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Finding Paradise: Leilani Farm Sanctuary of Maui

Author: Laurelee Blanchard
Reviewed by: Several Activists

finding paradise
Leiland Farm Sanctuary
260 E. Kuiaha Road
Haiku, HI 96708

Available from

Copyright © 2017 by Laurelee Blanchard


Karen Davis, Ph.D., UPC United Poultry Concerns
I first met Laurelee Blanchard in the mid-1990s when she was working for Farm Animal Reform Movement, now Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM). Later, I became aware of Laurelee as the founder of a gorgeous sanctuary for farmed animals in Hawaii. Photos showed a world of exquisite beauty inhabited by a Noah’s Ark of rescued animals – chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, cows, goats, tortoises, pigs and deer.

Images like these convey no drama, but as the philosopher Hegel said, “Everything that is had to become so.” There was and is a struggle involved in a thing of beauty. Finding Paradise is about the struggle to create and maintain an earthly paradise for rescued farmed animals in a world that is not paradise. Finding Paradise is about the struggle to escape what Laurelee had once deemed the height of success – a worldly paradise in commercial real estate.

Laurelee grew up in Southern California and attended a high school plagued with gang violence before getting out of there. Her father had a temper and was physically abusive toward her and her cats, to birds in the yard, and a dog next door. Her parents divorced when she was in junior high, and her dad committed suicide after an injury left him disabled with pain and depression.

In the 1980s, Laurelee worked as a radiological technologist at St. Jude’s Hospital and married a medical doctor. Together they enjoyed “the good life,” which Laurelee avidly pursued after leaving her job in the thrall of ideas set forth in the book The Magic of Thinking Big. “I felt motivated to seek a career with unlimited earning potential,” she says of her aspirations at the time; meanwhile, an “inner animal activist” struggled to awaken.

This happened in a real estate office in 1992 where, one morning at work, she discovered a mouse stuck in a glue trap. Helped by two fellow brokers, she freed the mouse in a field, disposed of all the glue traps in sealed envelopes, and signed on to a campaign urging Home Depot to stop selling glue traps.

Enjoying her booming career and glamorous lifestyle, symbolized by a luxurious black Jaguar, Laurelee began trapping homeless cats and taking them to veterinarians for spay-neuter surgeries. News of horrendous cruelties to animals in everyday life entered her consciousness. She joined Orange County People for Animals, where she picked up a pamphlet describing the environmental destructiveness of factory farms and their monstrous mistreatment of animals, whereupon she and her husband Rick “agreed that the most powerful way to help animals was to stop consuming them.”

They discovered a world of delicious vegan food products including the health benefits. Still a commercial real estate broker, Laurelee plunged ever more deeply into animal rights, protesting the anal electrocution of foxes and animals being skinned alive, tortured, mutilated and murdered for fashion and food. She saw the cheap ploys of animal exploiters, as when a fur store owner “wheeled out her paralyzed son draped in a fur coat, claiming that fur was the only way to keep him warm.” She was arrested and handcuffed by a security guard inside a department store on Fur-Free Friday. When he turned his back, she managed to struggle out of the cuffs, thinking “How could this be happening to a business executive like me?”

A visit to Farm Sanctuary in Northern California introduced Laurelee to real live turkeys, enabling her to speak to the media and others with personal feeling about them as well as industry facts. The visit inspired her and Rick with “the appeal of living in the country, far away from the crush of humanity.”

Moving to Maui

In 1999, their search brought them to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui, where they’d honeymooned years before, to establish an eight-acre paradise for themselves and the farmed animals they would lovingly rescue and care for.

And they all lived happily ever after.

In fact, the elation of relocation was fraught with troubles. Hawaii is beautiful, but for animals at the mercy of hunters, farmers, cockfighters and more, it is hell. Laurelee discovers two horrific battery-caged hen facilities close by, from which she rescues hens traumatized by the squalor and brutality they’ve endured just so humans could eat their eggs. She enters “the sad, dark cavern” of a pig factory where mother pigs are “nursing their young through metal bars” and pregnant sows lie in stalls so small they can’t move.

She describes these and other animal torture chambers and maniacal devices and the pitiless indifference of the owners and managers she meets toward the animals who are just a business to them or a form of entertainment like cockfighting which, a mere misdemeanor in Hawaii, is rampant. At one point she grabs a rooster from a cockfighting compound where hundreds of “sad souls” are tied by their legs to teepees and forced to stand “in piles of stinking manure” with empty water bowls. Gripping a rooster, she is chased to her car by gunshots.

