“Escaped Cow Still on the Loose!”; “The World’s Fastest Cow!”; “Cow Becomes Local Hero!”; “Cow to Get Key to the City!” These are just a few of the news headlines that a snow white Charolais cow inspired in 2002 when she took a courageous leap of faith, cleared a 6-foot-high fence at a Cincinnati, Ohio slaughterhouse, and engaged citizens in a dramatic 11-day chase that gained national attention and still has people talking today.
As she resisted capture time and again, staying hidden in a park where she foraged and rested when she could, the courageous cow demonstrated an unbendable will, and her tremendous fight for survival resonated with the public. By the time of her capture, she had won the hearts of so many that calls for mercy poured into the city from all over the country. In the end, it was a plea from renowned artist Peter Max that brought the brave bovine safely to our New York Shelter, where she was named Cincinnati Freedom and given the liberty she always deserved.
Though one of our most elusive residents, choosing the company of cattle over people, Cinci nonetheless received countless visitors through the years, each one eager to catch a glimpse of the valiant cow they followed in the news. While sanctuary guests were unable to touch her, everyone who saw her was affected by Cinci all the same, as even her posture and gaze spoke of the intense life force burning within her and an acute awareness of the special place she inhabited in the world. Most were awed in Cinci’s presence, as she was a living testament to the desire for life we — human or animal — all share.
Cinci’s effect on members of the cattle herd was equally profound. Forming a natural bond with other famous slaughterhouse escapees who came to the shelter before and after her (including Queenie, Annie Dodge, and Maxine), Cinci traveled with her strong, faithful female companions as an inseparable unit — the members of which moved gracefully and intuitively together as if all were of one body and one mind. But her spirit breathed life into the entire cattle herd, as well. While Cinci preferred that we humans keep a respectful distance, she connected with every cow and steer, treating each of them with the utmost tenderness and love. Continue reading →
Most people take for granted the similarity between animal mothers and their human counterparts. Farm Sanctuary recognizes the importance of the maternal bond and has for decades afforded dozens of farm-animal mothers with the unique opportunity to care for their babies for the first time in their lives. Here are some of my favorite family-bonding tales from our shelters.
Mother pigs raised in sanctuary remain with their children for their lifetime and continue the same maternal care even when their adult offspring have grown up. These moms are known for making large nest like beds for sleeping, protecting them from danger and enduring respect and love from their babies even as they age.
Portia, Nikki, Chuck, Honey, and Ellen.
Examples from our shelters: Nikki still to this day makes straw nests for her offspring. Her babies, some the same size as her and her son about 200 pounds larger, nestle as close as they can to their mother. On occasions when Nikki has had to leave for medical treatments, she can look forward to a welcome-home celebration from her daughters, who run around her and playfully bump her while barking to express joy.
A sanctuary setting affords cows a unique opportunity to form deep bonds with their children. They are allowed to nurse their calves for as long as they wish – even when they are larger than their mother! We witness this beautiful psychological bond between mother and child daily within the herd of families who arrived together. Babies, even as adults, stay close to mom for protection, but as they grow and age, this bond deepens in the form of companionship. Mother cows groom their calves for hours and as they reach adulthood spend hours grooming each other. They too form lifelong bonds even within a larger herd structure.
Nutmeg with his mom, Betsy.
Examples from our shelters: Honey and Betsy were both very sweet and docile when they first arrived, but with the birth of Betsy’s son Nutmeg, both girls became a little sassy, running caregivers out of the pasture in the evening when they would call the cattle in for the night.
And I’ll never forget our 2004 rescue of a herd of 26 starving, pregnant cows. The friendliest mother actually turned on me shortly after her calf was born when we attempted to snap a photo. I was left with a black eye and crushed equipment!
Chickens make amazing mothers and although we do not allow breeding at our sanctuaries we have had mothers arrive with babies. Mother hens are so protective of their children that you often cannot see the chicks when you first arrive in the barn. Moms puff up and hide their babies beneath them to ensure that not one single chick is taken from their brood. Even as their children grow, mothers shield them under their wings at night safeguarding them from harm. Chicks cannot get wet and mothers cover them in the rain.
June and her peeps.
Mother chickens have such incredible maternal instincts that they will look out for or even take on the children of other mothers when duty calls. We have seen this in cases where multiple mothers come in with chicks of varying ages and sizes that are clearly not all from the same clutch. They often take them on and nurture them like they would their own children.
