Animal Studies

Sanctuary: Reflecting on Refuge
a conference about care and purpose at farmed animal sanctuaries

September 29-30, 2017
Location: Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut
Hosted by VINE Sanctuary and Wesleyan Animal Studies 

Sanctuaries for formerly farmed animals are simultaneously sites of cross-species care, ethical engagement, politics, and knowledge production. For formerly farmed animals, sanctuaries aim to create a space of care not dependent on commodity production. For animal advocates, sanctuaries often provide intentional community organized around a set of ethical and political commitments about the place of farmed animal species in society. For scholars, farmed animal sanctuary is both a subject of critical engagement and a site to study human-farmed animal relations outside of the context of commodification for agricultural and food production.

The aim of this conference is to bring together those who are working in farmed animal sanctuaries with scholars who are thinking about sanctuary to open a sustained dialogue about issues that are of continued importance to the sanctuary movement. Through creating an intentional space for dialogue, we hope that practitioners and scholars might come away with fruitful insights about the current state of the farm sanctuary movement as well as inspiration for its path forward. To this end, we pose a series of questions as possible topics for conversation (although we warmly welcome proposing and sharing topics related to the sanctuary movement that we have not included here):    

  • What do we mean by sanctuary?
  • How might farmed animal sanctuaries, sanctuary work, and vegan advocacy shift or be impacted and/or reimagined in a changing political, economic, and environmental climate?
  • What kinds of ethical questions need to be addressed within the sanctuary movement?
  • How are sanctuaries (and sanctuary work) gendered and racialized?
  • How do sanctuaries enact and conceptualize an ethic of care?
  • How might sanctuary be understood more broadly in terms of other forms of refuge (for instance, veganic food sovereignty or vegan food justice organizing as a means of decolonial and antiracist activism)?
  • How might farmed animal sanctuaries resist or reproduce ableism in human and nonhuman contexts through the work they do?
  • How do sanctuaries handle death and dying—both in the practical and emotional sense, and in communicating about death to supporters and the general public?
  • What role does witnessing, grief, and experiences of PTSD play in farmed animal sanctuary work?
  • How does the structural organization and/or governance of sanctuaries impact how they run, how animals are cared for, how workers experience the sanctuary, and how the sanctuary interacts with visitors and the broader community?
  • What can be gained from dialogue across different approaches to sanctuary work?
  • Where do sanctuaries fit in relation to the animal protection and/or liberation movements and within even broader contexts of social justice?
  • How—in practice and philosophy—do (and should) sanctuaries differ from other sites of animal enclosure—like zoos, aquaria, petting zoos, or farms? Do they share similarities?
  • How are sanctuaries engaged in knowledge-making practices?

The conference will be comprised of paired talks and panel discussions. We envision talks to be engaging and broadly accessible (not papers); the panel discussions will be lively conversations among panel participants. Please send expressions of interest to by March 30, 2017, including: 1) a brief description of the topic you would like to address, and 2) a brief bio.  

If you would like to attend but aren’t interested in presenting, you can be in touch about that too. We will be raising funds to try to include sanctuary workers who are interested in participating and need financial assistance to attend.

Confirmed speakers include: Elan Abrell, Susie Coston, Karen Davis, Sue Donaldson, Katie Gillespie, Lori Gruen, pattrice jones, Justin Van Kleeck, Will Kymlicka, Indra Lahiri, Melody Martinez, lauren Ornelas, Timothy Pachirat, Brenda Sanders.

Following the conference, there will be an opportunity to visit to VINE Sanctuary on Sunday October 1, 2017 for all who are interested.