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Poignant Portraits and Stories of Farm Animals Who Have Been Rescued from Abusive Situations

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Norman, resident of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary
“Norman was a veal calf, originally rescued as a baby from an auction by another sanctuary. He came to us as an adult with his girlfriend, a large black Angus cow named Ellie May. Norman and Ellie May were inseparable, always grazing together and sleeping side-by-side in the barn at night. When Ellie May passed away, Norman grieved for weeks, wandering the fields looking for her, and refusing to eat. He even slept on top of her grave. Eventually, he regained his sweet exuberant personality, but he has been a loner amongst the other cows ever since. He is a gentle giant who loves people and enjoys getting treats. His favorites are apples and cinnamon buns.”
– Terry Cummings, co-founder, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

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Mata Hari, resident of SASHA Farm
“By the time my Mata Hari came to live at SASHA Farm, she was already a local celebrity. She’d made the news twice, bloggers were following her travels, and she even had her own Facebook fan page. She was ‘The Ann Arbor Sheep,’ an elusive ewe who had managed to evade capture for months as she grazed Ann Arbor parks and cemeteries, stopped traffic at busy intersections, interrupted business meetings and tennis matches and became to some an urban legend.

“She began frequenting a secluded area behind an Art Van Furniture store, and after she seemed ready to stay a while, they began feeding her. When she showed up one day with a badly wounded neck from a dog attack during the night, they feared she might die of infection. After the police and local animal control were unsuccessful in their attempts to catch her, employees called SASHA Farm. A pen was erected behind the building in the spot where they fed her, and the next day, the door was closed and she was on her way to her new home at SASHA Farm.”
– Amanda, SASHA Farm

For Sanctuary: Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals, Florida-based photographer Sharon Lee Hart creates gentle portraits of creatures great and small, all of whom have been delivered from harrowing and abusive situations in live meat markets, cockfighting rings, or slaughterhouses.

In shooting them in somber black and white, she reaffirms the dignity and decency inherent within each cow, goat, chicken, pig, and horse, who will live out the remainder of their lives within the protected grounds of animal sanctuaries devoted to their care and rehabilitation.

Hart began the project by researching distinguished sanctuaries across Florida, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Michigan, reaching out to them through both email and phone calls. The reasons an animal might arrive at the sanctuary, says the photographer, are innumerable. Many are rescued by neighbors or escaped from slaughterhouses; some might be salvaged from piles of dead animals. Following Easter, many chicks are abandoned. For most of the sanctuary animals, the care they receive at the sanctuary is their first brush with compassion and empathy.

Despite their painful histories, Hart noticed in each animal she photographed a deeply felt sense of courage and fortitude. With each, she waited until they felt safe enough to come to her, and she never swayed them with treats, using instead her gentle demeanor to invite them forward. She never approached an animal who preferred to be left alone, but she found that many were quite tender towards her. Dee Dee, a donkey, snuggled into her neck, and Mary Jane the pig was quite delicate despite her large stature. Duncan the goat smirked at her, and Amelia the hen came in for a hug. She met a ram who had adopted a hen, whom he carried on his back throughout the sanctuary. Most of the animals recognized and answered to his or her own name.

Here, the gentleness and curiosity of each creature cuts through each frame, his or her curious soul held and acknowledged in a single gaze. Although these animals will live long and safe lives, Hart explains that each also tells the story of the billions of other animals who aren’t so lucky. These, she says, are the “lottery winners,” who have escaped the lives of confinement and mistreatment that face the majority of farm animals.

For Hart, education is key in bringing about the policy changes needed to protect farm animals and to ensure humane farming practices. To help, she suggests adopting or sponsoring a farm animal, volunteering or donating to a sanctuary, trying veganism, advocating for new laws and policies, and most of all, living “a compassionate, humane life.” To help, follow the Human Society’s Farm Animal Protection Campaign on Facebook. The Humane Society of the United States is the planet’s largest animal welfare association, dedicated to combating cruelty and abuse against animals. Visit Farm Sanctuary to learn more.

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Lilly, resident of Catskill Animal Sanctuary
“Lilly, a stocky gray pygmy goat, came to Catskill Animal Sanctuary with her brother, when the elderly owners could no longer care for them. From day one, she was an opinionated firecracker who got a thrill out of hooking unsuspecting humans behind the knee with a well-placed horn. Lilly lived out the rest of her life bossing around one of our goat herds and gained a large human fan base in spite of – or because of – her loose screws. This charismatic little hellion proved that even the oddest duck is worthy of love.”
– Abbie Rogers, Former Animal Care Director, Catskill Animal Sanctuary

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Ain’t Cho, resident of Kindred Spirits Sanctuary
“Ain’t Cho found his home at the Sanctuary on his own. In 2004, Florida was hit by several large hurricanes. After each storm, staff of the sanctuary walks the grounds to check on everyone and to do a head count. After one of the storms, staff noticed two extra cows in the yard. Since there are no farms nearby, Ain’t Cho and his friend must have trekked quite a way through the storm to find their new home. Today, Ain’t Cho has his own herd to look after, and has never made any attempts to leave.”
– Logan Vindett, Kindred Spirits Sanctuary

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Mary Jane, resident of Grateful Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary
“Mary Jane came to us at Christmas, extremely tiny and sick like a guinea pig. She had been abandoned at the Amish farm she was born at. Someone bought her for $7 and brought her here. She was really pitiful at the beginning, but eventually got well and moved outside. Since then she has been doing very well – everybody loves Mary Jane.”
– Shannon Sheridan, Grateful Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary

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Jessie, resident of Kindred Spirits Farm Animal Sanctuary

