The Problem of the Moral and Professional Decline

of the Farm Sanctuary

Over the last two decades, the farm sanctuary movement has grown in unprecedented ways. Farm sanctuaries have sprung up by the thousands, each proclaiming to provide a refuge from the horrors of the animal agriculture industry. While this may seem like a promising trend, the result has been widespread animal mistreatment at the very places that purport to offer sanctuary.

There appears to be a grave misunderstanding of the concept and responsibilities of a sanctuary within our own movement, and a disparity between how different organizations (or individuals) understand what level of service and care a sanctuary is intended to provide. As a coalition of sanctuaries and farm animal rescues, we come together to insist that sanctuaries must not merely shield animals from slaughter. Sanctuary must offer more than that. Rather, sanctuaries are meant to provide farm animals with a similar quality standard of care afforded to companion animals. Regardless of species, animals have the right to live out long, full lives—free of injury caused by overcrowding and aggression; free of illness that is preventable or treatable; free from being sold or exploited in any way; and with consistent attention and kindness.

Today it often takes nothing more than a little bit of land and a social media account to become a “sanctuary.” This is often accompanied by 501(c)3 status, which many believe legitimizes a sanctuary even though the designation does not speak to an organization’s actual work or the care it provides.

There are many compassionate, animal-loving individuals that are willing to open their wallets to help anyone who has designated themselves a “sanctuary,” especially if they have an active and popular social media presence. But most donors don’t realize just how deceiving social media can be, and are fooled by sweet photos and the suggestion that the animals are well-cared for. Despite taking donor dollars, more and more sanctuaries are not transparent about their standard of care, where/how they spend their funds, where they get their animals, where they place animals, or even what their property actually looks like. Their activity on social media is merely a façade that hides pernicious problems.

This—along with the incredible pressure to continue to rescue new animals, raise money, and provide for the animals already in ones’ care—has resulted in many farm animal sanctuaries that fall well below what we consider the minimum guidelines. Countless “sanctuaries” simply do not provide the level of care required to earn the title. But animal sanctuaries are not regulated, either internally or by outside agencies. Simply put, factory farms are better regulated than farm animal sanctuaries. The animal agriculture industry, whose abhorrent treatment of animals is the very reason we are in this movement, at least sufficiently feeds and provides some basic vet care, including the administration of antibiotics and anti-parasitics. Shockingly, many sanctuaries do not even offer this low level of care.

The organizations signed on below believe that sanctuaries should, at a minimum, abide by the following Tenets of Sanctuary:

1) Sanctuaries must provide sufficient nutrition, both in the type of food and the quantity of food. This includes offering special diets or preparing meals to meet each animal’s specific needs. As an example: animals with missing teeth may need softer foods, while other animals require a restricted diet based on their breed. Furthermore, sanctuaries must ensure that all animals have access to this food. Simply depositing food all in one place forces animals to fight for sustenance, so that weaker, smaller, injured, or sick animals might not be able to eat. Caregivers must heed whether all animals are eating, especially since not eating is a sign of illness or other problems.

2) Sanctuaries must provide animals with constant access to clean water. This means providing water in appropriate vessels that cannot be knocked over or soiled and requires very frequent cleaning of the vessels to prevent the growth of bacteria and algae.

3) Sanctuaries must provide preventative, diagnostic, and/or corrective veterinary care. Like humans, farm animals are susceptible to countless diseases and other conditions that are preventable and/or treatable. This includes spaying females of certain species in which reproductive cancers are otherwise inevitable, such as pigs and rabbits, whenever the animals’ condition allows. Sanctuaries must also have the ability to transport all animals in their care to a veterinarian, which may require a trailer. Not being able to transport animals to the vet or in the case of another emergency is neglect.

Most animals require some sort of veterinary care in their lives. Many sanctuaries do not provide this—whether they cannot afford it, don’t notice symptoms, cannot transport them, or simply do not care. Animals should never be deprived of basic healthcare.

