Kendra “Kera” Melrose, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
A longtime, dedicated farm animal advocate, Kera brings years of nonprofit leadership experience, serving most recently as Farm Sanctuary’s general counsel and before that as counsel at the PETA Foundation. Kera previously served as an associate at the firms of Brune & Richard LLP, where, as a litigator, she managed teams and complex projects, and Latham & Watkins LLP, where her practice included litigating pro bono cases on behalf of animal protection groups.
Kera holds an A.B. from Princeton University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude. She received her J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she graduated a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. At Columbia Law, as a longtime vegetarian, Kera co-founded the school’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter and led it as President for two years. She also completed a year-long externship with the Humane Society of the United States. However, it was an Animal Law course with guest lecturer (and Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder) Gene Baur that inspired her to go vegan, visit Farm Sanctuary, and change the course of her career.
Today, Kera is honored to helm Farm Sanctuary and lead a community of caring people — donors, staff, volunteers, advocates, allies — who have come together to make a difference for farm animals through rescue, education, and advocacy. She lives in Manhattan with her family and visits Farm Sanctuary’s rescued farm animal residents as often as she can.
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 and farm animal rescue, Gene has visited hundreds of farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses, documenting the deplorable conditions. His pictures and videos exposing factory farming cruelties have aired nationally and internationally, educating millions about the plight of modern farm animals, and his rescue work inspired an international farm sanctuary movement.
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. Gene has published two bestsellers, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food (Scribner, 2008) and Living the Farm Sanctuary Life (Rodale, 2015), which he co-authored with Forks Over Knives author Gene Stone. Through his writing and his international speaking engagements, Gene provides simple, actionable solutions coupled with a compassion-first approach to help us be the change we wish to see in the treatment of animals and our food system.
Gene began his activist career selling veggie hot dogs 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. In 2015, Gene was granted a faculty appointment in Health, Behavior, and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He was recently named one of Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul 100 Givers.
Susie Coston joined the Farm Sanctuary staff in 2000, after spending six years working with a veterinarian and at a sanctuary in West Virginia. With more than two decades of experience working with farm animals, she is a leading authority on both their care and behavior, and she calls on both her expertise and her deep connections with these animals (often referred to as “the farm animal whisperer”) to advocate for compassion for farm animals everywhere.
As Farm Sanctuary’s National Shelter Director, Susie oversees a team of caregivers, who provide individualized care to hundreds of rescued farm animals across the organization’s three sanctuary locations. They work closely with veterinarians who help Farm Sanctuary create and deliver cutting-edge care and treatment to farm animals at every stage of their lives. Advances in farm animal care and treatment made at Farm Sanctuary under Susie’s guidance have led to tremendous strides in the field of farm animal medicine. She also shares her wealth of knowledge with other farm animal advocates, acting as a mentor to many peers who have started their own sanctuaries and leading Farm Sanctuary’s annual Farm Animal Care Conference, which provides valuable resources and hands-on training for people interested in caring for farm animals.
Committed to increasing awareness of farm animals’ sentience and the abuses they routinely face in the animal agriculture industry, Susie can often be found sharing the stories of her rescued farm animal friends both at speaking engagements and through the Animals of Farm Sanctuary project, which she founded in 2016.
Susie is based at Farm Sanctuary’s Watkins Glen, NY, location and regularly travels to the organization’s two West Coast sanctuaries. When she is not at one of Farm Sanctuary’s shelters, she shares her home with six cats and two dogs.
Leila joined Farm Sanctuary as its chief financial officer in 2012 and took on an expanded role as chief operating officer and chief financial officer in 2014. In this capacity, Leila leads financial planning, analysis, and reporting; manages IT and administrative processes; oversees visitor experience and merchandising; and enhances and initiates new earned income opportunities.
Before joining Farm Sanctuary, Leila worked as an independent consultant, advising various for-profit and not-for-profit startups on business plans, growth strategies, and market analyses. Previously, Leila worked in the private sector as director of finance and administration for a financial services startup. She joined the firm as part of its senior leadership team shortly after the business was founded and helped to foster its growth from a regional operation to a national player in the industry, securing the 28th spot on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in 2006.
Leila earned a bachelor’s degree in statistics and psychology, cum laude, from Northwestern University, and she holds an MBA with distinction from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management with concentrations in management and strategy, social enterprise, international business, and management and organizations.
Leila has volunteered her time to several nonprofit organizations with a wide range of missions but has contributed most extensively to Tree House Humane Society, a cat rescue and rehabilitation center in Chicago, where she worked with the development office and served as special events manager.
In addition to her work as an animal advocate, Leila’s interests include travel, cooking, gardening, and entertaining her two cats, Dracula and Luna.
Samantha joined Farm Sanctuary in 2000 after visiting an organic, “humane” dairy farm and witnessing firsthand the plight of the farm animals there. During her tenure with Farm Sanctuary, she has directed both the Development and Education departments and now combines her expertise in these two areas as Farm Sanctuary’s national director of education and strategic initiatives.
While Samantha’s work involves a range of responsibilities, she is most passionate about bringing the transformative experience of meeting and forming relationships with farm animals to broad audiences; humane education; and raising awareness about the ethical, health, and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. Samantha also seeks to inspire individual and institutional partners to join Farm Sanctuary in creating a more compassionate and just world for all beings.
Originally from St. Louis, MO, Samantha holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, as well as Parker, Mia, Baby Po, and a quintet of rescued felines named Neko, Chaang, Rusty, Mango, and Arrow, and two rescued fish named Bob and Dan.