Away from rural farms and an accurate depiction of the animals who live on them, regular people can find it very difficult to empathize with animals like cows, chickens, and pigs. With only the media to guide us, it’s very easy for people to start believing that cows have no feelings, pigs are filthy, and chickens are bird-brained and useless. None of these things are true. However, consumed with our own individualistic goals, many of us can go our whole lives without truly knowing what these animals are like and how important their lives are. The only way we would possibly learn about these animals and be able to effectively extend empathy to them is to reach out for them ourselves.

Back in Ohio, Mike Cogliano was a typical, driven, U.S. worker – he had a job, a house, and big dreams for a bright future. He was working within the Ohio court system and had high hopes to one day enter law enforcement and help serve justice in his community. At one point or another though, Cogliano realized that a legal career was not actually the path he wanted to embark on and headed to Utah to regroup. Having always been an animal lover, Cogliano decided to volunteer at Best Friends Animal Society and help dogs in need.

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What Cogliano hadn’t realized that these dogs would change his life as much as he changed theirs. After seeing the complex and fascinating lives of these dogs, he realized that, as much as media would like him to believe otherwise, cows, pigs, and chickens were also incredibly unique. He became vegetarian, then vegan, and then began working at Farm Sanctuary.

Cogliano began working at Farm Sanctuary in 2008 as a caregiver. The perfect job to truly learn the personalities of these animals. 

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It didn’t take long for Cogliano to see that these animals may look a little different than dogs and cats, but they are just as rambunctious and playful. 

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They love to cuddle and nuzzle just as much as any other animal, and despite the trauma that these animals have been through before arriving at the sanctuary, they are still incredibly affectionate! 

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The animals are so comfortable with him by now, they even sit still during a selfie!

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It’s not all just play and cuddles, though. Cogliano also administers life-saving care to animals, like these chickens who fell off a transport truck before arriving at the sanctuary.

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My life is definitely a different one than I had planned,” Mike says. “Being vegan and witnessing every day the impact veganism has on all these animals is an amazing thing.”  

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Mike is truly an inspiration! His journey is a testament to all of the good that can happen when we look outside of ourselves and extend compassion not only to our fellow humans but to all beings, regardless of species. Of course, even the biggest animal lovers can not always drop their careers and start pursuing the farm sanctuary life, but we can all choose to open our hearts to the struggles of farm animals and try to see life from their point of view. Every person that is able to look past all of the lies we’ve been told about farm animals and see them as someones and not somethings is a step in the right direction for a kinder and more peaceful world.

All images source: Farm Sanctuary

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