4) Sanctuaries must limit themselves to a manageable number of animals.

a) Sanctuaries must not take in more animals than they have the resources to provide for. They must have enough space and enclosures to prevent animals from being overcrowded and must be able to maintain a clean environment. Further, they must have the means to provide proper food, structures, and veterinary care for all the animals in their care, for the duration of the animals’ lives. Treating injury and illness is expensive. The cost of veterinary care on just a single animal can surpass the amount it costs to take care of an entire herd/flock of healthy animals, but this cost must be accounted for.

b) Sanctuaries must not take in more animals than they can monitor for behavioral issues or illness, and then be able to respond to such. If caregivers are already spending all their time on basic chores like feeding and cleaning, then they will never notice problems with individual animals until they are too late. The inability to notice illness or injury is on par with actively depriving animals of veterinary care.

Properly caring for a sick or injured animal is also time-consuming. Administering medications or changing bandages on just a few animals can take as long as caring for dozens of healthy ones. Sanctuary owners must not stretch themselves so thin that they do not have the ability to respond when animals need medical care or other special accommodations.

5) Sanctuaries must provide protection from physical harm and discomfort, caused by predators, animal-on-animal aggression, and weather. Animals without proper accommodations will be killed by predators, succumb to heat, or suffer from frostbite. Leaving animals vulnerable to these foreseeable harms is unacceptable for a sanctuary.

Protection from harm means monitoring for and noticing aggression and other harmful dynamics among animals. Caregivers must have the time, training, and resources to respond to these situations, including by separating animals as needed. An unfortunate yet common example of this neglect is keeping birds in large flocks, where less dominant or female birds are frequently injured, over-mated, or killed rather than being separated for their own safety. Even if no bodily harm is suffered, animals should not have to live in fear.

6) Sanctuaries must provide appropriate structures, enclosures, and other infrastructure that are regularly cleaned, maintained, and not overcrowded. Animals forced to live in filthy or crowded conditions become stressed, sick, and may exhibit aggressive behaviors to one another.

7) Sanctuaries must have an emergency plan in place for their animals in the case of death or incapacitation of those who run it, fire, natural disaster, or economic hardship. This includes money in reserve in case of unanticipated expenses, loss of income, or inflation. Too many sanctuaries claim they cannot afford basic expenses that were foreseeable, let alone unexpected costs.

The below signed sanctuaries renounce the following, which have sadly become common in the sanctuary movement:

1) Breeding of animals. Because there are already more farm animals of every species that need help than there are homes, it is imperative that animals not be allowed to reproduce.

2) Actively selling the secretions and other products derived from the sanctuary’s animals. This is particularly problematic if a sanctuary claims to be a vegan organization. Not every sanctuary needs to be vegan, but selling milk, eggs, or fiber for profit goes against the entire notion of protecting animals from exploitation.

3) Purchasing the sanctuary’s animals from the animal agriculture industry. Consistently buying animals from the industry funds its inherent cruelty while ignoring the countless other animals in need.

4) Selling animals back to the agriculture industry or to be bred for the industry. This behavior makes the sanctuary part of the industry, not a refuge from it.

5) Consistently placing animals in homes that have not been assessed for safety or that raise red flags with respect to hoarding and other neglect situations. Many sanctuaries also participate in hands-on rescue or the networking of animals that they themselves do not intend to take in. Putting those animals into dangerous situations—often worse than the places from which they were rescued—is unacceptable.

6) Exploiting animals for fundraising purposes and failing to use funds raised for specified projects/animals on those designated projects/animals. Many sanctuaries manipulate donors by using footage of animal suffering and cruelty for shock-value, because it’s an easy way to garner donations. Organizations will often inflate the amount of money they claim to need for a particular expense or might fundraise for a discrete cost that in actuality already has already been raised or paid. Often times money is raised on the mere “rescue,” with the animal ultimately being placed elsewhere without the funds going with them. Worse yet is when donor money is raised by a sanctuary for the rescue or purchase of animals who are subsequently placed in hoarding or other dangerous situations, while the sanctuary nonetheless pockets the cash raised. This is unethical on many levels.