June and her babies.
Examples from our shelters: At a farm where I was visiting years ago to pick up birds I saw a mother hen run straight at a large cat who was stalking her babies. The cat thankfully ran off as mom made contact and lots of noise. They will sacrifice themselves to protect their offspring.
Here, we have witnessed mother hens vocalize to their babies as soon as they spot an aerial predator. They’ve even sounded the alarm on pigeons flying too low over the farm. In response, babies run directly to mother hen for cover.
And we witnessed our own example of hens hiding chicks when we took in chickens from a cockfighting ring that included breeding mothers and chicks. We had to pick up the mothers to ensure their chicks were accounted for (and get pecked at by their moms). One mother would not let us near her when the babies were under her and was so upset we used food to coax her to at least stand so we could count if there were more than two feet beneath her.
Sheep mothers have a specific language they only use with their children, a deep guttural call that tells them to come back quickly or to beware of intruders. The call they make is very distinct and their lamb in a sea of lambs can recognize the voice of his or her mother. Curious lambs cause moms to go into a panic and they are often seen running through the pastures literally screaming for their babies until they find them. The lambs too have distinct calls and whenever they talk mom quickly responds. Sheep are flock animals and are very family-oriented and stay with their families – moms, dads, and siblings for life when allowed to in a sanctuary setting.
Tracey and Louise with their lambs Hazelton, Reubie, and Summer.
Examples from our shelters: When Louise was giving birth, her mother Tracey – who gave birth to Hazelton ten days prior – was separated from her so that she could have privacy with her new lamb. Still, Louise talked to Tracey the entire time she was in labor and Tracey called back to her. We put them together within a few days since they seemed too stressed. Louise was also producing limited milk but had twins, and Tracey allowed them to nurse from her.
Goats are super moms and have amazing lifelong relationships with their kids in the sanctuary setting. We have groups of goats who still sleep side by side – even wrapping their necks around each other – with their now full-grown kids. Left to their own devices they will stay with them for life. Goats also recognize their offspring and family even after periods of separation.
Lizzie, Zuzu, Otto, Goodwin, and Marjorie.
Examples from our shelters: We have taken in rescued goats that were split up from goats who went to other sanctuaries and homes —and in a few cases they have come back to us— and immediately reconnect with their original family members even within a larger herd. We also had a goat named Juno whose baby crawled under a fence and ended up in a pig area and then panicked when he could not get back with mom. The fence was too tall for her to go over and she could not fit under so she threw herself over and over into the fence trying to get to him. We heard her panicked screams and came down to put them together, and her son Sebastian immediately started nursing. She would have done anything to get to him.
We also have a goat named Lizzie, who is elderly and has horrible arthritis. She requires regular treatments and her sons, ZuZu and Otto, go along with her. The three still sleep together. Her sons are much larger than her now, but forever loyal to mom.
6) Ducks & Geese
Ducks and geese moms are fiercely protective of their hatchlings as well and will chase away larger waterfowl and anyone who attempts to come near their children. They make elaborate feathered nests to lay their eggs. That said, our ducks are not allowed to breed.
Examples from our shelters: We count our birds each night, and so you can imagine our concern when we realized we had a female duck who disappeared. We looked everywhere and could not find her. We feared she’d gotten out or, worse, was killed by a fox or other predator. Then one day – a month after our failed search – she popped out of a muskrat hole in the pond and behind her were six tiny ducklings. It took us hours to catch her; we waited for her to exit the pond and bring the family into the barn. She hissed and ran at other ducks and geese in the flock. When we finally got her to settle down, we were able to whisk her and her ducklings off to our health-care area where they could be safe from harm. And of course, mom kept the little ones hidden beneath her wings.
At Farm Sanctuary, we strive to help people understand that every animal is a unique individual. In Gloria’s case, “unique individual” was an understatement.
Gloria was a goat who thought she was a human. She was as joyful as a kid and as cantankerous as an old fogie. She played gleefully with friends but always kept them in their place. She possessed eccentric insecurities and uncommon strength of spirit. It’s been almost a year since Gloria passed away, but we’re still celebrating her life at the shelter.
