Compassion for animals runs in the family for Farm Sanctuary Caregiver Jessica Due. The lifelong vegetarian learned at a young age to value the importance of embarking on her own journey – and by extension, the
ability to inspire others to make a difference. “My mother always shared the belief that we should show compassion to all animals and not eat sentient beings,” Jess remembers. “However, she didn’t want to impose her views on her children; she wanted us all to find our own path.
Jessica hangs out with Calvin goat.
Jess and her buddy Mo, leaning in for a kiss.
Jess and Honky Tonk Donkey
Jess enjoys a peaceful moment with Paolo steer.
Jessica shares a tender moment with her good friend, Dopey.
Peanut supervises Jessica’s work to make sure gets her facts straight!
Jess and a young Paul Harvey: one of many animal ambassadors whom Jessica is proud to work with each day!
She told all her children that once we were old enough to decide on our own, we could start eating meat or we could continue with the vegetarian lifestyle – it was up to us.”
Jessica learned to respect and protect cattle like Pinto from an early age.
But when the time came, Jessica was alone in making the decision to stick with vegetarianism. “I was so frustrated and shocked,” she recalls. “I felt that [my siblings] had abandoned [my mother], so I decided to stay vegetarian. It was as simple as
that: I didn’t want my mother to be sad and alone. I had no idea that decision
was one that would send me into my lifelong path of compassion and one I am
thankful for every day.” Jessica’s compassionate journey started out with her
choice to extend kindness towards her mother, and to continue upholding the
values she had built their family around. Over the next two decades, however, Jess
would use these teachings as a springboard to further develop her own activism.
believed she was doing the best she could to help all animals in need – from forsaking
meat from her diet to petitioning presidents to end the annual dolphin slaughter
in Taiji, Japan. She didn’t yet understand that using hens for eggs or cows for
milk could be harmful – it was hard for Jess to comprehend the exploitation
that was hidden in plain sight. It all started to make sense once she was
forced to confront her own role in the animals’ suffering – how, despite her
good intentions, she was unwittingly contributing to practices that supported
animal cruelty. From that moment on, Jess realized how interrelated all beings
are – land animal, sea animal, and humanimal alike – and how
we could create peace in our own lives by understanding and honoring the bonds
we all share.
Sweet, gentle Bruno was the son of a dairy cow — Jessica would soon come to realize just how much is at stake for male calves just like him.
my late twenties I found myself employed at a farm animal rescue,” Jess says.
“I remember telling my new coworkers that I had never eaten meat with great
pride. I also remember their faces as they smiled and then asked me when I went
vegan. I was stunned. What did they mean, vegan? Why did I need to be vegan to
show compassion towards animals? I was doing everything I could do – why should
I give up cheese and dairy? There were dairy cows in California that simply
produced milk for our enjoyment. I had seen the commercials – I was sure it was
true. Yes, marketing is that good, that I truly believed that ‘happy cows’ came
was not alone with this assumption. But after a gracious coworker gently guided her through the truth behind dairy
production, Jess realized that she had the power to make a difference by
refusing to continue to participate in these systems.
asked me, ‘Where does human milk come from?’ and I said, ‘A lactating mom.’ She
then watched me as it all clicked and the comfortable life I had known as a
vegetarian fell apart around me. I had no idea about the abuse on factory farms
and in the dairy industry. And after watching a three-minute undercover video
my world was turned upside down and I made the decision that nothing, not even
cheese, was worth being a part of what I had just seen.
Male goats like Paul Harvey are also harmed by the goat dairy industry — but when we start to make the connections, it’s easy to see animals like Paul as someone, not something.
called my mom shortly after making the decision to go vegan and explained the
truth about the dairy industry and what I had just seen. After our phone
conversation, she went vegan with me.” And so, Jessica’s compassion came full
circle as she helped her mom align her actions with her compassionate values –
just as she had done for her.
Jessica is proud to say that she is vegan for Millie and countless hens just like her.
five-and-a-half years later, Jess takes pride in how effective the power of
compassion can be – and her journey serves as inspiration to anyone who hopes
to help others along on their own compassionate journeys. It’s important to
support people wherever they are. Many, like Jess, believe they are doing all
they can to make a difference – and these actions should be celebrated, as all
movement in the direction of plant-based living is important and should be
regarded as such. There are always ways to improve – for all of us – but these
realizations can only be enacted when we feel willing, able, and ready to make
Jessica and the magnificent Mr. Ed — here, he lives the dignified life he knows he deserves.
