Three Reasons Not to Visit an Animal Sanctuary

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Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Stanwood, WA

I’m glad you’re enjoying pictures from my trip to Seattle last weekend. In today’s post, I want to talk about my visit to Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Stanwood, WA, which is about one hour north of the downtown Seattle area. On a bigger level, too, I want to talk about my previous concerns about visiting an animal sanctuary and why it took me three years to get to one.

1. I thought it would make me sad. I’m really sensitive to stories of violence and cruelty, so I didn’t think I could handle coming face to face with animals that had been rescued from horrific situations. Turns out, the animals I met at Pigs Peace are extremely well cared for and appear content and, dare I say, happy?:

Betsy from Pigs Peace Sanctuary

Judy, who runs the Sanctuary, was careful about not giving too many details about the history of each animal and I appreciated that. Instead, she told wonderful stories such as how some of the pigs “go camping” every summer in the forested part of her 39 acres, spending a few nights in the woods sleeping under the trees before coming back home:

Pigs Peace Sanctuary

2. I am intimidated by large animals. As even a rambunctious dog can overwhelm me, I’m happy to report that I never felt uncomfortable while visiting Pigs Peace and the animals were only mildly interested in me:

Cute piggie at Pigs Peace

And way more interested in the carrots I got to feed them!

Carrot feeding time at Pigs Peace

3. I was afraid of feeling helpless. I suppose in some ways I thought being at a Sanctuary would get me all riled up which would then lead to anger and helplessness. On the contrary, my visit to the Sanctuary showed me that change can happen and that people are doing good work each and every day. I left more hopeful and confident in my mission to help inspire others:

Go in Peace

The time I spent with the animals last weekend was educational and meaningful, without being overly emotional or demanding. I feel confident saying that as long as you have an open mind and an appreciation of animals, then you don’t need to feel hesitant about visiting a Sanctuary.

When reflecting about my time spent with the animals at Pigs Peace, I couldn’t help but think of the interactions with my nephew this past weekend and how I feel a maternal instinct toward both children and animals and a desire to nurture, love, and protect.

I randomly snapped this picture using my camera phone, but it is one of my absolute favorites of my nephew because I think it captures his childhood innocence and sheer joy at being alive and feeling loved and safe. How wonderful would it be for all living beings to feel the same?

Pure childhood joy and innocence

Have you ever visited an animal sanctuary? What was your experience like?

{Editor’s note} I just wanted to emphasize that despite the title of this post which was admittedly a marketing ploy on my part to entice more people to read this entry, I am very much in favor of people visiting Sanctuaries. 🙂

Additionally, if you would like to learn more about Pigs Peace Sanctuary or make a tax-deductible donation, please click here.

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  1. says

    Lovely Post.

    I just recently visited the Jenny Brown’s Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in Woodstock New York which was excellent. Such a wonderful time, and it was great to interact with the animals. I felt really inspired being there. The animals are so well looked after and also seem very happy, and affectionate towards people.

    The next day we drove to Watkins-Glen New York and visited Gene Bauer’s Farm Sanctuary which was another incredible experience similar to Woodstock. My husband and I were very moved by all the animals that we interacted with, and it was a wonderful experience.

    I too had my reservations about going to animal sanctuaries but i’m so glad we went, and I know that we’ll be going back. 🙂

    • says

      Hi Kyleigh! Thanks for sharing your Sanctuary experiences. I have heard such great things about the two that you mentioned. I don’t think I’ll be out of NYC on my upcoming visit, but I sure hope to visit both Woodstock and Farm Sanctuary on a future trip. 🙂

  2. says

    Thank you for this post, Carrie. I avoid sanctuaries and shelters for similar reasons. I have often felt guilty about shielding myself from these experiences, but I am easily overwhelmed with emotion when it comes to any living thing that is experiencing pain. As a nurse, I have to deal with heart-breaking situations in the human realm, and with animals I am even more sensitive because they are at the mercy of another being. I really appreciate you sharing your experience at Pig’s Peace. Knowing that you left with a hopeful feeling is comforting.

  3. says

    I love love love this!! I spent a week volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary in Wisconsin this summer, and I loved it. There were indeed some very sad stories, but just knowing there are pockets of people who care and are taking action can be very uplifting. Also, spending time with the animals makes a huge difference to them! There was a very elderly kitty at the sanctuary, and I spent at least ten minutes every day I as there just holding her. She loved the body heat and would start purring in under 60 seconds. We also were careful to help one of the arthritic pigs outside every few days where she could enjoy the warmth of the sun; she made the cutest happy noises! There is always sadness but the joy of making even a little difference is worth it, I think.