Trouble at the Racetrack
For the first eight years of her life, Gloria was kept tied up at a horseracing track outside Chicago. Such facilities sometimes keep goats in the belief that their presence calms high-strung racehorses. The goats are seen merely as tools to enhance the performance of their equine companions, and their own needs are often egregiously neglected.
Eventually, Gloria came to the attention of animal advocate Carrie Gobernatz. Carrie had been working to aid the many feral and stray cats, as well as dogs, chickens, geese, and other abandoned animals, struggling to survive on the racetrack’s backside. One day, Carrie came across Gloria in one of the barns. Gloria was tied up on a rope so short she couldn’t lie down, and she had no food or water. Her udders were huge and had sores on them. She clearly needed immediate veterinary attention.
“I was very angry,” recalls Carrie. “To think that vets walked right by her every day to care for the many horses in this barn owned by a very wealthy racehorse owner made me sick.” Carrie immediately lengthened Gloria’s tether, set down straw bedding for her, and brought her fresh food and water. The next day, she confronted Gloria’s “owner” about his neglect. He refused to relinquish Gloria, but Carrie persisted, finding a vet and getting an estimate on treatment for the udders. When the quote of $500 for veterinary care came back, the “owner” changed his tune and agreed to hand Gloria over to Carrie.
Carrie contacted Farm Sanctuary, and we immediately sent a rescue team from our New York Shelter in Watkins Glen. “I was so happy for Gloria, and right before she got on the van to leave, I took that last photo of her with me,” says Carrie, who continued to visit the racetrack daily to help the animals there. After seven years of feeding, spay/neuter work, adoption projects, media outreach, and campaigning, not to mention being kicked off the racetrack more than once, Carrie finally succeeded in getting the racetrack owner to take responsibility for the suffering animals on the backside. The racetrack recently held its first fundraiser for its resident stray and feral cats.
Photo credit: Jo-Ann McArthur
Operation Second Chance
When Farm Sanctuary’s rescue team came for Gloria, we found her in rough shape. Her face and ears had been rubbed bald, and her hooves were long and brittle. The most obvious sign of neglect was the condition of her udders, which dragged on the ground and tripped her whenever she tried to take even a single step. The world she had known for eight years had been cramped, monotonous, and unhealthy. But hope had arrived.
At Cornell University Hospital for Animals, a team of vets performed a mastectomy, removing the 19-pound udders from Gloria’s 126-pound body. She recovered well from the operation, and the next day she was able to return to the Rescue and Rehabilitation Center of our New York Shelter. Gloria must have felt like she had acquired not only a new home but also a whole new body. For the first time in years, she could walk without tripping over her own udders. And for the first time in her life, she could walk wherever she wanted.
Gloria’s friend Carrie was among those celebrating her transformation. “I loved the Youtube video you did of Gloria’s rescue and was terribly happy to see her living like a goat should,” she says.
Gloria had been confined and neglected for her whole life, but she was strong. Far from breaking her spirit, the hardship at the racetrack had made her tough and sassy. And she was ready to really live at last. She quickly went from walking to running, bucking, and playing. She loved to play and roughhouse with her human companions, standing up for a head-butting session or bumping her head into a leg only to hold it there.
One thing she definitely did not want was to be around other goats. In fact, she was scared of them. Each time we tried to leave her with other goats, she cried out as if to say, “There’s been a mistake! I’m a human, not a goat!” We nicknamed her “Humanga,” because she was part human, part goat. When she was with people, she wasn’t scared of anything.
We eventually moved Gloria into a pen in the goat barn, so she could see the other goats but didn’t have to live among them yet. We left her door open, so she could roam the shelter. The open space daunted her at first, but soon she realized that the shelter was her playground. Then there was no stopping her. She made a point to visit the farm assistants and stir up trouble while they were trying to clean the barns. We’d get calls over the radio requesting that the Humanga be escorted somewhere less disruptive. She was very special to everyone she knew — a favorite of our caregivers and farm assistants as well as our many visitors — for her unique and powerful personality.
While Gloria kept residence in her private pen in the sheep barn, two little goats named Jake and Peanut started squeezing under the gate to visit her. Perhaps because they were so young and so small, Gloria didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she grew fond of them.
She also developed a soft spot for the elderly and eventually joined a herd of geriatric goat ladies — at the age of ten, she fit right in. They became her family, and she adored them, forming especially close friendships first with Juniper and, after Juniper passed away, with Dotty.
