Kim Sturla, Animal Place


Kim Sturla, Animal Place
Kim Sturla is the Executive Director of Animal Place and co-founded the sanctuary in 1989. She has been a central figure in the animal rights movement for 30 plus years. Sturla wrote the first law in the country that protects pre-university students unwilling to participate in animal dissections. For more than a decade, she served as director of the Peninsula Humane Society. Kim is the resident Pig Whisperer, able to communicate beautifully with even the wiliest of pigs! She shares her home and life with dogs Ralph, Marty, and Sally.


Hello everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass, you are listening to the second part of It’s All About Foods here on August 19th, 2014, and we’re going to continue this theme here of talking about wonderful people who are doing wonderful things for the planet and getting to know our fellow friends the non-human animals out there and giving them names and treating them the way they should be treated and we can learn a lot from that.

Kim Sturla is my next guest, she is the executive director of Animal Place and co-founded the sanctuary in 1989, she has been a central figure in the animal rights movement for 30 plus years. Sturla wrote the first law in the country that protects pre-University students unwilling to participate in animal dissections. For more than a decade she has served as director of the Peninsula Humane Society and is the resident pig whisperer, able to communicate beautifully with even the wiliest of pigs, she shares her home and life with dogs Ralph, Marley and Sally.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi Kim, how are you today?

Kim Sturla: I’m fine, how are you?

Caryn Hartglass: OK, it’s really really happy to talk to you and I’m sorry in the last quarter century I haven’t had an opportunity to meet you.

Kim Sturla: Well, come on up to Animal Place and we’ll give you a grand farm tour.

Caryn Hartglass: I know, it sounds pretty good, you co-founded that sanctuary about, almost, yeah 25 years ago.

Kim Sturla: 25 years ago, yeah we celebrated our 25th birthday this year and boy have we seen the sanctuary grow from a little place that we co-founded to where it is now.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so, 1989, the world was a very different place, especially when it came to vegetarians, vegans and yeah. How are you so smart?

Kim Sturla: Well, you know, the other co-founder was a veterinary professor and I was involved in the Humane Society work, always was involved in a lot of issues; animals used in research, fighting the trapping of animals for fur, working on legislation to protect students from doing dissection, requiring spaying and neutering, but, you know, I had one of those “Ah Ha” moments when I started looking at the numbers, I started thinking “Gosh, look at all the millions of animals we euthanize in shelters and those that are hunted and trapped and used in research and testing and etc etc.” And I added up all those animals and it comes to about 1 1/2 % of the animals killed in the United States, you know 98% are farm animals, it’s the chickens and turkeys and cows and pigs and I realized I needed to kind of redirect the course I was on and focus on those that really had no advocates for them. It’s something that is invisible to most of us, those big numbers, 70 Billion today, those land animals who we eat for food, not including what’s in the water or who’s in the water, excuse me. But, at least, for the last quarter century there has been some good progress, it’s never fast enough for those of us who are involved, but, I guess when you look back at history, it’s been a good quarter century.

Caryn Hartglass: I think it’s been good for the availability of healthy vegan food.

Kim Sturla: Not for the animals though.

Caryn Hartglass: No, really seeing no improvements in the manner in which animals are raised and treated.

Kim Sturla: Actually, there’s probably more now because those people who have gotten the message it is not healthy to eat red meat, they’ve moved over to chicken and as a result many more lives have been lost, many more little lives, precious little lives.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, I heard about Animal Place recently, you’ve been in the news and I started this half of the show talking about giving animals names and there’s one who has a name, Panda, can you tell us the story? You know, when I first read it, I didn’t realize Panda was a cow.

Kim Sturla: Panda is a cow and he has an absolutely heart-breaking story but one that, unfortunately, isn’t all that unusual. He was being raised as an FFA animal, a Future Farmers of America, so I think as probably most folks realize, kids get involved in Future Farmers of America or 4H, they buy an animal, they raise him or her, they bond with, they take care of, there’s this trust that develops between the two, but of course that child is raising that animal exclusively to take to the county fair to sell him or her for how much per pound they get. And Panda had the unfortunate case of being raised by this student and he was housed at this high-school down in southern-central California and then a man, a 23 year old man, got into the school yard one evening, he doused Panda with gasoline and set him on fire. And, Panda was found the following morning covered in blistering burns, over 1/3 of his body, we know how painful burn injuries are and probably the humane thing to do was to put him out of his misery but the student chose to rehabilitate him only so that he could take him to the county fair and sell him, and he was scheduled to be sold at the county fair last month. And his story got a lot of attention and people begged us, I got so many emails and phone calls asking us to please rescue him. Long story or I should say short story is that we did get Panda, I drove down to Casa Robles, loaded him up in our stock trailer and brought him back to Animal Place, a week before he was scheduled to go the county fair to be slaughtered.

