Giving Credit Where It’s Due: Humanimal Jessica Thanks Mom for Teaching Her to Put Compassion First 

Compassion for animals runs in the family for Farm Sanctuary Caregiver Jessica Due. The lifelong vegetarian learned at a young age to value the importance of embarking on her own journey – and by extension, the ability to inspire others to make a difference. “My mother always shared the belief that we should show compassion to all animals and not eat sentient beings,” Jess remembers. “However, she didn’t want to impose her views on her children; she wanted us all to find our own path.

Jess and a young Paul Harvey: one of many animal ambassadors whom Jessica is proud to work with each day! 

She told all her children that once we were old enough to decide on our own, we could start eating meat or we could continue with the vegetarian lifestyle – it was up to us.”

Jessica learned to respect and protect cattle like Pinto from an early age. 

But when the time came, Jessica was alone in making the decision to stick with vegetarianism. “I was so frustrated and shocked,” she recalls. “I felt that [my siblings] had abandoned [my mother], so I decided to stay vegetarian. It was as simple as that: I didn’t want my mother to be sad and alone. I had no idea that decision was one that would send me into my lifelong path of compassion and one I am thankful for every day.” Jessica’s compassionate journey started out with her choice to extend kindness towards her mother, and to continue upholding the values she had built their family around. Over the next two decades, however, Jess would use these teachings as a springboard to further develop her own activism.

Jessica believed she was doing the best she could to help all animals in need – from forsaking meat from her diet to petitioning presidents to end the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. She didn’t yet understand that using hens for eggs or cows for milk could be harmful – it was hard for Jess to comprehend the exploitation that was hidden in plain sight. It all started to make sense once she was forced to confront her own role in the animals’ suffering – how, despite her good intentions, she was unwittingly contributing to practices that supported animal cruelty. From that moment on, Jess realized how interrelated all beings are – land animal, sea animal, and humanimal alike – and how we could create peace in our own lives by understanding and honoring the bonds we all share.

Sweet, gentle Bruno was the son of a dairy cow — Jessica would soon come to realize just how much is at stake for male calves just like him. 

“In my late twenties I found myself employed at a farm animal rescue,” Jess says. “I remember telling my new coworkers that I had never eaten meat with great pride. I also remember their faces as they smiled and then asked me when I went vegan. I was stunned. What did they mean, vegan? Why did I need to be vegan to show compassion towards animals? I was doing everything I could do – why should I give up cheese and dairy? There were dairy cows in California that simply produced milk for our enjoyment. I had seen the commercials – I was sure it was true. Yes, marketing is that good, that I truly believed that ‘happy cows’ came from California.”

Jess was not alone with this assumption. But after a gracious coworker gently guided her through the truth behind dairy production, Jess realized that she had the power to make a difference by refusing to continue to participate in these systems.

“She asked me, ‘Where does human milk come from?’ and I said, ‘A lactating mom.’ She then watched me as it all clicked and the comfortable life I had known as a vegetarian fell apart around me. I had no idea about the abuse on factory farms and in the dairy industry. And after watching a three-minute undercover video my world was turned upside down and I made the decision that nothing, not even cheese, was worth being a part of what I had just seen.

Male goats like Paul Harvey are also harmed by the goat dairy industry — but when we start to make the connections, it’s easy to see animals like Paul as someone, not something. 

“I called my mom shortly after making the decision to go vegan and explained the truth about the dairy industry and what I had just seen. After our phone conversation, she went vegan with me.” And so, Jessica’s compassion came full circle as she helped her mom align her actions with her compassionate values – just as she had done for her.

Jessica is proud to say that she is vegan for Millie and countless hens just like her. 

Nearly five-and-a-half years later, Jess takes pride in how effective the power of compassion can be – and her journey serves as inspiration to anyone who hopes to help others along on their own compassionate journeys. It’s important to support people wherever they are. Many, like Jess, believe they are doing all they can to make a difference – and these actions should be celebrated, as all movement in the direction of plant-based living is important and should be regarded as such. There are always ways to improve – for all of us – but these realizations can only be enacted when we feel willing, able, and ready to make a change. 

Jessica and the magnificent Mr. Ed — here, he lives the dignified life he knows he deserves.