A Very Good Run
During Gloria’s initial visits to the hospital after her rescue, vets had not only removed her udders but also diagnosed her with uterine cancer. They removed the uterus as well, but the cancer had already metastasized. Treatment would not have eliminated the cancer and would likely have decreased the length and quality of Gloria’s life. We decided instead to just let her live and have has much happiness as she could.
The cancer spread very slowly, leaving Gloria several years to do just that. And they were good years. Gloria had fun. She made friends. She made a home. The self that had endured quietly within her during the years of her confinement — the Humanga, the lovable, indomitable force — came out to play. And she played until her very last day. Gloria was indeed someone, not something.
The “Santa Cruz sheep” of our Northern California Shelter belong to a lineage that was once at home on California’s Santa Cruz Island, roaming its hills and valleys 24,000 sheep strong. Today, there are no sheep on the island. Aside from a small population raised by mainland heritage breeders, the flock members at our shelter are probably the last surviving descendents of the island sheep.
Sheep arrived on Santa Cruz Island in the 1800s, brought by ranchers. As the island’s ranching industry waxed and waned over the ensuing decades, escaped and abandoned sheep formed a feral population, which evolved into a tough, independent new breed.
By the 1980s, sheep ranching had declined substantially on Santa Cruz Island. One remaining ranching family, the Gherinis, retained 10 percent ownership of the island. The other 90 percent had been acquired in 1978 by the Nature Conservancy (TNC). Regarding the feral sheep as an invasive species, the Conservancy began a program of eradication.
TNC’s violent campaign included funding aerial shootings of the sheep and shipping groups to the mainland for slaughter. In 1984, the Gherinis opted to make a profit out of killing the sheep as well. They leased their remaining ranch lands to an “adventure” club, whose members hunted the sheep still living in the area.
In 1997, as they prepared to sell their land on the island, the Gherinis decided to kill off all the remaining sheep there. TNC and the National Park Service (NPS) agreed to help by organizing a hunt. It looked like the end for the Santa Cruz sheep, who had survived on their own, and weathered the lethal harassment of their human neighbors, for at least 70 years.
Refuge on the Mainland
Friends on the mainland, however, were ready to put up a fight. When TNC and NPS announced they were going to kill the sheep, the local humane agency and area citizens joined with Farm Sanctuary to stop the cruel hunt. We offered to take hundreds of the animals and launch a national rescue and adoption effort to place as many sheep as possible into safe, loving homes. After immense public pressure and media attention, the Gherini family agreed to release 200 of the sheep to Farm Sanctuary, and we welcomed this flock to our shelter in Orland, CA.
That was 18 years ago, and they have been good years for these sheep. Most remained stalwartly independent and wary of humans, and we left them to enjoy their pasture largely undisturbed, intervening only when they needed us. During the dry season, when grazing was sparse, we provided hay. When a sheep was sick or injured, we gave them care, and as the flock became older and more vulnerable to predators, we began shepherding them in from the hills at night. Some of the bolder sheep, and the few who arrived as lambs, became friendly with us. For the most part, however, they continued life much as they had on the island, roving our stunning hill pastures everyday. Only, here they were safe from persecution.
The hardy Santa Cruz sheep remained strong and healthy for many years. Eventually, however, those years caught up to them. We have now lost most of the flock to old age. As we mourn these departed members of our shelter family, and with them the gradual ending of an era, we are also doing more than ever for the surviving flock mates, who now require geriatric care.
We monitor these venerable sheep closely, with an eye to maintaining their comfort and mobility. Most of them are blind and experience mild to severe arthritis; about a third of the flock receives pain medication. Many have few to no teeth left, and we give these sheep a special mash of soaked feed that’s easy for them to eat. Because the Santa Cruz sheep remain essentially feral, they must be treated differently from our domestic sheep, who are inured to human interaction (and in many cases quite enjoy it). In order to minimize our time spent handling them, and thus minimize their stress, we administer their care very efficiently.
The Santa Cruz sheep live together in a special-needs pasture, where we can easily visit them for care. Despite their infirmities, most still prefer to spend all day outside. When nighttime temperatures drop too low, we bring them into the barn to keep them safe from exposure.
