Most people would classify themselves as
animal lovers. We form close bonds with companion animals like our dogs and
cats at home – they become members of our families.
We become horrified when we discover
that in some places, people eat animals just like these beloved companions. And
yet we, as a society, tend to consume products made from animals that other
societies consider taboo.
Sarah spends some quality time with her pal, Harrison.
Sarah spends some time with sweet Joey sheep!
Offering a chin scratch to Joey sheep.
Sarah with Zuri as a lamb.
Sarah offers a gentle pat to her friend, Blossom pig!
This is how Sarah Lux, Farm Sanctuary’s
Director of Donor Relations, once approached her own relationship with animals.
“I was the least likely person you know to go vegan,” Sarah reflects. “You know
those people who wave bacon in your face? Yup – that was me. Just witnessing
the simple act of a friend ordering a veggie burger would bother me. When
people around me were choosing more compassionate options, it would make me
defensive without even knowing why.”
What Sarah would later realize, however, was
that her behavior was an act of cognitive dissonance – a way to distance
herself from the painful reality about her relationship with animals that she
knew to be true, yet felt unable to admit. “I’d always considered companion
animals to be family, and I had compassion and caring for every animal I’d ever
met…especially the abused and mistreated. But I had never connected what – or
who – I was eating with my value system, and never consciously realized that my
choices were out of alignment with my deepest values.”
Then, one fateful day, Sarah had a
realization that would change her outlook about her relationship with all animals – companion and farm alike –
forever. And now, through her work at Farm Sanctuary, she applies her
experiences and understanding to assist people on their own journeys, as we work to create a more compassionate world – not only for the
billions of farm animals who suffer each year, but for one another.
Sarah’s unexpected journey commenced 22 years ago, while she was sitting in her dorm room, eating
pork-fried rice. “What I had considered all my life to be ‘food’
suddenly changed into the body of a once-living creature in my mouth. I thought
of my beloved dog, Nubbins, and remembered the movie Charlotte’s Web. In that moment, I knew that there was no
difference between the animals I loved and the animals I ate.
“Despite what felt like a sudden
realization to me… mine was a gradual evolution where every step I took I swore
would be my last – first I stopped eating cows and pigs, then chickens and
turkeys, and then dairy…and the rest of my consumer choices followed.”
Sarah’s interest in veganism and animal rights led her to discover Farm Sanctuary. “I’ve worked with several other animal protection charities,
but when I came to Farm Sanctuary as fundraising staff in the summer of 2010,
it truly felt like coming home,” she says. “Farm Sanctuary’s ethos of meeting
people where they are really resonates with me. Like Jonathan Safran Foer
writes in Eating Animals, ‘Compassion
is a muscle that gets stronger with use, and the regular exercise of choosing
kindness over cruelty would change us.’ I think Farm Sanctuary embodies this
approach so well, helping us build stronger compassion muscles no matter where
we are in our individual journeys.
“Additionally, the tripod approach of rescue,
is compelling and unique, and I love working for an organization that
understands the importance of both working for incremental change and for compassionate vegan living. I
always think that if I were imprisoned in a terrible place, I’d most certainly
want people working for my freedom and the freedom of my successors. But I’d
also love for them to send me a blanket to keep me warm at night.”
As a liaison
between Farm Sanctuary and the public, Sarah encourages people to make a difference
in ways that are meaningful for them. Farm Sanctuary relies on members and
supporters like you to make our lifesaving work possible, and Sarah is proud to
facilitate these connections through her work each day.
Sarah works primarily with participants
in our Friends of Hilda Club
and Legacy Society
programs, whose generosity and
commitment inspire Sarah each day. “A typical day is very rewarding, with a lot
of time spent on the phone; emailing; writing notes; in meetings; working on
newsletters, mailings, and other tools to help keep members informed; and
connecting members to meaningful opportunities and ways to get involved so that
they can help farm animals even more. Farm Sanctuary is truly a collective of superheroes
who have united to accomplish great things for farm animals, and our members
wear some of my very favorite superhero capes.”
Sarah is especially fond of the
opportunities where she can connect with our donors in person. One of Sarah’s
proudest moments was when she worked alongside Farm Sanctuary staff and
volunteers like Hilda Club and Legacy Society member
Deb during the Turlock
chicken rescue of 2012 – a massive rescue endeavor
involving multiple sanctuaries. Sadly, more than 50,000 egg-laying hens were left to die in a Turlock, CA factory farm. Sarah felt extraordinarily
grateful to be a part of Farm Sanctuary’s Emergency Rescue Team that week, and
to know so many caring animal advocates who answered a call to help with, “Tell
me where and when.”
Farm Sanctuary Hilda Club and Legacy Society member Deb was among those selfless supporters who answered the call. Here, she helps Farm Sanctuary staff bring some of the hens to safety.