All kinds of troubles erupt for Laurelee in her shaky sanctuary paradise, including financial ruin, a failed marriage, property problems, severe depression, things that would cause a less determined and resilient person to give up. Laurelee fights through these trials for the sake of her sanity, the sanctuary, and the animals whom she loves and whose stories she vividly tells in words and through the many expressive photographs that make this book a treasure and a virtual visit to a place where animals who have been saved find joy, peace and loving care, because Laurelee Blanchard fought to make this place for them. Leilani Farm Sanctuary became a bona fide nonprofit in 2007.

The sanctuary teaches visitors about the animals they encounter. “Visitors,” says Laurelee, “are amazed to discover that chickens are soft and cuddly and that they love petting just like cats do. . . . We show them that they can cuddle chickens by holding them close and feeling their heartbeats against their own chests.” Many people, she says, “tell us that, once they’ve looked a chicken in the eye, they can no longer eat these animals: they have, in fact, had an epiphany, after which they now see these ‘food animals’ as living beings worthy of love.”

Anyone who dreams of starting a farmed animal sanctuary should buy Finding Paradise and read it before taking on a Romance that, though infinitely rewarding for those who can do it, is replete with staggering responsibilities, uncertain outcomes, and the heartbreak of animals suffering and dying in front of your eyes, despite all you do to help them recover from the traumas that brought them to your door.

Laurelee says she went from chasing lucrative deals in commercial real estate to finding fulfillment in animal rescue and humane education. What she calls the “fabulous life” she now has as the director of Leilani Farm Sanctuary is indeed a mission accomplished, but it is also a mission that can never be over.

Will Tuttle, Ph.D., author of the international best-seller, The World Peace Diet, is a recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award, the co-founder of Circle of Compassion, and an acclaimed pianist and composer
Weaving a rich tapestry of adventure and personal transformation, Finding Paradise provides a beautiful example of one person following her intuitive guidance to positively touch the lives of thousands of people and animals. Laurelee Blanchard, the founder of Leilani Farm Sanctuary of Maui, intrigues us with her remarkable odyssey, going from riches to rags, and on to real riches. She discovers the joy and fulfillment of living to relieve the suffering of abused animals, and inspires us with her determination and commitment to compassion. There is something for everyone in this fascinating, readable, and informative book. Most highly recommended!

Alex Hershaft, Ph.D., Founding President of Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM)
Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. The vivid, colorful narrative makes the scenes and the author’s feelings come to life. What an inspiring story! Laurelee Blanchard is even more amazing than I realized during all those years when she volunteered her services for FARM and the animals. The three hundred animals at Leilani Farm Sanctuary are among the luckiest in the world.

Ram Dass, spiritual leader and author of several seminal best-selling books including Be Here Now and Polishing the Mirror
“In this extraordinary first-hand account, Laurelee Blanchard demonstrates her unwavering devotion to the care of rescued animals–and thus to the welfare of all sentient beings. What a shining example of love-in-action! By dedicating her life to the cause of animal protection and humane education, she has given animals a voice, affirming that each individual is a conscious “someone,” worthy of love and protection. Blanchard is a model of selfless service and Leilani Farm Sanctuary is indeed a Maui treasure!

Gene Baur, President of Farm Sanctuary and author of Living the Farm Sanctuary Life
Finding Paradise: Leilani Farm Sanctuary of Maui” is an inspirational book about reshaping one’s life. Blanchard eloquently describes how caring for others can transform and enliven ourselves, and how working to create a kinder world helps bring about a deep sense of flourishing. Her stories illustrate that farm animals, like all animals, are individuals who are worthy of our compassion and respect. This eye-opening book confronts the cruelties of animal agriculture, and calls us to do better. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

Ruth Heidrich, Ph.D. Ironman Triathlete and author of A Race For Life, CHEF, Senior Fitness, & Lifelong Running
"Have you ever opened a book, read the first chapter and found your eyes so full of tears that you had to blink them back to continue reading? Well, get set because you’ll find yourself immersed in the Leilani Farm Sanctuary surrounds described so vividly that you can visualize the creatures inhabiting eight acres of this wonderful garden of delights — writing so realistic that you almost feel as if you’re really there. You can “see” the sights, “hear” the sounds, and “smell” the fragrant tropical flowers. You’ll also be captivated by the author’s courage in disclosing some of the traumatic events of her life that led her to a hard-driving corporate career and then to giving it all up to being the very model of champion of all animals, large and small, those valued as “pets” as well as those viewed as “production units” destined for slaughter for humans to eat. You’ll be introduced to a large variety of lovable creatures from pigs, sheep, donkeys, deer, chickens, rabbits, cats, turkeys, ducks, geese, guinea pigs, tortoises, and even wild boars. From the first chapter to the last, you’ll be captivated by this amazing chronicle of an incredible life’s adventure.