When the flock has slept in the barn at night, it’s always Karana who leads the charge back out to pasture the next morning. The last of the female sheep rescued from the island, Karana is an important figure in the herd. She has arthritis in her shoulders, for which she receives daily pain medication, but that doesn’t slow her down or prevent her from making sure the guys know who’s in charge. She’s also a comforting influence in the group. In stressful situations, many of the others will flock to her for reassurance.
Another flock leader is Riccardo, the most active of the group. He is one of the few who shows little sign of arthritis. He has his teeth, and his sight remains normal. When it’s time for health checks, he still has plenty of vigor to give caregivers the runaround, dashing and jumping out of their grasp. With his flock mates, meanwhile, he is something of a caregiver himself: The blind sheep will call out if they get separated from the flock, and it is always Riccardo who calls back to help them find their friends again.
Keeping the Light
Today, 15 Santa Cruz sheep remain at the shelter. Sheep are considered old around 12 years of age, but these sheep are all at least 18, making them some of the oldest sheep we have ever heard of. They have spent all their lives in the sunshine and fresh air, with the earth beneath their hooves and the smell of grass in their nostrils, heeding their instincts, finding comfort and strength in their flock. They have lived as they wished, experiencing the full arc of life. And now, as they come to the end of that arc, they have us to keep their final days contented, peaceful, and full of dignity. It is a privilege.
Farm Sanctuary operates the largest farm-animal rescue and refuge network in North America. The Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN) encompasses hundreds of individual adopters, as well as fellow rescue and shelter groups, and has a presence in nearly every U.S. state.
Providing wonderful, lifelong homes, the network allows us to make space at our shelters for new arrivals and also to undertake large-scale operations like last year’s rescue of more than 300 “spent” egg-laying hens. FAAN is an impressive example of what we can do when work together.
An animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary has sanctuary for life. Here’s are five things that set our Farm Animal Adoption Network apart:
1. We put farm animals first.
Because the animals we rescue are viewed by most people as food sources, we must be especially careful that they don’t fall into the wrong hands. We don’t advertise on sites like Craigslist or Petfinder. Nor do we advertise at feed stores or anywhere else where these animals might be associated with food production. We screen adopters thoroughly to be sure they are both committed to and capable of providing excellent, lifelong care.
We also never promote our animals by referring to qualities that could be exploited, like egg-laying for ducks, geese, and hens or “lawn-mowing” and brush removal for goats and sheep. Doing so might bring in more applicants, but they would be applicants who see these animals as a means to some end. These animals suffered in exploitative circumstances before their rescue, and they never will again. We insist that adopters treat their adopted animals as companions.
2. Health matters.
The FAAN application process involves a review of the housing and outdoor areas to be provided to the adopted animals, as well as personal and veterinary references.
Because the animals we rescue often face health complications due to industrial breeding and raising practices, we insist that adopters have access to appropriate veterinary services. Chickens bred for egg production, for instance, are prone to a slew of reproductive-tract ailments, from blockages to cancer. Though we adopt out only the healthiest of the chickens we rescue, access to expert care and treatment is still crucial for all the adoptees. Part of the process of adopting these special-needs animals into homes is teaching adopters how to care for them.
3. We go the distance.
We transport animals to their adoptive homes ourselves. This not only ensures that the journey is safe and comfortable for the animals but also allows us to evaluate their new homes in person.
We’ll bring animals to the homes that are best for them, even if those homes are hundreds of miles away. Take, for example, the four pigs we recently transported from our New York Shelter all the way to a shelter in Florida.
Our many long-distance and interstate adoptions require careful preparations. Out-of-state adoptions also require testing and health certificates for specific diseases, which vary by destination state. Following these laws is imperative for the safety of the animals, since animals transported illegally can be confiscated and destroyed for testing.
4. We follow up.
Though adopted animals are living outside our shelters, they’re still part of the Farm Sanctuary family. Placement Coordinator Alicia Pell checks in with new adopters to make sure everything is going smoothly, and with the help of National Shelter Director Susie Coston, she regularly fields questions from adopters new and old about healthcare, behavior, and resources.
Many adopters have come to the sanctuary to learn even more about basic healthcare for their new family members, and many have attended our Farm Animal Care Conference, offered every September.
National Shelter Director Susie Coston provides in-depth instruction at our Farm Animal Care Conference.