    • says

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Maggie. I love your story about holding the elderly kitty and helping the piggie out into the sun. Just being around animals makes me happy so I should have known I would love visiting a Sanctuary. I hope to do more of that in the future. 🙂

  4. bitt says

    When you know an animal has overcome that horrible situation and is alive and doing well, it tends to be more uplifting than just hearing about farm abuse from afar. There’s the power of touch and interaction with animals that is very healing. I love visiting animal sanctuaries, if you can’t tell. So glad you went!

    • says

      Thanks, Bitt! I agree, seeing how well the rescued animals are doing even after enduring horrible situations was very positive for me. I am amazed by their resilience and it was a life lesson for me. 🙂

  5. says

    You fooled me with the title of your post – I thought you were going to convince me to not visit a sanctuary. I’m really glad you didn’t, though, because I’ve been wanting to visit one for quite some time now. I’m glad you had such a positive experience – it’s uplifting for us newbies to veganism to know it’s not heart-wrenching. Beautiful pictures and wonderful post!

    • says

      Thank you, Alison! 🙂 I felt kind of bad writing a manipulative title like that, but I wanted to try and entice some interest. I was also very relieve that visiting a sanctuary was a positive experience. It was kind of like all the good parts of going to the zoo like getting to interact with animals without any of the bad parts like worrying about their captivity. I’d love to hear about your experience if and when you get to a sanctuary.

  6. says

    I LOVE animal sanctuaries! I’ve been to Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary, Wishing Well Sanctuary and Farm Sanctuary (in Watkins Glen, NY. ) All were amazing experiences I will never forget. My friends and I are making plans to do a work visit to Cedar Row soon. Also, if anyone would like to support a wonderful farm sanctuary, they can sponsor me for the Toronto Walk for Farm Animals here:

  7. says

    Agreed! Great piece and thanks for sharing the awareness about Pigs Peace Sanctuary (WA friends, you may want to read this and visit). I found a place just outside of Los Angeles called The Gentle Barn. These are wonderful places to learn and interact with rescued animals that teach so much about the power of kindness and compassion. Next time I am in the area, I am going to visit the Pigs Peace Sanctuary thanks to you. If you or anyone reading this live or are visiting LA, you are invited to The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita. It is open to the public Sundays from 10am-2pm. Also, if you know of any animals in need of rescue or adoption in the greater LA area, call Ellie at The Gentle Barn. You can learn more at
    Thanks Carrie!

  8. says

    A few years ago my daughter gave me a girls’ night out in the cabin at Farm Sanctuary in California as a Mother’s Day gift. We had a wonderful time! Who knew how affectionate turkeys are and how much they like to be petted?! I learned so much about many kinds of animals that I would never have learned from afar. I agree that it is not depressing at all, but deepens one’s commitment to nonviolent living. Staying in the cabin was a lot of fun, too – I highly recommend it!

    • says

      Ohhh, sounds wonderful, Jean. I really want to visit the Farm Sanctuary in CA and I’m glad to know there is a cabin for lodging. Petting a turkey sounds right up my alley! 🙂

  9. Al says

    My girlfriend was mostly meat-free before we started dating and had been vegetarian for periods in her life before, but she was what I would call a health-food vegetarian. As soon as we became a couple she stopped eating meat again out of respect for me. A few months into our relationship I took her to a local sanctuary for one of their volunteer days and we mixed and mingled and worked among all the animals. There was one pig in particular that was full of personality. When we went into the barn he would run over and stand up in his stall to get his head or chin scratched. Anyone could easily see the intelligence in his eyes and he sealed the deal for my girlfriend. After that I know she will never eat meat again. Three years later she still talks about him and often tells meat eaters about how he affected her.

  10. Gina says

    Great post, Carrie. For me, it brings up something I’ve been wondering. On Facebook, I ‘like’ the Mercy for Animals page as well as a couple other animal cruelty pages. I initially liked the pages because I wanted to be kept up to date on their activities towards saving animals, and in the beginning, I would share their posts on my facebook page, pleading (gently) with my Facebook friends and family to consider becoming vegan or vegetarian. I’ve noticed recently that when I see the pictures/posts from these organizations, I am filled with sadness at the images of poor animals. I’ve stopped posting them on my Facebook page because I feel like it’s a difficult thing for anyone to look at and I may be turning people off to my desire for them to consider veganism. I don’t know why your post reminded me of this, but I guess maybe it’s because we all find such sadness in cruelty to animals and we all want to do the right thing to not only show them our love and care, but also to further their right to a lovely life. Keep up the awesome work. You make a difference with every post.