Jess has been so moved by the power of
compassion that she hopes to empower all she meets to embark on the personal
paths they can feel good about – in her both her role as a caregiver at our Southern
and through mentoring opportunities outside of Farm Sanctuary life. “I volunteer
at a vegan care farm, working with at-risk youth, teaching them how to care for
rescued farm animals and how to grow their own food with the use of
permaculture. My family and I have recently purchased three acres that we are
working to become fully sustainable within five years. As a permaculturist, I
highly enjoy gardening and having my hands in soil.” Jess nurtures those around
her to tap into their own potential – to take charge of their lives while
making a difference for others. .
Jessica gives some love to Safran steer.
she extends this same courtesy to the rescued residents of Farm Sanctuary’s Southern California Shelter. There, she helps ensure these beings live the quality of life that they deserve. And, Jessica demonstrates
each day that farm animals have a lot to say when we make the choice to listen
– and how we can learn so much about ourselves by acknowledging and supporting
the connections that we all share.
At Farm Sanctuary, animals like Honky Tonk donkey are valued as the magnificent individuals they truly are!
first visited Farm Sanctuary in 2012 after leaving her job at another farm animal
sanctuary, and began volunteering shortly thereafter. “I fell in love with the
animals and the staff rather quickly and I was eager to immerse myself in the
Farm Sanctuary world.” Jessica officially joined our caregiving team in October
2015, and spends her days giving our rescued residents the care and love they
need to thrive. “The day normally starts with our animals in isolation care,”
Jess says. “I start with giving them their needed medical care – we are always
helping animals in need; therefore, we are constantly having animals in
isolation and quarantine areas. The day continues with opening barns and giving
medications to animals in need. Since most farm animals come from abuse and
neglectful backgrounds, they need constant, loving care.”
meets all challenges with grace and dedication, from routine to the
extraordinary. Whether she’s extending a hand in friendship to an animal in
distress or assisting in a lifesaving rescue endeavor, Jessica treats all
interactions with utmost importance – after all, each individual animal we encounter has a
unique story to tell. And we do our best to ensure that he or she is
treated with the care and kindness that they deserve – no matter how long or short
their time with us may be.
Jessica bonds with Dopey pig, who will forever hold a place in her heart.
of Jessica’s most memorable experiences at Farm Sanctuary happened this summer,
when she helped evacuate the animals from our Southern California Shelter
during the Sand Fire. This was the
first time we have ever needed to evacuate one of our sanctuaries, and it was a
frightening time for both the animals and humanimals involved. But Jessica and
her team remained level-headed throughout the process, and thanks to their love
and dedication, the evacuation – and time spent at the evacuation site – went
as smoothly as possible.
July 24, we got the call that the sanctuary had to be evacuated due
to the Sand Fire, which was rapidly spreading and containment on it was very
minimal. We all rushed to the farm and got to work. We were able to
successfully evacuate over 100 animals and get them to safe evacuation sites,”
Jess recalls. “[But] the day didn’t end there; we split up the shifts so that
we could cover 24-hour shifts in all the locations. Regardless of how stressful
the situation was, I was filled with pride watching my coworkers and our
wonderful volunteers work tirelessly to get the animals to safety, communicate
effectively, and show compassion in each situation that arose.
Jessica checks in on her pal Mo at the evacuation site.
next week was a blur of round-the-clock care for the animals. The care wasn’t
just extended to our animals, but also to other animals that had been left at
the evacuation site without proper care. So not only did our shifts include the
animals in our care, but any and all animals that were in need due to being
displaced by the fire. I will never forget that day or week, as it will always
stand out as the day I knew I was at the right place doing the right thing at
the right time.”