5. We realize not every animal should be adopted.
Our rescued animals are survivors of abuse and neglect, which can leave them with persistent health challenges, or even special emotional needs, for the rest of their lives. For some, these difficulties require the sort of accommodations, monitoring, and care that can be provided only at our shelters .
Samantha, who requires a prosthetic leg, will always live at our New York Shelter so she lives in close proximity to expert medical care.
No sanctuary can make a sizeable dent in the number of farm animals slaughtered in this country, which is now over nine billion per year. What we can do is give wonderful lives to the animals we are able to save and do so by treating them as we would our own companion animals- as an individual. Each is important in his or her own right, as an ambassador and a thinking, feeling individual.
Care to learn more about home adoption? Farm Sanctuary is always on the lookout for great adopters. We’re happy to help you figure out what sort of adoption is right for you and what you need to do to get ready. Visit our adoption page for more info or to fill out an application.
A compassionate world begins with us. More than 9 billion farm animals are slaughtered each year in the U.S. alone. We wish we could rescue them all, but even with three sanctuaries, our space is limited. Thankfully, we also operate Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN), the highest quality farm-animal rescue and refuge network in North America. FAAN encompasses hundreds of individual adopters, as well as fellow rescue and shelter groups, and has a presence in nearly every U.S. state. Providing wonderful, secure, lifelong homes, the network allows us to make space at our shelters for new arrivals and also to undertake large-scale operations throughout the year. FAAN is an impressive example of what we can do when work together. Our FAAN members provide our animals with individualized care, seeing each as someone not something; a far cry from their treatment in the farms from where they are rescued.
Let’s meet a couple of our fabulous FAAN members who recently welcomed new arrivals to their homes.
Meet the adopters: Vicki and family
Vicki and Jonathan Harkness, owners of plant nursery Perry Hill Farm, have been adopting rescued animals for over 21 years, including a group of sheep, a cow, and several chickens through Farm Sanctuary referrals, as well as multiple turkeys directly from our shelter.
In December 2014, the Harknesses adopted three more New York Shelter turkeys, rescued as poults from a factory farm. They surprised their son, Joshua, with the new arrivals, whom he declared “the best Christmas present ever!” Vicki says, “Joshua is amazing with all the animals on the farm. He has grown up with them.”
Sven, Jedidiah, and Amos have been enjoying their new home and following their new buddy everywhere. Vicki recalls looking out the window to see Joshua jumping on the family’s trampoline — while his turkey entourage waited patiently on the sidelines for him to finish and rejoin them.
“Adopting animals has affected all of our emotions,” says Vicki. “They make us laugh, feel love, they make us cry when they are sick, they make us get mad when they break down the fence and go on adventures, and then we end up laughing. When a cow gets into your house and has pooped all over your floor, all you can do is laugh!”
And the best thing about adopting rescued farm animals? “Seeing them happy, healthy, safe, and free.”
Meet the adopters: Molly and Lauren
Molly Merryman is a documentary filmmaker and an associate professor of Sociology at Kent State University, teaching courses primarily in the department’s Victimology concentration. Lauren Vachon, who writes fiction and poetry, has an MFA in Creative Writing and teaches Intro to LGBT Studies at Kent State University.
One day last fall, Molly and Lauren saw an alert from Farm Sanctuary about our rescue of 87 chickens who had fallen off a transport truck onto the Staten Island Expressway.
Wishing to do something for these birds, they reached out to us to adopt. Additionally, says Molly, “We live in a rural area where we see animal transport trucks regularly; we’re always upset at the conditions of the transport of those animals. We wanted to do something positive.”
Molly has been vegetarian for years, but at the time of the rescue, Lauren was still eating meat on rare occasions. When they talked about the possibility of adopting these birds, who would have slaughtered for meat if they hadn’t fallen off the truck, Lauren finally officially became vegetarian. She says, “The way these chickens began their lives, and the way they were rescued, and the fact that we wanted to be their caretakers seemed incompatible with eating meat.”
This January, they welcomed 12 of the Expressway hens to their 10-acre property in northeast Ohio. “The chickens are so fun and sweet and friendly!” says Molly. “We love how we can hold and pet them. We love how they come running as soon as they hear our footsteps. They are always so happy to see us.” The hens are staying warm through the winter in a cozy coop built by Molly’s dad. With wheels on the coop and a transportable enclosure, the hens will get to enjoy a moveable feast once the weather breaks, with their caregivers frequently shifting them to fresh patches of yard for foraging and exploring. This summer, the flock will get to investigate the garden.