“Deb’s tireless efforts saved countless individuals that day!” Sarah beams.
The events that followed taught Sarah so
much about what farm animals truly experience each day, and the importance of
bearing witness to this suffering, so that we may put an end to it. Sarah had
long known about the terrible conditions these beings face each day – but
experiencing them firsthand was harrowing. “Being on the ground at that factory
farm was so impactful. We hear the numbers – billions, millions, thousands –
and those numbers are so large that it can be challenging to comprehend. But,
seeing the windowless sheds crammed full of thousands upon thousands of
sentient and suffering individuals…smelling the terrible smells of the factory
farm – smells so acrid that people needed masks to enter, smells so potent that
they clung to the chickens’ bodies and to the inside of my car for days…seeing
the dust and filth inside, the dead bodies, the overcrowding that was every
moment for these birds…it was utterly
When we consider the sheer magnitude of
this practice, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by our limitations; that our
efforts make but a small dent in the grand scheme of things. “As much as we may
read about it or watch it on video, the reality truly is that much worse,”
Sarah observed. “And this was just one relatively small-sized factory farm in
one city; seeing a factory farm up close and personal really drives home the
enormity and the scale of the problem.”
The good news? Farm Sanctuary rescued
more than 400 birds that week – chickens who threw their heads back in
gratitude after guzzling some much-needed water. Chickens who went outside for
the first time in their lives, felt the sun against their feathers and got to
dust bathe, perch, and explore. Chickens who could just be chickens – finally
free to live the lives they were born to have. These ambassadors gave our
rescue team great hope in the face of disaster, helping them celebrate the
beauty that exists when we put compassion first. And their journeys confirmed
what Sarah’s work is all about. “There’s a lot of loss and grief in this
work,” she explains, “but watching the transformations of the survivors and
seeing them thrive in sanctuary is like nothing else.
Missy and her friends enjoying a brand new life at our Orland Shelter.
“The whole experience at Turlock
reminded me of the Mary Oliver poem Lead,
where she closes by saying:
tell you this
break your heart
which I mean only
it break open and never close again
the rest of the world.
May we never close our hearts again to
On the contrary, Sarah’s work helps us
open hearts and minds about society’s relationships with farm animals – and
whenever she shares an animal’s success story or sees her humanimal
allies snuggling up with their favorite rescued residents, it warms her heart
to see how influential and life-changing the power of love can be…for both the
animals and the humanimals who love them. “It is extraordinarily fulfilling to
see so many individuals changing the lives of farm animals so directly and in
so many ways – and then to hear back from so many members how much meaning and
happiness it gives them to be able to make a difference. I feel like I am lucky
enough to get to be a broker of joy between the people and the farm animals,
and all for a cause I believe in so very deeply – I love my work!”
Over the years, Sarah has befriended
countless animals who have inspired her to do all she can to help more animals just like them. Nubbins’
legacy – and the lesson she learned more than two decades ago – continues to
inform her journey. And these days, she effectively communicates that it’s just
as easy and fulfilling to love steers like Harrison and Mario,
pigs like Riley
sheep like Joey,
and goats like Melvin
as it is to love companion animals like her dog, Cricket, and cats Miko and
Sarah’s pets Cricket, Miko, and Ursa are no different than the billions of farm animals whose lives go unnoticed each year — and Sarah has made it her mission to show how beautiful *all* of our lives become when we see them as someone, not something.
“One of the very first farm animal
residents I ever became best friends with was Harrison – a bright, beautiful
steer who lived at the Orland
farm and changed so many people through his affection and kindness. He was
always a big ‘Mamma’s Boy’ – he was one of the lucky calves who was not only
rescued himself, but rescued along with his mom, Loretta, after he’d been left
for dead on a beef farm. Growing up with the love of his mom, his caregivers,
and so many compassionate visitors, Harrison was so confident in the kindness
of the world… and that just radiated out of him. From the very first moment he
directed me to give him a neck scratch, I was in love. We were all heartbroken
when we lost him at such a young age, but he touched many people in his life
through his strong and welcoming personality and his story.
We all thrive when treated with care and kindness. Harrison’s genuine love and trust for his humanimal pals was extremely palpable. He brought so much joy to our lives, and was an incredible ambassador for his species — demonstrating how enriched our own lives become when we treat those we encounter the way that we would like to be treated.
“Riley the pig is another who I fell
head over heels with… he’d been up for sale at a stockyard and was
desperately ill. It seemed that only sheer terror kept him going. Farm
Sanctuary staff were able to rescue him – as soon as he was in kind arms, he
collapsed. I was at the Watkins
Glen farm when he arrived close to death. He
was in such terrible shape that, despite all the love and expert care, we
really didn’t think he’d make it. But that brave little survivor surprised us
all! He later was adopted into a wonderful home through our Farm
Animal Adoption Network with his best friend, Petunia. I
was also lucky enough to bottle-feed Petunia when she was a tiny, pink piglet –
can you say JOB PERK? I smile every time I think of them. The power of
love is transformative.