    • says

      Thank you, Gina, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I know that feeling of dread when seeing pictures of animals in crisis and, for me, it doesn’t motivate, but more paralyzes. I have tried to keep that in mind with my approach to activism. Some might call this the “gentle approach,” but it goes along with my personality and feels natural to me. Thank you for your kind words.

  11. says

    What a lovely story! I have found myself at several sanctuaries in our state–all for birds. Thank you for posting about this. Your old reasons for not wanting to go were pretty much how I felt at all of the bird places. They were in large caged areas, most were obviously ailing in some way, and they looked very unhappy. Having been owned my many cats in my life, I can tell you that over the years, I have come to the understanding that Nature knows what she is doing, and animals appreciate that. Of course, humans often step in and ruin the lives of countless animals, and that’s a really bad thing.

    I love what you wrote about people doing good work every day. The Go in Peace sign is perfect. Thanks for brightening my day!

  12. Abby says

    Great message! I think it is so important to emphasize all the wonderful things about going to animal shelters. Yes, it can be an emotional experience, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

  13. says

    Interesting timing on this. I’m glad to see another sensitive soul. I have not been to a sanctuary but just today fostered an elephant! This week I have experienced some of that anger, frustration and utter sadness with regards to what I’ve recently learned about the rise in poached endangered species. I’ve literally been crying all week. I like so many others can not seem to watch or see pictures of cruelty without becoming so deeply affected but I want to help. It saddens me beyond measure to know the heartlessness that exists in our world out there. But it’s so important to learn of the people help these animals. I’m rambling. But thanks for your thoughts on this subject. We all CAN make a difference. It’s finding our individual how.

    • says

      Hi Jodi, thanks for the note. That is really great about fostering the elephant. I feel so connected to elephants, too, and I cannot read about their destruction without getting overwhelmed with grief. I commend you for following your heart to bring light to the issue. Xoxo.

  14. Lul says

    I’ve been to Wishing Well Animal Sanctuary in Bradford, Ont. I love going and visiting the animals. They are all so precious. They are actually having an open house this Saturday. The only part that makes me sad is when I’m leaving. I find my thoughts turn to those who aren’t the lucky ones. It just makes me more determined to praise and encourage a vegan lifestyle as often as I can and when ever I can slip it into a conversation.

    • says

      Enjoy the open house, Lul! I wish I were visiting animals this weekend, too. I love your thoughts about encouraging and commending vegan lifestyles. I try to do the same, too. 🙂

  15. says

    I love the image of the pigs going camping under the trees! 🙂 I do need to get to Gentle Barn… I keep meaning to but haven’t yet ~ thanks for the encouragement!

    • says

      You’re welcome, Kelli! I loved the image of pigs going camping, too, especially because I just re-read Charlotte’s Web recently and it made me smile imagining the pigs organizing a camping trip. 🙂 I just learned about the Gentle Barn and want to visit. Let me know if you get there and what you think.

  16. Kerry says

    Yay to you for moving through your hesitation and visiting Pigs Peace! Though I live in South Florida at the moment, I am a Seattle girl, and Pigs Peace is a very special place to my family. We made a habit of visiting every Mother’s Day as a family, as my mom, like me, is a big advocate for animals. It made me happy to read your post and visit those memories in my heart. Thank you for being a sensitive soul with a huge heart for the animals and thank you for promoting Pig’s Peace. Now, I simply cannot WAIT to move back to the Seattle area! <3

    • says

      Thanks for the note, Kerry! I’m so glad you enjoyed my post on Pigs Peace. It was such a lovely experience for me and perfect for my first visit to an animal sanctuary. Seattle is a great place, I can see why you would be anxious to move back. You do remember how cold it gets in the winter, though, right? 🙂

  17. says

    I’m really glad you posted about this. I have been on the fence for a few years about visiting one myself. I too thought it would make me sad. But it looks like you had such a positive experience that maybe I will try and go. I’ve actually been wanting to organize a trip for my meetup group to go – I think it’d be a nice group activity.

  18. Patty says

    I’m so glad you got to go to the sanctuary! This is wonderful! Thank you, for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and photos. I love these sweet pigs, and they do look happy. Get well, soon. xo

  19. Alanna says

    Thank you for this. We live outside Seattle and I’d like to take my children to this sanctuary. We’ve been eating vegetarian for more than year and vegan since January. We talk about animals a lot but I think interacting with them on a farm will have a profound impact. Thanks again. 🙂

    • says

      Alanna, Pigs Peace would be a great place to take kids! You necessarily get to pet that many pigs, but feeding them is a lot of fun and Judy, the Sanctuary owner, is wonderful.

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