Peter Mellen, Ph.D., author of Ultimate Happiness: Chasing it, Finding it, Living it
Laurelee’s book is a testament to what can be accomplished when we pursue our dreams with passion and courage. She takes us on a fascinating journey through her life, as she evolves from corporate businesswoman to animal activist and creator of Leilani Farm Sanctuary. Laurelee’s example of love in action shows how we can make the world a kinder, gentler place.

Jenny Brown, Co-Founder of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and author of The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals
Leilani Farm Sanctuary is an extraordinary place run by an extraordinary woman. After leaving a thriving, successful career, Laurelee embarked on a journey to a more fulfilling and mission-driven life—one where passion and compassion rule. “Finding Paradise” is a wonderful, compelling story of losing it all but gaining so much.

Harold Bloomfield, M.D., author of How to Survive the Loss of a Love and TM: Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stres
Finding Paradise is a magnificent, thoroughly engaging book about Laurelee’s soul journey. This book is beautifully-written and a joy to read!

Lorraine Sakaguchi, President of Vegetarian Society of Hawaii
I’d expected that this beautiful book would be an amazing story, as well, about the history of Leilani Farm Sanctuary and about some of the individual rescued animals there. It did not disappoint. However, the first part, about founder Laurelee Blanchard’s childhood and younger adult years, was unexpected. Her childhood experiences made me ache for the helpless child that she had been, and for the even more helpless animals that she had loved, as they all suffered from cruelty that they should never have experienced. But it was, at the same time, for Laurelee, a beginning towards becoming the caring, capable and generous human being that I’ve been privileged to get to know through our mutual work with the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii, someone who used everything that she’d experienced in a positive way to inform and shape her future actions and goals, and eventually to create Leilani Farm Sanctuary, where animals who otherwise would have suffered shortened, unhappy lives as commodities, could enjoy a very different kind of life, cherished and freely spending their days interacting with other animals and humans according to their own personalities. In their turn, at Leilani, these animals constantly surprise and teach the humans who meet them some beautiful lessons about their fellow creatures on this planet of ours. Thank you, Laurelee, for this wonderful gift, both to animals and to the rest of us!

Christine Warren, author of Navigating Change
Laurelee Blanchard’s Finding Paradise is an inspiring, deeply engaging story of one woman finding her life passion for saving animals and creating a sanctuary in Hawaii to make her dream a reality. Her hardships and struggles, her breakthroughs, and her compelling storytelling will keep you turning pages. Warning: this book may light a fire in you to change your own life and make a big difference in the world as Laurelee has!

Ocean Robbins, CEO, The Food Revolution Network
Laurelee Blanchard has done what millions dream of but few dare do. She left behind the American dream of unlimited consumption, and chose instead a deeper dream of limitless compassion. In the process, she found her soul, and she has become a beacon of hope and of love for us all. At one level, hers is a story of selfless service. But at a deeper level, it is actually a story of how we can all find ourselves, and our true fulfillment, when we choose to live our dreams. This story will inspire you. It will enthrall you. And it just might change your life.

Andrew Kirschner, Ph.D.
Finding Paradise is a life-changing book. It will inspire and educate everyone fortunate enough to read it. It is devastating, hopeful, surprising, informative, horrifying, hilarious, and fascinating. You will get to know Laurelee, develop tremendous admiration for her, wish you could be her friend, and visit her farm sanctuary. The stories of the animals she meets and rescues will capture and break your heart. You will cheer and cry. The ups and downs–my goodness! The photos are an incredible supplement to the story that make you feel like you’ve lived her incredible life with her. What a life! What a story! What a human being! This book is a gem–one of the best I’ve ever read.

About the Author:

The story—enhanced by stunning photographs—begins by taking readers on a tour of Laurelee’s life running a sanctuary for rescued farm animals such as goats, pigs, and chickens in Hawaii. It quickly rewinds the clock beginning with her harrowing childhood, a highly successful career in commercial real estate, the joys and challenges of marriage, and her eventual decision to abandon her pursuit of money to start one of the most well-respected animal sanctuaries in the United States. You will be captivated by the accounts of her daring and life-threatening animal rescues. Her story will motivate you to think about everything you’re doing in your own life, inspiring you to pursue your own heartfelt passion and to cherish every day.

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