The Forever Animal Haven With a Beautiful Mission

All about a calm location where animals enjoy rest and relaxation.

Jul 23, 2021
The Forever Animal Haven With a Beautiful Mission | All about a calm location where animals enjoy rest and relaxation.

Imagine an idyllic forever retreat for former farm animals, pets, racehorses, research and circus animals. A gorgeous, pastoral sanctuary where animals can put their former, more challenging lives behind them, and live out their days without a care in the world.

Picture a place where the focus is the needs of the animals themselves, from the medical to the whimsical (see a contented pig being fed some delicious strawberries in our post below). A place that allows its lucky residents to decide where and with whom (animal or human) to spend their time. 

Hof Butenland is that place. it is tucked away in the German countryside, on the Butjadingen Peninsula that juts out into the North Sea. A former dairy farm that is now an animal sanctuary for cattle, pigs, horses, chickens, geese and dogs.

Its founders want the beloved animals they welcome to forget about their often-difficult pasts, as they bask in their tranquil surroundings. As they explain on their Facebook page: “We rescue and provide lifelong care for animals that have been saved… from neglect and exploitation.” For these lucky creatures “Hof Butenland is their lifetime home now.”

The New York Times expresses Hof Butenland’s outlook beautifully in its title to a piece about the farm and its mission: “On this German farm, cows are in charge, or at least coequals.” 

And this haven has a moving backstory. It was set up by a former dairy farmer, Jan Gerdes, and his partner, Karin Mück. Gerdes inherited the farm from his father, complete with its red brick barns built back in 1841. He pioneered the introduction of organic farming practices in the area in the 1980s.

But he soon tired of the harsh side of dairy farming. Things like the sound of calves crying out for their mothers after being forcibly separated from them. Gerdes decided, instead, to treat the animals in a more egalitarian way. The sanctuary even has an English flyer titled “The New Cowlture: Because animals aren’t machines.”

The newspaper points out that even in Germany, a country of traditionally keen meat eaters, there is a growing interest in vegan products. This stems from concerns about how livestock are kept, and the role of industrial farming in greenhouse gas production.

Today, the pair work to ensure that their animal “residents” can expect a life of “peace and dignity, with respect and appreciation, which revolves only around them.” They explain on their Facebook page and website that these animals live more freely “so that everyone can move around the farm and the large pastures as self-determined as possible.” 

The couple do host tours for small groups of supporters of their nonprofit. But explaining why they don’t encourage throngs of visitors, they highlight the [understandable] wariness of some of their animals about contact with humans. Take bubbly “Puschek”,  for instance. While he is a friendly Pekingese dog, he still recoils from anyone approaching him holding an object because he was once mistreated.

As cute as their forever guests are, it is important to its founders that this sanctuary is no goldfish bowl with animals displayed as if they’re in a zoo. As they put it: “We are not exhibiting animals here, but want to offer them as perfect and carefree a life as possible." Viewing the photos of this pastoral setting, and scrolling through Hof Butenland’s frequent social media posts showing their animals frolicking in the grass, it is easy to understand why.

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.