By Gianni Lomeli
It’s a cold Sunday afternoon at the Gentle Barn, with many families huddled together enjoying delicious vegan snacks and the company of the enormous multicolored cows, horses and mules. There are many joyful children running around the stables cheerfully ready to feed carrots to the horses or head over to the shed to brush the cows.
Many of the workers and volunteers rally up visitors to give them an educational walk-through of the Gentle Barn and tell the stories of the various animals that reside within.
The Gentle Barn is an animal sanctuary in the Santa Clarita Valley that rescues many different types of animals from neglect, abuse and slaughter. Although the main purpose of the Gentle Barn is to rescue and rehabilitate animals and pair them with inner city at risk and special needs children with similar stories as the animals to help heal with their life struggles. There is a message that the Gentle Barn is trying to spread throughout the globe.
“Teaching people kindness and compassion to animals, each other and our planet is our mission statement,” said Jay Weiner, co-founder of the Gentle Barn.
The Gentle Barn was founded by Ellie Laks in 1999. In 2002, Weiner joined the Gentle Barn as a volunteer. They have three locations in California, Nashville, and St. Louis. Through all the properties, they have 200 animals including horses, cows, donkeys, and emu. The organization is a public charity that receives money through grants, family foundations and individual sponsorships of the animals.
“People need to understand the impact that animals have on our environment,” Weiner said. “I think it’s really important to choose a kind and more compassionate life which is what the animals show us.”
Weiner stresses the importance of choosing a plant based diet as a way to let visitors understand what is happening around the world to animals and the effect they play on the environment. He insists that, not only does engaging with the Gentle Barn educate you on what’s happening environmentally, it also educates you on establishing a connection to animal life and what it does for human beings.
“With our at risk program we bring in kids with the same story as the animals and we get these tough teenage boys who have all these walls up be completely disarmed by hugging a cow or cuddling a turkey,” said Olivia, a volunteer at The Barn. “It’s something I can’t put into words, but I feel like it gives them permission to take the time to heal from whatever they’ve gone through as a human being.”