Baby Riley peeking out to say hello!
Bottle feeding sweet Petunia!
“Joey the sheep is another one who
really touches my heart. She is just so steadfast and gentle, and so readily
connects with her human visitors. She’s like a wooly little Buddha. It’s
thought of such a bad thing for humans to be like sheep – but they are so
accepting and sensitive. We could all do well to be a little more sheep-like.
Joey was taken in as a tiny, abandoned, and injured lamb – she was brought back
to health at the Acton
Shelter, and later moved up to Orland where she
quickly became a very special part of the sheep herd.
Sarah with “Little Buddha” Joey
“Mario the steer always brightens my
day. Born into the dairy industry, as a tiny calf he was ruthlessly discarded
on a pile of dead animals – perfectly healthy aside from an injured leg.
Fortunately, this bright light was spared from an early death by the kindness
of the rendering truck driver. Mario is so warm and loving. I love his crooked
snout – he always reminds me that what we ourselves may perceive as flaws can
make us even more beautiful to those who love us.
Sarah plants a kiss on sweet Mario’s head.
“Melvin the goat, too! He’s just so
sweet, like a little warm breeze traipsing around at the Orland Shelter. And he
also has the best hairdo, really. I think everyone who meets Melvin falls in
love with him. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the senior
animals, and Melvin has stolen my heart from day one. I am happy that with the
help of Farm Sanctuary members Melvin gets to have some really beautiful golden
years. There’s just no one like Melvin
– he is someone.
The always handsome, dignified Melvin goat strutting his stuff!
“Reggie the pig won my heart early on by
simply being unattainable. He was such a sweet baby – even making nests for his
caregivers! – but he completely ignored me. Of course, this cemented my
adoration for him thoroughly and I became determined to make him love me. He’s
finally allowed me to give him belly rubs, and I could not be more grateful.”
Sarah let Reggie warm up to her on his own terms — and their relationship shows how fulfilling our bonds with farm animals can be when we put compassion first.
Sarah’s love for these ambassadors for
their species is palpable to all she encounters, and inspires so many people to
reevaluate their relationships with these sentient beings.
“I have a lot more hope for the world,”
Sarah says of this shift. “Every single day I connect with such generous,
caring, brilliant, and passionate people, and see more and more people getting
involved for the first time. I can’t help but believe that with people like
these on the side of farm animals, the world has no choice but to continue
becoming more compassionate. From our members to our staff to our volunteers –
Farm Sanctuary is an army of kindness warriors, and I am grateful to each and
every person who makes a difference for the amazing farm animals of the world.
We don’t have all the people on the
side of the farm animals yet…but we have so many of the finest ones.
“2016 marks my 20th year
living vegan and it still stands as one of the best choices I have ever made in
my life. It’s common to hear people assume that living vegan means sacrifice
and loss but, for me and so many others, it’s quite the opposite. We get more
back in abundance and joy – and delicious food, too – than we ever imagined. My
life has been tremendously enriched.” Sarah teaches us about the importance of connecting to pursue a common goal and to foster loving bonds with others, who help us see value in ourselves.
Sarah bonds with just a few members of this compassionate community during one of Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals events.
“Individual farm animals have taught me
so much about resilience, forgiveness, mindfulness, and gratitude, Sarah
explains. “Before being rescued, standard animal agricultural practices
brutalized the bodies and spirits of most of our residents on a daily basis.
Yet, when they come to sanctuary, so many of our lucky rescues open their
hearts to humans and trust again, or find a new family of choice to love again
after so much loss, or take such joy in the simple pleasures of life. Learning
from these courageous survivors has helped me to grow not just in my personal
relationships, but also in how I view the world. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed
and despondent when looking at the scale of the problems and suffering around
us, but when I work to be in the moment, to be present, to not drown in the
immensity of sorry, to feel the sun on my face – it helps me to take my next
best step. The farm animals are some of my best teachers, and they make me want
to be a better person.
“Even if you’ve never spent time with
farm animals, if you’ve ever rescued a cat or a dog from abuse or neglect, then
you know…watching the life come back into their broken hearts and bodies makes
it all worth it, and reminds us of the kind of world we are all working so hard
to bring about. I have so much love and respect for our caregivers who work
hard around the clock and in every kind of weather to care for all our 1,000
residents as individuals, and to our donors who work so hard to fund this
kindness and make it all possible.” With Sarah’s support, we can continue to
bridge the gaps that separate farm animals from the beings who generally enjoy
our protection. And by working together – by pooling our collective talents and
passions – we can live in a world that we are all proud of; a world of hope for these animals and the future.
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