Cheri Vandersluis, director of Maple Farm Sanctuary, Courage Of Conscience Award Winner

Cheri Vandersluis—co-founder and director of the Maple Farm Sanctuary, and featured in the award-winning documentary, “Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home”—discusses her reaction upon learning she was a new recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award, presented by The Peace Abbey Foundation, and whose past recipients include Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. peaceasiloVandersluis allows that she was unfamiliar with the Award before hearing she was to receive it, but thrilled and humbled once she became steeped in its mission, history and past awardees. Because her Award honored her life and devotion to animal advocacy–including inspiring active compassion in others–we trace her career path, starting with, as a very young woman with a scientific bent, working for a pharmaceutical company in a role that placed her in close proximity to beagles that were being tested on then euthanized (Vandersluis was often doing the euthanizing.) Vandersluis also recalls an unhappy stint working at Mystic Aquarium, in Mystic, Connecticut, which put her off in jim-and-cherismprofound ways operations that feature animals performing or otherwise being used for entertainment. She also recounts the supreme challenges of joining his husband, Jim, on his dairy farm (he was a third generation diary farmer), and after becoming increasingly troubled by what their dairy business represented for the cows, a-signthey altered their focus to raising goats. Over time, Vandersluis remembers, that, too, proved to be too difficult on their emotional constitutions. This period, and the feelings they arrived at, yielded some significant changes, including embracing a vegan lifestyle, and opening the Maple Farm Sanctuary, a 120-acre animal sanctuary in Mendon, Massachusetts. (,,


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Gina Knepp, director of the Front Street animal shelter in Sacramento, which is in the midst of a remarkable situation, owing to a realtor there who pledged to pay for every adoption at the shelter through the end of December. This pledge kicked in just before Thanksgiving, and in the first five days, more than 330 cats and dogs were adopted. We should note that, the name notwithstanding, Front Street is Sacramento’s city shelter. (

COMEDY CORNER: Tom Papa’s “Fake Service Dogs” (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play Name That Animal Tune today.


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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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