7) Failing to use the majority of funds raised on the sanctuary’s overall mission and/or misleading donors about the percentage of contributions applied to the charitable cause. Taking large salaries, providing salaries to family members, buying homes, cars, and other items, while violating the above Tenets of animal care is unacceptable. Nonprofits are exempt from taxation because they are supposed to be using their income for the greater good. Sanctuaries should not be accumulating wealth, funding luxuries for their founders and families, and using donated dollars to pay for their every last personal expense.

8) Bullying other sanctuaries and/or whistleblowers and lacking procedures for correcting animal care or other issues. Attacking other sanctuaries and their founders/caregivers and engaging in general cruelty towards others for purposes unrelated to the interest of animals hurts the animals at those organizations while creating a culture of fear. At the same time, legitimate complaints about animal care or other ethical problems must be heard, addressed, and not be met with retribution and bullying. Sanctuaries should strive to create policies for addressing concerns coming from either inside or outside the organization, and should build an environment where such concerns can be safely and effectively responded to.

Education, Transparency, and Support Will Improve the

Lives of Farm Animals Everywhere

The below signed organizations pledge to continue to educate other sanctuaries, ourselves, and the public on these Tenets and best practices, which will improve the lives of farm animals everywhere. When donors realize disparate standards across sanctuaries, they are empowered to make more informed decisions, which in turn further supports and rewards those sanctuaries doing good work. Right now, there is not a direct correlation between the level of care and money raised. If anything, the inverse seems to be true: Those sanctuaries that provide high levels of care, and may have fewer animals for this reason, tend to raise fewer donor dollars, while the negligent, overcrowded sanctuaries fundraise successfully off of continuous intakes but subsequently fail to provide these animals with the care they deserve.

We also believe there needs to be a non-judgmental support system in place for sanctuary owners that are struggling. Caring for animals is not easy work and caring for them well is even harder. We also understand and expect that sanctuaries may find themselves overwhelmed, despite their best intentions, planning, and other practices. It may not be possible for an already up-and-running sanctuary to start abiding by the above Tenets all at once, despite wanting to do so. Every organization represented below has offered to assist with advising and counseling any animal caregiver or sanctuary in achieving the best possible care for their animals. Learning from others is invaluable.

We believe the time has come to redirect the course of the sanctuary movement, re-instill in caregivers compassion for each animal as an individual, and work together to improve the lives of sanctuary animals. We cannot hope to ever see a world in which farm animals are treated with kindness and respect if our very own movement cannot keep them free from harm.

Signatures of organizations who vow to uphold the above mentioned Tenets of Sanctuary:

  • Iowa Farm Sanctuary

  • Good Sprout Rescue & Sanctuary

  • Farm Bird Sanctuary

  • Kanda Farm Sanctuary

  • Ziggy’s Refuge Farm Sanctuary

  • They All Want To Live

  • Still Water Microsanctuary

  • Rooster Haus Rescue

  • Little Bluestem Sanctuary

  • No Swine Left Behind

  • Schoharie Creek Sanctuary

  • Saving Snouts Inc.

