The Gentle Barn: A Look into a World Without Cruelty

When the stock market crashed, Lucy’s owner was forced to sell all of his beloved pets, including his cow, Lucy. With the slaughterhouse as her destination, The Gentle Barn stepped in and brought Lucy to their California location to be her new forever home. Her sweet, humble nature was perfect for teaching compassion to the visitors who toured the barn every Sunday. When orphaned baby calf Ferdinand was rescued by The Gentle Barn, Lucy easily took on a maternal role as she bonded with him. Lucy even miraculously began producing milk and would nurse Ferdinand every night as part of their routine. Sadly, Lucy’s age took a toll on her, and the vets decided it was her time. The rest of the herd grieved her loss, but none as mournful as Ferdinand. 

(Lucy and Ferdinand; Photo by The Gentle Barn)

Lucy’s story is just one of the thousands of animals The Gentle Barn has saved over the past 20 years. Founded by Ellie Laks and Jay Weiner, The Gentle Barn has expanded its California-based efforts to locations in Missouri and Tennessee as well. The goal is to have a location in every state, but the mission remains the same: to promote a world where we become connected with animals and nature again. The Gentle Barn works to be a voice for those who cannot stand up for themselves, animals and children. By educating the public on the global environmental issues happening as well as the neglect and abuse animals and children are facing, they hope to encourage future generations to be an active part of the solution.

I had the opportunity to visit The Gentle Barn Missouri this past summer, and it was an experience I will never forget. The Gentle Barn Missouri is home to a variety of rescued animals, most famously The St. Louis Six, a group of cows who escaped a slaughterhouse and evaded police through the streets of downtown St. Louis in 2017. After a long custody battle, the cows were brought home to their sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives in peace. Only five remain today after Spirit passed away due to injuries he sustained from the police in his escape, but his memory still remains on the property. Besides the cows, goats, turkeys, pigs, donkeys, and one sheep also call The Gentle Barn Missouri home.

During a normal, two hour Sunday visit, guests can expect to watch a short video at the beginning. For the Missouri location, it was about The St. Louis Six’s journey, as well as other cases of animal neglect or abuse. I would recommend bringing some tissues if you’re a crier like me. Although you do not have to be vegetarian or vegan to visit their locations, The Gentle Barn does promote a cruelty-free lifestyle. Vegan brands will sponsor The Gentle Barn and have free samples available for the visitors for that month. After the video, guests are free to roam the property with volunteers posted at every animal enclosure to ensure the gate is managed and safety for the guests and animals. They also will share the stories of the animals in that area. 

(Jay Weiner and Ellie Laks; Photo by The Gentle Barn)

From a naive perspective, The Gentle Barn could appear like a standard petting zoo. There are animals and brushes and you just spend some time petting different barn animals, so what’s the big deal? It’s teaching animal welfare from a young age. It’s allowing people to view animals as more than just a dinner meal. It’s telling their stories so people who also have faced hard situations can sympathize. It’s broadening the connection you feel towards a rescued animal towards all of nature, and seeing the mass destruction large corporations and human life have done to it.

Whether you find yourself in Los Angeles, Nashville, or St. Louis, The Gentle Barn is a great stop for anyone who loves animals. They are open on Sundays and you can reserve tickets online. From brushing cows to giving pigs belly rubs to rocking a turkey in your arms, The Gentle Barn is a truly unique experience and eye-opening to a world without cruelty towards animals, each other, or our planet. 

To find out more about The Gentle Barn, visit their website or Facebook page.