebrity endorsements. While their increasing visibility excites me, I urge you to seek out the smaller, local sanctuaries and support them, too. The people who run them often work day jobs on the side, relying on unpaid volunteers to help them with farm chores, and often just scraping by. It’s great to support the larger sanctuaries – I have a sponsor goatie at one – but let’s rally behind all of them, big and small!
If you don’t know of any in your region, do a Google search, and remember not to limit your search within the invisible confines of state lines. You can also ask people in your vegan community if they know of any places, or take your query to social media. At the rate that new sanctuaries are popping up, a lot of you can find one that’s close to home.
Here are some of the many ways we can we support small/local sanctuaries:
Sponsor an animal. Opt for long-term sponsorship with monthly donations and/or one-time sponsorship fundraisers. These make great gifts, too! This Thanksgiving, I sponsored a turkey named Tony from Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary, located in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Turkey adoption is a popular fundraiser for many sanctuaries in the fall each year. I loved taking part because not only did I help Hope Haven financially, but I also got to put Tony’s card on my Thanksgiving table in remembrance of the turkeys who weren’t so lucky, which also serves as a conversation starter if people were so inclined.
Organize or attend fundraisers. This is a fun way to foster community involvement while also raising awareness about the lives of farmed animals and provide much needed financial support.
Donate supplies. Their websites often have a list of most-needed items.
Visit with family and friends. Show you’re the people you care about “why vegan,” meet the animals and hear their stories, and lend financial support all at once.
I took a day trip with my family to Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, located in Ohio about 1 ½ hours from my home in Pittsburgh. It’s fun to go to various sanctuaries because they can have different focuses based on need in their area. For example, at Happy Trails, they have a program in which they take in retired Amish horses that have been destined for slaughter, and many of their roosters come from busted cock-fighting rings. They adopt out most of their animals, but some are permanent residents.
We fell in love with a pig named Wilbur who had the most hilariously quintessential piggy ‘tude, and my partner and I made fast friends with the goat residents, Odessa and Natasha. Odessa was my bae and Natasha was his. Heart eyes!
During a time of year that puts such heavy emphasis on giving, let’s not forget about those closest to us who are doing amazing work. Find a sanctuary near you and show them some love this holiday season.
Marissa Podany, VLCE is the founder of Vegan and Beyond Lifestyle Coaching where she guides veg-curious and health-conscious individuals along their paths to cruelty-free living. Some of her specialties include plant-based diets, budget vegan, raw foods, vegan with food allergies, and nontoxic living. In addition to her passion for veganism, she is a doting dog mama, shinrin-yoku enthusiast, meditation devotee, and a punk at heart who’s always down to dance. Find out more at www.VeganandBeyondCoaching.com and connect on Twitter @veganandbeyond, Facebook and Instagram @vegan_and_beyond.