Giving Jimmy the Snout a cooling “shower” as they waited out the fire.
experience confirmed why Jessica and her team do what they do – nothing is
impossible when you are driven by compassion and feel called to make a
difference in any way you can. The team worked long hours and even slept at the
evacuation site to ensure that all of the animals had everything they needed to
feel at ease, despite the circumstances that had occurred. And our caregivers
learned so much about themselves throughout this process – most importantly,
how fulfilling it can be to stand up for what you know to be right, and work
together to just do good, in any way we can.
Jessica enjoys some downtime with William steer at the evacuation site.
everything they do, no matter how challenging, is for the animals. Jessica
feels fortunate to not only be supported by a wonderful humanimal family, but
values the relationships with our rescued residents, who enrich her own life as
much as she does for them.
Sharing a sweet moment with Yoda llama.
have a tendency to fall in love with the outcasts, the old, the ‘ugly,’ and the
ill-tempered animals. Farm animals in general are discarded by the masses as
nothing more than something to consume, so my list of favorites grows daily as
new neglected animals come in, in need.
Jess helped Bernadette — a blind, elderly sheep — feel safe and sound in her arms.
was the first old man, but not the last, with whom I fell in love with here at
Farm Sanctuary. His old body showed signs of a life lived to the fullest. His
gentle eyes and his stubborn attitude made my heart sing. I found myself
spending my lunches with the old fella. In the cold winter days he would even
scoot over and share his bed with me. I would sing and caress him. His gentle
eyes spoke the universal language of love and I had found my happy place. He
enjoys long naps and good food, my kind of man!
Spending quality time with Dopey in the barn.
Jess lovingly gives Dopey a drink of Gatorade to keep him hydrated on a hot day.
Making sure her thirsty friend had plenty to slurp.
is known as a bit of a butthead – my kind of guy again! Knowing him when he was
a baby and watching him grow into one of the leaders of the herd is truly
amazing to witness. Safran has become a part of my family. When I am out in the
cattle yard he is never far away. One of his favorite things to do is my hair.
He tends to think I don’t do my hair well and he likes to help me out with cow
Safran steer: the greatest hairstylist in all the land!
“When I first noticed Mo’s sweet but mischievous eyes, I had all
kinds of questions. The staff told me that he wasn’t really a people person,
and like most sheep kept to his sheep friends. I couldn’t help but try to
engage with this handsome guy. As a lot of great friendships start, it all
started with a shared meal. I figured the way to most people’s heart is through
their stomachs – Mo was no different. I started bringing him banana slices and
then strawberries. He started waiting for me at the gate and then we shared our
first kiss. You can now find him waiting at the gate for a kiss and a treat. It
melts my heart each day.
Sweet, perfect Mo, leaning in for a kiss!
“I am a sucker for all the animals, really. For example, Peanut just came to us, and I am
already madly in love and follow all of her commands. My heart grows each day
when I can bring some comfort to an animal in need, or share a kiss with a
sheep friend. I feel good knowing I am not alone with this desire, and I
couldn’t be happier to be part of such an incredible team.
Early adventures with Peanut, one of Farm Sanctuary’s newest residents. From the largest of steers to the smallest of chickens, all animals capture Jessica’s heart in their own unique way.
“Since starting working at Farm Sanctuary, I have learned a great
deal about the care for farm animals. As a general statement, it is hard to
find good information regarding care for farm animals. Even when I was in vet
tech school, the information we were being given on farm animal care was
appalling. There is a huge disconnect for people who care for cats and dogs to
those that care for farm animals. I never understood how someone could say they
have the animal’s best intentions in mind, when they eat the same animals at
home. I love coming to work every day knowing I am surrounded by people who
want the best for these animals, and are not disconnected to the realities of
their lives. We all have common goals at Farm Sanctuary: to help as many
animals as possible and show compassion in each and every single situation – to
our rescued farm animals and to one another. It’s great to look up and see your
coworker giving their all, right beside you.”
Some of Jessica’s “people”: our main cattle herd…
Jessica teaches us how important it is to value all individuals as
they are, and encourage them to be the very best versions of themselves. We
value her love and dedication to helping every individual she encounters –
animal and humanimal alike – and are honored to have her support as we work to
create a more compassionate world for all beings. We can learn so much from
Jess’ own journey, and she inspires us each day to do and be our very best –
demonstrating how wonderful the world can be when we align our actions with our
values and treasure the beauty inherent in all beings.
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