Jess has been so moved by the power of compassion that she hopes to empower all she meets to embark on the personal paths they can feel good about – in her both her role as a caregiver at our Southern California Shelter and through mentoring opportunities outside of Farm Sanctuary life. “I volunteer at a vegan care farm, working with at-risk youth, teaching them how to care for rescued farm animals and how to grow their own food with the use of permaculture. My family and I have recently purchased three acres that we are working to become fully sustainable within five years. As a permaculturist, I highly enjoy gardening and having my hands in soil.” Jess nurtures those around her to tap into their own potential – to take charge of their lives while making a difference for others.   .

Jessica gives some love to Safran steer. 

And she extends this same courtesy to the rescued residents of Farm Sanctuary’s Southern California Shelter. There, she helps ensure these beings live the quality of life that they deserve. And, Jessica demonstrates each day that farm animals have a lot to say when we make the choice to listen – and how we can learn so much about ourselves by acknowledging and supporting the connections that we all share.

At Farm Sanctuary, animals like Honky Tonk donkey are valued as the magnificent individuals they truly are! 

Jess first visited Farm Sanctuary in 2012 after leaving her job at another farm animal sanctuary, and began volunteering shortly thereafter. “I fell in love with the animals and the staff rather quickly and I was eager to immerse myself in the Farm Sanctuary world.” Jessica officially joined our caregiving team in October 2015, and spends her days giving our rescued residents the care and love they need to thrive. “The day normally starts with our animals in isolation care,” Jess says. “I start with giving them their needed medical care – we are always helping animals in need; therefore, we are constantly having animals in isolation and quarantine areas. The day continues with opening barns and giving medications to animals in need. Since most farm animals come from abuse and neglectful backgrounds, they need constant, loving care.” 

Jess meets all challenges with grace and dedication, from routine to the extraordinary. Whether she’s extending a hand in friendship to an animal in distress or assisting in a lifesaving rescue endeavor, Jessica treats all interactions with utmost importance – after all, each individual animal we encounter has a unique story to tell. And we do our best to ensure that he or she is treated with the care and kindness that they deserve – no matter how long or short their time with us may be.

Jessica bonds with Dopey pig, who will forever hold a place in her heart. 

One of Jessica’s most memorable experiences at Farm Sanctuary happened this summer, when she helped evacuate the animals from our Southern California Shelter during the Sand Fire. This was the first time we have ever needed to evacuate one of our sanctuaries, and it was a frightening time for both the animals and humanimals involved. But Jessica and her team remained level-headed throughout the process, and thanks to their love and dedication, the evacuation – and time spent at the evacuation site – went as smoothly as possible.

 “On July 24, we got the call that the sanctuary had to be evacuated due to the Sand Fire, which was rapidly spreading and containment on it was very minimal. We all rushed to the farm and got to work. We were able to successfully evacuate over 100 animals and get them to safe evacuation sites,” Jess recalls. “[But] the day didn’t end there; we split up the shifts so that we could cover 24-hour shifts in all the locations. Regardless of how stressful the situation was, I was filled with pride watching my coworkers and our wonderful volunteers work tirelessly to get the animals to safety, communicate effectively, and show compassion in each situation that arose.

Jessica checks in on her pal Mo at the evacuation site.

“The next week was a blur of round-the-clock care for the animals. The care wasn’t just extended to our animals, but also to other animals that had been left at the evacuation site without proper care. So not only did our shifts include the animals in our care, but any and all animals that were in need due to being displaced by the fire. I will never forget that day or week, as it will always stand out as the day I knew I was at the right place doing the right thing at the right time.”

Giving Jimmy the Snout a cooling “shower” as they waited out the fire.

This experience confirmed why Jessica and her team do what they do – nothing is impossible when you are driven by compassion and feel called to make a difference in any way you can. The team worked long hours and even slept at the evacuation site to ensure that all of the animals had everything they needed to feel at ease, despite the circumstances that had occurred. And our caregivers learned so much about themselves throughout this process – most importantly, how fulfilling it can be to stand up for what you know to be right, and work together to just do good, in any way we can.

Jessica enjoys some downtime with William steer at the evacuation site.