Caryn Hartglass: And Panda is doing very well…

Kim Sturla: And Panda is doing very well, very well. It was really interesting to go to the home, he was at the boys home and the trust that this cow had in this kid, for all he knew the kid was his friend. This is the only human that he really knew and bonded with and he trust and we let the kid lead him into our stock trailer, he could have easily had trustingly let the kid lead him into the auction house the following week, but it’s that ultimate betrayal, I always think “Gosh, what’s the best quality I’d want to instill in children?” and it would really be compassion and empathy and here is this 4H and FFA encouraging kids to bond with these animals, they take care of them, they nurture them and yet only really to do the ultimate betrayal, to sell them at auction when they are, you know, 6 to 9 months of age.

Caryn Hartglass: I often wonder, “why the world is as violent as it is?” And the news lately, it’s always horrible but it seems to be some really horrible things going all over.

Kim Sturla: Yes

Caryn Hartglass: In other countries and in our country as well. And I keep asking myself, “how do humans do these things?” And one of the answers that keeps coming back to me is “We all have violence in our own lives and we teach children violence and to accept it” and then the rest happens.

Kim Sturla: Exactly, rather than to nurture this, I mean how many kids do you see on the front page of your local paper at county fair and they are crying as their pig is going to market, boy you have a child that is bonding with an animal and has empathy and compassion. You want to nurture that quality, you don’t want to squelch it, you don’t want to stamp on it but you want it to blossom even more. So, yes, Panda is here and Panda now has a girlfriend, I’m happy to tell you.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that’s nice.

Kim Sturla: We rescued another little 4 year old Jersey Cow who had been rescued from actually a veal crate operation and he is quite enamored with her so Panda and Jazzy are their names, are good buddies and slowly they will be introduced to the big cow herds that we have here.

Caryn Hartglass: These groups, Future Farmers of America and 4H, I just sigh thinking about it, but, their needs to be things we can do about this, about raising children in this way. Back in March I spoke to about 250 cattle ranchers about climate change and animal agricultures contribution and there were some young children at this event that had raised some animals and they were giving them prizes and it was the same thing, they were going off to slaughter, and yet they were being rewarded for the worst thing they had done.

Kim Sturla: It’s interesting, I’ve gone to the county fairs many a time and I’ll walk around the barns and talk to the kids, just off the record, “Hey, what’s the name of your pig and oh, how long have you had her and are you taking her to the ring?” and then I’ll just say “Hey, is this kind of tough on you?” and I would say half of the children I’ve spoken to and I’ve spoken to many, will voluntarily say “it was the first time.” And that is so telling, that is the desensitization process happening right there. “It was the first time, but it’s easier” and then they go into justification mode “well, you know, I’m going to be able to buy a car with this money” or “it’s going to help me go to school”. So, it’s really interesting to see the pattern of the replies I get from the children when I’m talking to them.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and then when we’re grown up we justify all kinds of actions that are based on experiences like that.

Kim Sturla: Exactly

Caryn Hartglass: Ugh, OK, well happy ending for Panda.

Kim Sturla: Happy ending for Panda indeed.

Caryn Hartglass: Happy, happy beginning for Panda.

Kim Sturla: Yeah

Caryn Hartglass: Now, are you really a pig whisperer?

K I have to say, I think I am, I do have an affinity for pigs and I have, oh my goodness, I can’t even begin to tell you how many over 25 years that I’ve been able to have the honor of rescuing and living with and yeah there is something about pigs that I just, I love.

Caryn Hartglass: I want to know what they told you.