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Duncan, resident of Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary
“In 2009, Duncan and another young goat were spotted alongside the Hutchinson River parkway in the Bronx. Because of their shifty moves, it took the animal control authorities two days to capture them. The authorities suspect that the goats had escaped a live meat market. When Duncan arrived, the other goats and sheep put him in his place, forcing him to stay in his own part of the pasture. But after his first winter on the farm, Duncan emerged strong and forceful. He began butting heads with everyone and became the most playful animal on our farm.”
Bill and Ellin Crain, founders of Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary

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Kaola, resident of United Poultry Concerns
“Kaola was rescued with several other hens and a rooster from a cockfighting ring in Alabama. Upon their arrival at our sanctuary, Kaola immediately joined the other hens in our yard and lived in the Big House with them and three roosters until, some years later, she voluntarily joined a smaller group of just six hens and our easygoing rooster Mackenzie. She didn’t want to be around vigorous young roosters anymore. She preferred the serene atmosphere of Mackenzie’s house and has stayed there ever since.”
– Karen Davis, founder United Poultry Concerns

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Penelope, resident of Farm Sanctuary
“Bidders at the stockyard deemed Penelope worthless, declining to pay even $1 for the tiny calf. Penelope was a ‘downer,’ the industry term for an animal too sick, weak or injured to stand on its own. Such animals are typically left to languish for hours or days without food or water. Had she been purchased, Penelope likely would have been killed immediately for cheap ‘bob veal.’ Penelope was one of the very few to escape this fate. Rescued by Farm Sanctuary, she lived out her days at our New York Shelter, serenely roaming our pastures into ripe old age.”
– Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary

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Dee Dee, resident of Star Gazing Farm
“Dee Dee is a miniature Sicillian and is approximately 33 years old. She was taken in by Days End Farm Horse Rescue along with some ponies and horses who had been locked up in a barn for an indeterminate amount of time. Dee Dee had a hard adjustment period at first and is still claustrophobic in closed stalls, but she loves people, most especially children. She tries to lean on people and sometimes will try to sit on their laps.”
– Farmer Ann, Star Gazing Farm

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Hermie, resident of Poplar Spring Animal Snactuary
“Hermie was just a tiny chick when he arrived at Poplar Spring. He was resued by a young girl from a reptile show, where he was being sold for snake food. We kept him in a playpen in the kitchen with a heat lamp to keep him warm. He quickly grew into a handsome White Leghorn rooster, who loves to crow all day long and enjoys being held and petted.”
– Terry Cummings, co-founder, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

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Heidi, resident of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary
“Heidi is a beautiful Jersey cow who escaped death three times, once by luck and twice by her own intelligence. She was born on a dairy farm in Georgia, an unwanted byproduct of the dairy industry. In that area, there was no market for veal calves, so baby calves were routinely disposed of by being shot and thrown in a pit. Luckily for Heidi, the day she was born, a goat farmer was giving a lecture to visitors of the farm on making goat cheese, and Heidi was given to him as payment.

“The farmer brought Heidi and the other calves to his home in Virginia, planning to raise them for beef. When the day came to take them to the slaughterhouse, Heidi ran away into the fields and could not be caught. The farmer tried again a few weeks later, shutting her into a barn and backing the trailer up to the door. But Heidi foiled him once more, jumping out of a window and running to safety. When the farmer was overheard by a neighbor cursing and swearing that he would butcher her right on the farm, she decided to purchase Heidi to save her life. She called Poplar Spring and we agreed to take her, but we worried it would be difficult to get her into a trailer, given her history. Amazingly, even though it was evening, Heidi came out of a big open field and walked right onto our trailer. She has lived happily at the sanctuary ever since.”
– Terry Cummings, co-founder, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

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Victor, resident of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary
“Victor was found walking down a sidewalk in Germantown, MD on Thanksgiving Day 2005. He was taken by animal control to a local wildlife rehabilitator, as they thought he was a wild turkey. When he started following the staff around the facility, they realized he was a domesticated bird and brought him to Poplar Spring, where he has lived happily ever since.”
– Terry Cummings, co-founder, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

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Arnold, resident of United Poultry Concerns
“Arnold was rescued from Hudson Valley Foie Gras in upstate New York. He was brought to our sanctuary with his companion, Donald, who has since passed away. From the time Arnold and Donald arrived, they were inseparable, plodding about the sanctuary.”
– Karen Davis, founder, United Poultry Concerns

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Lacey, resident of Grateful Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary
“Lacey came from a hoarder and had a bad leg, a baby by her side and was pregnant. She had the baby a few weeks after arriving here, a pure white filly we named Lily, the first and only horse ever born here at the farm. Lacey prefers to be left alone, and we respect that.”
– Shannon Sheridan, Grateful Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary

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Betty, resident of Kindred Spirits Sanctuary
“Betty was left to starve in a field, along with her herd mates. All four of these girls were malnourished when they arrived at the Sanctuary in 2008. Betty and her friends have all made full recoveries and now spend their days grazing, napping in the shade and making friends with our volunteers.”
– Aimee Pritchard, Kindred Spirits Sanctuary

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Hannah, resident of Kindred Spirits Farm Animal Sanctuary
“Hannah and her son Herbie came to live at the sanctuary after a kind woman saw them and decided she couldn’t stand by and watch them go to slaughter. When Hannah and Herbie arrived at the sanctuary, Herbie was just a baby. But things have changed for them! Herbie is now in charge of all the sheep and goats, and Hannah is always by his side. Hannah loves to spend her days hanging out with her son and grazing. Her favorite food is strawberries, with blueberries coming in a close second.”
– Aimee Pritchard, Kindred Spirits Farm Animal Sanctuary

All images © Sharon Lee Hart

via Forward Thinking Museum

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