 And everything they do, no matter how challenging, is for the animals. Jessica feels fortunate to not only be supported by a wonderful humanimal family, but values the relationships with our rescued residents, who enrich her own life as much as she does for them.

Sharing a sweet moment with Yoda llama. 

“I have a tendency to fall in love with the outcasts, the old, the ‘ugly,’ and the ill-tempered animals. Farm animals in general are discarded by the masses as nothing more than something to consume, so my list of favorites grows daily as new neglected animals come in, in need.

Jess helped Bernadette — a blind, elderly sheep — feel safe and sound in her arms. 

“Dopey was the first old man, but not the last, with whom I fell in love with here at Farm Sanctuary. His old body showed signs of a life lived to the fullest. His gentle eyes and his stubborn attitude made my heart sing. I found myself spending my lunches with the old fella. In the cold winter days he would even scoot over and share his bed with me. I would sing and caress him. His gentle eyes spoke the universal language of love and I had found my happy place. He enjoys long naps and good food, my kind of man!

Spending quality time with Dopey in the barn.

Jess lovingly gives Dopey a drink of Gatorade to keep him hydrated on a hot day. 

Making sure her thirsty friend had plenty to slurp. 

Safran is known as a bit of a butthead – my kind of guy again! Knowing him when he was a baby and watching him grow into one of the leaders of the herd is truly amazing to witness. Safran has become a part of my family. When I am out in the cattle yard he is never far away. One of his favorite things to do is my hair. He tends to think I don’t do my hair well and he likes to help me out with cow licks.

Safran steer: the greatest hairstylist in all the land!

“When I first noticed Mo’s sweet but mischievous eyes, I had all kinds of questions. The staff told me that he wasn’t really a people person, and like most sheep kept to his sheep friends. I couldn’t help but try to engage with this handsome guy. As a lot of great friendships start, it all started with a shared meal. I figured the way to most people’s heart is through their stomachs – Mo was no different. I started bringing him banana slices and then strawberries. He started waiting for me at the gate and then we shared our first kiss. You can now find him waiting at the gate for a kiss and a treat. It melts my heart each day.

Sweet, perfect Mo, leaning in for a kiss! 

“I am a sucker for all the animals, really.  For example, Peanut just came to us, and I am already madly in love and follow all of her commands. My heart grows each day when I can bring some comfort to an animal in need, or share a kiss with a sheep friend. I feel good knowing I am not alone with this desire, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of such an incredible team.

Early adventures with Peanut, one of Farm Sanctuary’s newest residents. From the largest of steers to the smallest of chickens, all animals capture Jessica’s heart in their own unique way.

“Since starting working at Farm Sanctuary, I have learned a great deal about the care for farm animals. As a general statement, it is hard to find good information regarding care for farm animals. Even when I was in vet tech school, the information we were being given on farm animal care was appalling. There is a huge disconnect for people who care for cats and dogs to those that care for farm animals. I never understood how someone could say they have the animal’s best intentions in mind, when they eat the same animals at home. I love coming to work every day knowing I am surrounded by people who want the best for these animals, and are not disconnected to the realities of their lives. We all have common goals at Farm Sanctuary: to help as many animals as possible and show compassion in each and every single situation – to our rescued farm animals and to one another. It’s great to look up and see your coworker giving their all, right beside you.”

Some of Jessica’s “people”: our main cattle herd…

…and humanimal pals Breezy and Daniel modeling Farm Sanctuary-ware!

Jessica teaches us how important it is to value all individuals as they are, and encourage them to be the very best versions of themselves. We value her love and dedication to helping every individual she encounters – animal and humanimal alike – and are honored to have her support as we work to create a more compassionate world for all beings. We can learn so much from Jess’ own journey, and she inspires us each day to do and be our very best – demonstrating how wonderful the world can be when we align our actions with our values and treasure the beauty inherent in all beings.

david bowie’s star on the walk of fame at hollywood and highland this morning. a true rebel who not only really couldn’t be bothered with whatever people thought of him, but was a pioneer and paved the way for other musicians with an avant garde & experimental style to express themselves with a bit more courage. i can’t believe it, i’m completely in shock. we’ve lost a legend. hope you’re at peace now. 

photo credit/donated by mike muncatchy, do not remove the caption.