by Sara D'Angelo

“The idea of the Sanctuary Network dates back to 2010 and by 2012 the network was established formally. Things began with Porcikomodi (Lombardy) and the Fattoria della Pace Ippoasi farm sanctuary (Tuscany) because we had to face difficulties and felt the need to collaborate to grow together. We began by drafting a value statement for animal shelters and sanctuaries that wanted, or want, to join the network. The statement defines the elementary but fundamental rules to follow and believe in, like, for example, the castration of male animals, because it doesn’t make sense to continue to bring animals into the world if they are destined to live in cages, even if they are spacious and beautiful, like a sanctuary. Saving animals is important but it’s also important to know how to communicate the idea that another world is possible, and so we make every animal guest an ambassador for their species. With their survival, these ambassadors tell their story, which is also the story of the suffering and reclusion that they were destined for.
For us at the sanctuary anti-speciesism is fundamental and accordingly it is inconceivable for us to give a monetary value to an individual (or buy it, as you would say). There are many animals to save, and we are involved in this on a daily basis, through rescuing animals, taking them from farms that give up their animals or taking in the so-called “production rejects”, that is, the disabled or sick animals that don’t even get taken to abattoirs, but are killed, and that’s it.
We aim at organizing ourselves in a horizontal way, trying to recreate a small model of the world that we want in which not only animals are free, but also people. We try to build relationships based on respect among all, humans and animals. The animals in the sanctuaries don’t need to do anything; they rest, and as far as possible use their time and the space as they want. It isn’t, however, easy to manage them, also and above all from an economic point of view.
You need to be capable of doing many things to run a sanctuary, there are many ways. Here at Porcikomodi we organize a week-long training internship for people interested in opening a sanctuary. A theoretical and practical internship that includes management issues, regulations, health issues… we organize workshops to learn how to manage fundraising, as well as economic and environmental sustainability. The sanitary, veterinary and ecological aspects of every single species are important too. And then all the daily, practical things involved in running a sanctuary, such as feeding, but also cleaning the bedding. People don’t realise how much work a sanctuary requires, without including potential veterinary emergencies. We ask a fee to be paid by those doing the internship, however it is ultimately a reimbursement of costs as we provide food, accommodation and pay ourselves for the experts who are at times invited to give lessons.
When animals are rescued, for example, we receive some help for their upkeep, but there are still problems related to space, because we do not only need the space to house another cow, for example, but also the money its upkeep requires, in addition to the workforce, that is, the volunteers, to care for it.
Mistakenly, people often think that sanctuaries are a sort of animal junkyard, a parking lot where animals are taken and forgotten about. If in Italy, however, laws exist to support dog shelters, and every single dog they house, whether they have arrived by correct means from the commune or were rescued, no regulations exist in support of sanctuaries, that are considered in all respects as animal holdings.
Moreover, when we are able to rescue farm animals, it means that the conditions in which these poor creatures lived in were inconceivable, because mistreatment is legal. Once they have been rescued, the worst is yet to come, because if a keeper isn’t nominated to take care of them, these animals that are not a revenue but only a cost for the breeder they are abandoned to themselves and left starving. This is something that happens so frequently that we as a network take on the duty of legal custody, even without financial support—it’s a miracle if they pay us for the transport. Whilst for dogs it’s possible to obtain some funding, for farm animals we are often told, at some point, that the solution is to send them to the abattoir.
I can also make a plan to empty and relocate the farm, but I must also be put in a position to work and to receive at least the money for keeping the animals, not to mention the risk that animals might get sick and there will be veterinary costs to cover.
So, we are collecting funds through calls to action on social media, dinners, fundraising, calls for proposals, anything. Sponsorship is also a possibility, but the realities that are aware of the issue are generally small, artisanal and have limited budgets.
We know very well what we want to do and where we want to go. We firmly believe in the network and we are trying to show a path that others might follow. We meet on a monthly basis via Skype and in person twice a year, one of these meetings is held in autumn in Milan, at MiVeg, but it’s not easy, because each one of us has thousands of emergencies and a full time job, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year!”