By Megan Tanuwidjaja
Nestled in the far western corner of Indonesia lies Sumatra: an island known for its coffee farms and palm oil plantations that have decimated its rainforests with fields of monocrops. But amongst this damaged landscape, there is a glimmer of hope.
In 2017, Loo Shih Loong and Sing Hui established Sehati Animal Sanctuary, the first, and only, farmed animal sanctuary in Indonesia. “Sehati” means “one heart” in Bahasa Indonesian, encompassing Sing and Loong’s vision that all living beings beat as one.
Yet, this road was not an easy path. For years, wife and husband Sing and Loong lived in a city working ordinary jobs. Like many of us, they grew up without seeing how farmed animals are treated firsthand.
In 2014, however, things took a turn when they moved to the countryside to care for Sing’s sick mother. After walking past a wet market, Sing and Loong were exposed to the harsh reality of the meat industry as they witnessed the slaughter of a pig. At that moment, Sing and Loong chose to become vegan and vowed to never contribute to the needless suffering of animals again. They quit their city jobs and dedicated their lives to rescuing animals in the Sumatran countryside.
Sing and Loong never intended to start a farmed animal sanctuary—they simply wanted to rescue animals and give them a better life. However, with compassionate hearts, they took in more animals than they bargained for, depleting their life savings. Sing and Loong borrowed money from their family, pawned off the small amounts of gold they had, and eventually purchased six hectares of the cheapest land they could find.
Sing and Loong’s aspirations were highly criticized by their family—their relatives only viewed these animals as food and could not imagine why Sing and Loong would make their lives more difficult by rescuing and taking care of animals. However, Sing and Loong stood firm in their beliefs, eventually leading them to establish Sehati Animal Sanctuary.
Today, Sehati is a safe haven for over 250 animals. This includes 43 pigs, 2 wild boars, 45 dogs, 21 cats, 15 tortoises, 3 rabbits, 3 sheep, 2 goats, 7 turkeys, 7 geese, 85 chickens, 40 ducks—and more are on their way. All animal residents receive individual loving care, allowing them to live happily and healthily for the rest of their lives.
While caring for these animals has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for Sing and Loong, it has also been difficult. Since starting Sehati, there have never been more than three people working at the sanctuary at once. The pair work tirelessly from dawn to dusk everyday to give food, water, and medical care to the animals. In addition, they build enclosures, grow their own food, and manage finances. Scraping by each month on what they have left in their bank account, they often struggle to raise enough money to feed the animals.
Sehati’s mission is to rescue abused and neglected animals in Indonesia, educate about ethical consumerism and food systems, and advocate for a more compassionate world rooted in respect and justice for all sentient beings. Animal sanctuaries not only save lives, but they also provide the opportunity for people to experience the transformative qualities of a farmed sanctuary through education. Sehati Animal Sanctuary is dedicated to healing animals who have been rescued and sharing their stories of resilience in order to inspire change within those who listen.