Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary, the first and only sanctuary in Colombia was founded in 2006 and has rescued over 700 animals including cats, dogs, rats, cows, horse, pigs, turkey, chickens, roosters, bulls and rabbits. We had the opportunity to interview founder Juliana on the history of the sanctuary, the sanctuary’s educational programs, vegan ethos and mission, vegan food relief and more.
“We connect everything. First connect people with animals that they normally see as food. For example, we have rescue dogs and on tour days first we visit the dogs and people rub their bellies and play. Then we pass to the pigs and rub their bellies and play… and then they realize it is exactly the same! Then the speciesism disappears from their hearts, people fall in love with the animals and their stories, it is very easy. I don’t have to even mention the word vegan, love is in human hearts, they are just disconnected, we just bring everything together.” -Juliana
Interview with Juliana of Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary
Your’s is the only sanctuary in Colombia- why do you think this is and do you see this changing any time soon and more sanctuaries being founded?
Juliana: I created the first one because my rule is, if it is something we need and nobody will do it, I will do it. I researched and read a lot about sanctuaries in other countries and spoke with people about the management. I researched how to care for these kinds of animals. To create a sanctuary you need your own land- that was the first step and it is not cheap, I saved money for almost 26 years for the first land we have. Then the rescues started. I don’t know why our sanctuary is the only one still, I guess it is the lack of compromise. This requires your full attention, you have to give 100%. It’s not like half of your life will be here, all your life will be here- no vacations, no extra things. Then the money part- to maintain these animals is not cheap and Colombia is not a rich country. Thanks to my husband, I had contacts in the USA and registered my charity there. So I can receive donations from the USA, where I found more support and where my sanctuary is now well known by other organizations. Others tried to open sanctuaries and failed and at the end. They sent me the animals. They tried but they don’t understand the responsibility. I hope this will change soon and I am ready to give any advice and support.
How does education about veganism tie into sanctuary operations?
Juliana: In every corner and every stage! We connect everything. First connect people with animals that they normally see as food. For example, we have rescue dogs and on tour days first we visit the dogs and people rub their bellies and play. Then we pass to the pigs and rub their bellies and play… and then they realize it is exactly the same! Then the speciesism disappears from their hearts, people fall in love with the animals and their stories, it is very easy. I don’t have to even mention the word vegan, love is in human hearts, they are just disconnected, we just bring everything together. This is not the only the place where animals who have their ticket to freedom came, but this is a place where those animals tell the stories about the reality and ask help from people for those who are still suffering.
In addition to running the sanctuary, you and your team also have educational programs, vegan cooking workshops, vegan comics and other activism. Can you share a bit about the scope of activities you are involved in?
Juliana: We offer our famous free cooking vegan workshops, twice a month, with only one rule to be free: they have to bring a non-vegan member of the family. Why? We have noticed that many young people want to go vegan but they live with their parents and they have to eat what is at home. We want a family member in our cooking workshops to help them to see the reality, so they don’t have fear of lack of nutrients. We don’t think that parents want their child to kill animals. Parents are just worried about the nutritional part. I am veg from a young age and my son is vegan, they trust me. We also have the first and only vegan comic in Spanish that we distribute for free to schools and college, this is helping a lot. We also have the VR 360 glasses showing the reality of animals raised for food. We use these in college or in big events, it is life changing! We cover each corner and we just dream with a vegan world.
Your husband, Paul Turner, is the founder of the largest food relief program on the planet (and all vegan food relief as well). Can you share a bit more about Food for Life Global, your work together and how readers can learn more and support.
Juliana: I knew about FFLG when I was 11 years old. I was amazed at the beautiful things they do, so I decided to do the same here in Colombia and I started cooking and with one friend, distributing food to poor people, special seniors who are always alone and with very poor nutrition. 5 years later I wrote to the director of FFLG (now my husband) asking how I can do more to help. He never replied to me! Years later through my work with FFL in my country and in Ecuador, we met and now we are together and now I am the coordinator of FFL Latin America. FFL is not only feeding vegan food to people in need, but we also distribute food to reach people. What we want to do with this is to teach people that we all are a big family and we share and we have enough to share- this is the mission of “Uniting the world with pure food“. We distribute around 2 million fresh vegan food a day in 60 countries with 210 projects. We don’t only share food, we share love, we share hope with just one plate of food.
I know everyday at the Sanctuary is probably very different but could you share a snapshot of how a day at the sanctuary and farm might look?
Juliana: It is crazy! Each day is totally different from the one before. One calm day is waking up at 5:30 am to start to prepare the food for the animals, feed everyone, then get my human son ready for Gymboree, clean the poop of 110 animals, give medicine to those who need it. Then I have to start to work doing translations or getting donations, manage the boutique for animal companions we have, or the petsitter we are opening (all to raise fund for the rescue animals), meetings all the time, legal parts-because a sanctuary is not only what people see on Instagram (we cuddle beautiful animals. Of course I am a human too, so I have to do my laundry and cook and care for my human son too and go to the doctor. But there are crazy crazy days, and that is 90% of the time. We have to run to the sanctuary if there is a new animal rescue. Today I was ready to work on the website because there are some problems there and suddenly I have to run like crazy to the vet because one animal is crying in pain from a cramp. The day before a turkey was not feeling good. Each day is something new- the day before I rescued 5 rats from a lab. Each day is a new adventure and one step forward to a world without animal cruelty
Photos: Daniel Turbert is an award winning filmmaker and photographer who works with animal sanctuaries around the world using his photography to help with campaigns, raising awareness, and fundraising efforts. View his work at The Sentient Project.
Visit Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary: https://julianasanimalsanctuary.org/
Feature & Interview by Annika Lundkvist at Pacific Roots Magazine Editorial Desk