K : Well, you know, it’s that independent nature of them, they are very indulgent, they love food, they kind of have similar taste buds to humans in that offer them a head of broccoli or a nice juicy apple or cantaloupe and they are going to go for the juicy cantaloupe or apple. Or if you want to put in a pastry they’ll pick the pastry over some fruit or vegetable.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, I would always choose broccoli, but I’m not, I don’t know what to say.

Kim Sturla: They would probably choose broccoli if it was, you know, steamed and sautéed in a little margarine and garlic. They are just very engaging animals, they come up to you like dogs do, but then again they have that aloof-ness that cats have, so I find them as a real combination, those are two species that most people can really relate to, the cats and dogs. They’ve been so blind and I think that increases my empathy for them, they are so bright and you can’t forget that they are just so big you can have one huge animal that you can just hug.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, 25 years at Animal Place. What have been some of the highlights?

Kim Sturla: Golly, I think that any time we embark on a large rescue, that is a highlight for me and I’m grateful we have been able to do so many. I was there at Katrina and scooping up a couple thousand birds who were just scattered all over broiler farms. We’ve done a lot of chickens raised in battery cages, you know the ones that come from the egg industry, these are chickens, their whole lives have just been crammed in a cage, that’s all they know, they’ve never perched, they’ve never felt sunlight on them, they’ve never dust-bathed, they’ve never done anything, not even stretch their wings and we have, oh my goodness gracious, we’ve saved well over 10,000 of them over these past 4 years. So to pull them out of the cages and to transport them back to the sanctuary and to take them out of the transport crates and put them on the ground and watch them literally spread their wings for the first time and watch them flap. That is, that never gets old, that just never gets old, so I think it’s those moments when you are able to liberate a large number of lives and then maybe eventually they get placed into wonderful new forever homes, so.

Caryn Hartglass: You know these birds have been born in the factories and how do they know what to do what do when they are where their supposed to be and then amongst the greenery.

Kim Sturla: Yeah, some of them don’t, that’s the real interesting thing, that’s the rehabilitation process, there is a good month they’re with us before they are placed into homes, surprisingly however there will always be that first one or two who even on the day of the rescue they feel sunshine on them for the first time and they actually stretch out and take a sun-bath and after a few days some of them will start taking dust baths and the others will learn from them. It takes them a while to perch because they suffer from osteoporosis, their muscles have atrophied of course because they are not even able to move. So they have to build up their strength and it is a learning process, but to see them explore their new world, it’s just, it’s heart-warming, it’s joyful, it’s you know, it’s what this work is all about.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m on your website and I’m watching the little counter on the right-hand side, that’s how many animals have been slaughtered as long as this page has been opened, the numbers are always so mind-boggling, you know I said 70 Billion before, you said 140 Billion animals, I guess you are including sea animals, marine animals in here which doubles the number.

Kim Sturla: Mmm Hmm

Caryn Hartglass: Ding! And, it’s just incomprehensible.

Kim Sturla: It is, we are in the process of constructing our museum of animal farming here at the sanctuary and it’s going to be an interactive museum and we are trying to think of ways to illustrate the numbers and so if we just look at the United States, you know the number is about 10 Billion land animals each year, that’s just in the United States. Now, most of those are chickens raised for their flesh and it ends up being, actually, per second in the United States, 264 just chickens each second. You almost have to bring it back down to some of those small numbers because I can’t fathom what 10 Billion is, nobody can.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. 264 a second.

Kim Sturla: Yeah, I mean, those are the numbers and that’s just chickens and that’s just in the United States. So you know, we certainly have our work cut out for us. The sanctuary isn’t all we do, it can’t be all we do, we have to focus so much on preventative programs, it’s just essential that we educate as many people as we can.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, so what do you do? What are some of those programs?

Kim Sturla: Well, you know, I think one of my favorite programs and perhaps it’s because I began my career in the animal shelter world, is our Food For Thought program which is to do things like to ask SPCAs and Humane Societies to adopt a vegetarian policy for their events, so if they are going to have a fund raiser to help the dogs it makes no sense to be frying cows on the grill.

Caryn Hartglass: Mmm Hmm. What’s their reaction to that?