  • Jenkins Forever Farm

  • Wildflowers Farm Sanctuary

  • 4Them Sanctuary

  • Haven at Foxwood Farm

  • SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary

  • Stardust Animal Sanctuary

  • Marley Meadows Animal Sanctuary

  • SoL Criations Farm Sanctuary

  • Happy Snout Ranch

  • Willowbrook Farms Animal Sanctuary

  • Blackbird Ranch Farm Sanctuary

  • Off the Table

  • Bruno's Barn

  • Oliver and Friends Farm Sanctuary

  • Mother Clucker's Microsanctuary

  • Pigtopia

  • Lucky Day Animal Rescue

  • The Blind Spot Animal Sanctuary

  • My Pig Filled Life

  • Houston Mini Pig Rescue and Farm Sanctuary

  • Freeman Arabian Ranch & Rescue

  • Peaceable Kingdom Microsanctuary

  • Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary

  • Second Chance Chickens

  • Love Always Sanctuary

  • Tiny Hooves Sanctuary

  • Save One Sanctuary

  • Flying Pigs Animal Sanctuary

  • The Farm Micro Sanctuary

  • Sweet Peeps Microsanctuary

  • Sanctuary Farm Everlasting Care

  • Graysland Animal Sanctuary, Inc

  • Uplands PEAK Sanctuary

  • The Good Shepherd Animal Sanctuary

  • FlipFlops Animal Sanctuary

  • Apple Valley Farm Sanctuary

  • Hodges family rescue

  • Chicken Butt Microsanctuary

  • Red Oak Animal Rescue Inc

  • Freedom Acres

  • Pixies Hillside Haven

  • Unity Farm Sanctuary

  • The Homestead Animal Sanctuary

  • Stahl's No Harm Farm Animal Sanctuary

  • Hummingbird Hollow Outdoors Farm Sanctuary, Corp.

  • Sun and Moon Sanctuary

  • Moonshot Farms

  • Ahimsa Microsanctuary

  • Institute for Animal Happiness

  • Rooster Redemption

  • Abe's Funny Farm Animal Sanctuary

  • Piggy Protective Services

  • All Species Kinship

  • Penelope's Place

  • Magical Creatures Sanctuary

  • Fierce Roots Farm Sanctuary

  • Herd & Flock Animal Sanctuary

  • South jersey Horse Rescue

  • Mockingbird Farm Sanctuary

  • Uncle Neil’s Home

  • Bloom

  • Welcome Home Animal Sanctuary

  • Here With Us Farm Sanctuary

  • Shy 38 Inc.

  • Gentle Acres Animal Haven

  • Hogs & Kisses Farm Sanctuary

  • Goosepond Mountain Sanctuary

  • Happy Heart-Happy Home Farm and Rescue

  • Shalom Y’all Peace project

  • Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch

  • Little Buckets Farm Sanctuary

  • Bloomsbury Herd Microsanctuary

  • GLO Farm Sanctuary


  • Pig Placement Network at Ross Mill Farm

  • Bright Light Animal Sanctuary

  • Clover's Pig Preserve

  • Veganville Animal Sanctuary

  • Little Bear Sanctuary

  • Shangri La Farm Sanctuary

  • Pigsburgh Squealers Rescue

  • Big Island Farm Sanctuary

  • Goatlandia Farm Animal Sanctuary

  • Friends of Philip Fish Sanctuary

  • Olive Branch Microsanctuary

  • Peace Will Follow

  • Farm Haven Rescue

  • Topper Holler Animal Sanctuary

  • Rogers Rescue

  • Share the Moon Sanctuary

  • Hercules Haven

  • Heavy metal animal Sanctuary

  • Oinkin Oasis Forever Home At Rockn W Ranch

  • Black Goat Farm Sanctuary

  • Asa & Friends Microsanctuary

  • Freedom Farm Animal Rescue

  • Little Bitty Animal Sanctuary, Inc.

  • Friendly Fields Farm

  • Vincent’s Place Sanctuary

  • Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary

  • Meghan Had A Little Lamb A Nonprofit Corporation

  • Tamerlaine Sanctuary & Preserve

  • Aloha Animal Sanctuary

  • Darrowby Farm Sanctuary

  • Carrot Creek Critters

  • Scarlet Moon Micro-Sanctuary

  • Freedom Run Farm Sanctuary

  • Fluffy Butt Rescue

  • Southgate Sanctuary

  • Fern Grove Microsanctuary

  • Seggond Chance Farm

  • Fair Shake

  • Oinking Acres Farm Rescue & Sanctuary

*signatures are manually updated. We appreciate your patience.

Does your sanctuary vow to uphold these Tenets of Sanctuary?
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