Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder
Gene Baur has been hailed as “the conscience of the food movement” by Time magazine. Since the mid-1980s, he has traveled extensively, campaigning to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our system of cheap food production.
A pioneer in the field of undercover investigations, Gene has visited hundreds of farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses, documenting the deplorable conditions that exist. His pictures and videos exposing factory farming cruelties have aired nationally and internationally, educating millions about the plight of modern farm animals.
Gene has also testified in courts and before local, state, and federal legislative bodies, advocating for better conditions for farm animals. His most important achievements include winning the first-ever cruelty conviction at a U.S. stockyard and introducing the first U.S. laws to prohibit cruel farming confinement methods in Florida, Arizona, and California. His efforts have been covered by top news organizations, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2008, Gene’s book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, became a national bestseller. As a guest on The Martha Stewart Show’s first-ever “vegan show,” he inspired viewers to eat in alignment with their values of compassion.
Gene began his activist career selling veggie hotdogs out of a VW van at Grateful Dead concerts to fund farm animal rescues. Today, he serves as president of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, with shelters in New York and California. Providing rescue, refuge, and adoption for hundreds of farm animals each year, Farm Sanctuary shelters enable visitors to connect with farm animals as emotional, intelligent individuals. Gene believes these animals stand as ambassadors for the billions of factory farm animals who have no voice, and he has dedicated his career to advocating on their behalf.
Gene holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University, Northridge, and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University.
Leslie Barcus, Interim Executive Director
Leslie brings extensive executive experience to Farm Sanctuary. She has spent her global leadership and management career within both nonprofit and commercial organizations.
Leslie has devoted much of her career to improving the economic lives of underserved individuals and the operational strength of the organizations that assist them. She has helped microfinance, commercial banking, and educational organizations to enhance operational capacity from start-up and transition through the growth stages of organizational development. Her professional work with economic development organizations and universities spans more than 40 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
As the former deputy executive director of Microfinance Opportunities (MFO), Leslie directed the institutional strategy, business development, and overall management of this rapidly growing consumer research and financial education nonprofit. Leslie’s work in training and education at MFO grew from her prior experience as the founding president of the Microfinance Management Institute (MFMI). The MFMI was the first global network for developing-world educators of microfinance, assisting them with knowledge development, skill building, and networking to strengthen their abilities to create quality education and training programs on microfinance management and organizational development.
Leslie cares deeply about integrating sound management processes with staff member development and appreciation in order to provide highly effective rescue, education, and advocacy efforts to farm animal protection and welfare issues.
Leslie is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio and holds a master’s degree in international economic development from American University. A former Farm Sanctuary board member, Leslie continues to serve as a board member for Humane Society International and Conservation International’s Verde Ventures.
Susie Coston, National Shelter Director
Susie Coston joined the Farm Sanctuary staff in March 2000 after six years of working for a veterinarian and at a sanctuary in West Virginia. Susie holds a master’s degree in special education and has worked with humans with disabilities, but she felt her calling was to work with animals. She has been a mentor to many peers who have started their own sanctuaries throughout the United States and leads Farm Sanctuary’s annual Farm Animal Care Conference, which provides valuable resources and hands-on training for people interested in caring for farm animals. She also shares her deep understanding of farm animals with a wider audience by bringing the stories of Farm Sanctuary’s rescued animals to the public. Susie oversees a full department of caregivers, feeders, cleaners, and project workers, ensuring that the hundreds of animals residing at Farm Sanctuary’s New York and California Shelters are given the best possible care throughout every stage of their lives. When she is not at the shelters, she shares her home with nine cats, two dogs, and any number of farm animals who may need special care.
Tara Oresick, Northern California Shelter Director
Tara Oresick has been the director of Farm Sanctuary’s Northern California Shelter since January 2012. She previously worked at our New York Shelter, starting as an intern in 2008, joining the staff as a caregiver in 2009, and becoming the shelter manager in 2010. Tara grew up in Rochester, New York, where she earned a master’s degree in inclusive education, worked as a one-on-one aide, and then spent three years as a special education teacher. Meeting the residents of the New York Shelter during a visit in 2008 galvanized her to pursue a career providing direct aid to these animals whom society exploits and ignores. Overseeing a full staff at the Northern California Shelter, Tara ensures that all of the sanctuary’s 300-plus rescued animals receive expert, individualized care. At home, she cares for her own family of rescues: dogs Millie and Tug Boat; cats Morgan, Piper, Edward, and Juju; and guinea pig Bonzo.