Kim Sturla: We have, gosh, we started this program probably 15 years ago and we just rejuvenated it this last year. There hasn’t been a whole lot of progress, I would say, since when I was working in shelters 25 years ago, most do not have vegan or vegetarian policy, that said, several are adopting and we even have a cash reward of $250 should they adopt one, just as a little incentive and a thank you. And we just presented an award to, oh gosh what was the name of the shelter, back in New Jersey, St. Hubert’s is it? They just adopted at Tony La Russa’s shelter in Walnut Creek California, they adopted. So, you know, it’s happening, but the thing is here are all these shelters that are in a wonderful position for role-modeling a compassionate diet.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. It’s not just shelters, unfortunately, it’s this human thing where we have the blinders on, I know it’s frustrating at these sort of events that their serving animals when they are trying to save and protect animals, but when I go to events like cancer research events or things about illnesses then they’re serving junk food and animal products and things that we know promote the disease, you know I don’t think you would see cigarettes or cigars offered at a lung cancer.

Kim Sturla: I couldn’t agree more, that is the analogy I use some much, I absolutely agree with you.

Caryn Hartglass: Somehow we got that one, but everything, you know, when it comes to food, we’ve such a long way to go.

Kim Sturla: We have such a long way to go. And it’s interesting in some ways it’s seeming a little overwhelming, but the beauty of this issue as it is so empowering because there is something, every single person can do all day long.

Caryn Hartglass: Say that again.

Kim Sturla: Even if everyone gave up eating meat and animal products in just one of their dishes for that day, and then slowly go along that path to increase the number of vegan meals they were having, that would just be terrific, so it is an incredible empowering issue, and it is in part of our responsibility, those of us working on behave of animals, is to give folks the tools that we have a sanctuary sweet e-news that we send to people with delicious recipes every week, and we do vegan cooking classes, you know, we’ve got to show people that it’s really so darn easy now a days to switch over to a healthier and far more humane diet.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. It is easier. So, what are you feeding your animals?

Kim Sturla: Well, my dogs are vegans, they have been for, gosh, this has been decades. The food we commercially prepared V-Dog, but there are several, several really good, high quality dog brands, dog food. And then I also supplement their food with, if I make a big dish of rice and barley, I put carrots and yams in there, and I boil it all up and then freeze it so they get that with their dry foods. They get a lot of pretty good healthy diet.

Caryn Hartglass: And then, the animals that you’ve rescued.

Kim Sturla: The animals we’ve rescued, well we have, our local grocery store, and has for years, donates that day-old produce to us, for the rabbit’s and the chickens and the pigs, and those that want it get some delicious foods and veggies. The cows, we have 600 acres here at Animal Place, so we are so fortunate in that most of the animals can just do free graze. We have to supplement it with grass hay and you know, they get their treats too, some grains, very little, because it is fattening. But, our animals are all on, you know, just dozens and dozens of acres, so they are able to go for free graze and have a very natural diet for their species.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s absolutely, you know, the answer obviously is to go vegan, it’s the answer to everything. And as I mention before, when I visited these cattle ranchers, I was on this feedlot seeing hundreds of cows fenced in sitting on dirt, it was just, this incredibly unnatural thing. And unfortunately, you may have heard this, those that are interested in “humane slaughter” because they are concerned about animal welfare, they don’t realize that it’s worse on the environment to graze animals, and I mean, the ideal thing is to just stop eating them, and we can have a nice population of a variety of animals living naturally, and in balance with the environment.

Kim Sturla: You are absolutely correct. I mean, having free range grass fed beef, as they say, that’s not sustainable, it’s marketed as sustainable, but maybe it would be sustainable for the 1% of the population who could afford it. It’s not going to feed the world as is mass production of animals are.

Caryn Hartglass: And then, you’ve heard this so many times, where people say but we need these animals, we need them for manure, for our crops, okay there’s veganics now so we know that we don’t need animal manure, but even if you want to use animal manure, you can have animals, why do you have to kill them?

Kim Sturla: Exactly. You’re right, we had a huge veganic farm here, three acres. We grew all sorts of produce, and we did it as a model just to see we don’t use the manure, ours is kind of cruelty-free manure, but we won’t do it, we’ll just do a, see if we can do a veganically. And that was, couldn’t be more successful, we had CSA boxes, we sold that whole season. So, yes, we do not need animals’ manure to be fertilizing our crops and it is doing, if you haven’t already, I don’t know if you have the opportunity to see that excellent film that came out, Cowspiracy.

Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t seen it yet, I have talked to the directors.

Kim Sturla: Yeah, that’s a game changer. I am hoping that’s a real game changer. It really does an excellent job of making the case for the impact that animal ag has on our environment, and where the heck is the environmental community on this?

Caryn Hartglass: Oh please, they’ve never been there. It’s all about hypocrisy. They’ve never been there. All right, let’s, 25 years have gone by and I don’t know how long you’ve been vegan.

Kim Sturla: Oh golly, more than that, 30 some odd years.

Caryn Hartglass: So, I don’t know how you are in the kitchen, but, what are some of the things you’re eating now that you like to eat and has it changed over the last quarter century?

Kim Sturla: You know, I am not nuts about the faux meat. I’ll try them every once in a while, but I think all of us who work at Animal Place we would consider our selves foodies, we do potlucks all the time. And for me, I can’t get happier than with a big plate of pasta smothered in garlicky garlicky garlicky olive oil with veggies on top. I mean, that’s, I am a happy camper with that. And Mexican food, I could eat all day long.

Caryn Hartglass: Yup.

Kim Sturla: So yeah, I kind of go for the carbs, fattening stuff, maybe because we are working it off so much.

Caryn Hartglass: You’re probably working off quite a bit. Yeah. I love food. I don’t know if anyone has done a survey but I think the percentage of vegans are more, there’s probably a higher percentage of foodies in vegans than there are foodies in the general population.

Kim Sturla: Yeah, you might be right. And I hadn’t thought about that, but you maybe right.

Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t thought about it until this moment, but now I am thinking that would be a fun survey to do because …

Kim Sturla: That would …

Caryn Hartglass: I mean we really do love food, and that’s, that’s one of the irony because people that think they can’t go vegan think they’re going to miss things, they think they’re going to be deprived. And then, you know, they should just look at this mob of crazy happy people eating vegan food. We love our food.

Kim Sturla: Well, you couldn’t, I absolutely agree. I think that’s one of the responsibility that vegans have is to cook for our friends and our colleagues. You know, bring one of your delicious vegan cakes, their vegan chocolate tofu pie, or make, I have a great recipe for cashew cheese lasagna that I have served to so many omnivores. And they love it, it’s really a thing incumbent upon us to do some cooking for our omnivore friends. And, that really is, that speaks for itself. They know that you’ve been eating, you know, vegan … healthy and tasty.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely, I’m thinking when people get frustrated about the world today, and all the violence that’s going on, and feeling frustrated and all they want to do is to put things on Facebook and share articles about how horrible things are, I think they should make a vegan meal and invite all their friends.

Kim Sturla: I love that.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s something to do that would take violence out of their life. Whoa! Okay!

Kim Sturla: What a great idea.

Caryn Hartglass: Kim, you’re awesome.

Kim Sturla: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: And thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food!

Kim Sturla: Thank you, my pleasure, good pleasure.

Caryn Hartglass: Everybody should visit

Kim Sturla: Yes, please do!

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you!

Kim Sturla: Thank you, bye bye.

Caryn Hartglass: Bye bye! All right, just a couple minutes left, I want to remind you about tomorrow’s free webinar on water purity. You can sign up at my website,, it’s over on the right hand side. Please join me tomorrow, 8pm Eastern Time. Free, free, free, water webinar, and you can ask questions. It’ll be a lot of fun. Also, we’re going to our summer fundraising drive, here at Responsible Eating And Living, and if you like what we do, please support us because we can use your help. Again, you can visit the website, and hit the donate bar. And that’s all. So, I recommend everybody making vegan meals and inviting your friends over and enjoying those foods, and letting people know that plant foods taste great, and that’s how we can become a kinder, gentle world faster. All right? That’s your assignment, have a delicious week! Bye bye!

Transcribed by Queenie Tsu, 10/5/2014

  2 comments for “Kim Sturla, Animal Place

  1. Does Animal Place ever take in cats, there are about five beautiful lynx point Siamese semi feral cats in Oakland needing a place to live, fully vetted. Caregiver is getting ill and they need a new home. Gorgeous animals. Also, a 2 year old tiger male cat from this site, because of a foxtail in his eye,he has gone blind. Need help.

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