Molly and Lauren are getting to know their new friends and have already encountered some stand-out personalities. Bitey, despite her namesake habit, is Lauren’s favorite, because she’s so curious; she’s always the first to come see what the humans are doing. Another flock member is Curly, instantly recognizable by her curled toes. Molly and Lauren have kept a close eye on her to make sure she’s getting around okay. Despite her slight deformity, “she does fine,” says Molly, “and we’ve been delighted to see that she’s one of the most persistent scratchers. She loves digging through the long grass underneath the coop.”
Lauren says the best thing about adopting the chickens is that she can’t wait to get home from work to go feed them and spend time with them —“their happiness is contagious.” Molly adds, “We both think it feels so good to know these hens have a rare second chance at a good and happy life, and that we’re the ones providing it. Taking care of them is so satisfying.”
Attention, Aspiring Adopters!
Interested in home adoption? Farm Sanctuary is always on the lookout for great adopters. We’re happy to help you figure out what sort of adoption is right for you and what you need to do to get ready. Visit our adoption page for more info or to fill out an application.
Too many people have misconceptions about turkeys. They assume these animals are unintelligent, unsociable, and undifferentiated. Some visitors come to the shelter not expecting to connect with the turkeys. Again and again, Turpentine walked up to those visitors and calmly demolished all of their assumptions.
That was the power of Turpentine’s personality. In fact, his gregariousness once saved his life. Before coming to Farm Sanctuary, Turpentine lived on a farm, where he was being raised for Thanksgiving dinner. As luck would have it, a Farm Sanctuary supporter lived next door. The turkey and his neighbor became friends, and every day when she called out Turpentine’s name, he would gobble back to her. The farmer, won over by this amazing boy himself, could not go through with his original plan to kill Turpentine. He decided to give him to another farmer to slaughter, but thankfully his neighbor convinced him to give Turpentine to her instead. She reached out to us, and we gladly welcomed the friendly turkey to our New York Shelter.
Turpentine may have thought we’d given him the shelter. He had soon familiarized himself with the grounds and begun keeping tabs on all the most interesting action. He followed caregivers. He followed interns. He followed visitors. And he chose his friends. He picked out people, many he had never met before, and clearly made a connection with them. He spent most of one Celebration for the Turkeys event in the lap of a man named Carlos, visiting from Canada.
Nearly anyone who spent time at the shelter had the experience of looking back and seeing Turpentine behind them. He trailed caregivers and guests everywhere, even one time ducking under a gate and following a tour group up the hill to the main cattle herd. We constantly had to walk him back to his barn to keep him from wearing himself out.
Turpentine clearly loved attention, and we soon realized he loved the camera even more. If there was a person or a lens nearby, he would be sure to show up. He was always trying to get in front of whatever he though was receiving attention, from people posing for a photo to a baby goat nursing. He photo-bombed. A lot.
The camera loved him right back, and so did we. He was a part of daily life at the shelter, and his presence was felt everywhere. Today, his absence is felt, deeply.
A short while ago, we noticed a small abscess lump on Turpentine’s chest. When it started getting bigger, we took our boy to the vet. An ultrasound revealed the extent of the mass, and we scheduled a surgery to have it removed. The decision was not made lightly; we weighed the pros and cons carefully.
The surgery thankfully went well, but a second surgery was needed. While waking up from the anesthesia after the second operation, Turpentine suffered a heart attack. Heart problems are a common blight of domestic turkeys, who have been bred to grow rapidly to an excessive weight. Even with expert care in a sanctuary setting, these birds remain vulnerable to cardiovascular ailments. Often large industrial breed male turkeys in a basic squabble over territory suffer from heart attacks, so sadly this is not uncommon.
We brought Turpentine back to the shelter to recover. Caregivers provided daily cleaning and wrapping for his operation site — and of course all the love and attention he could want. He seemed to be doing well, spending time outside each day, enjoying life. But on Sunday night something went wrong, and Turpentine suddenly died. He passed quickly and without suffering. The cause was most likely his heart.
Back in 2013, we shared some very important facts about Turpentine on the Farm Sanctuary Facebook page: 1) he’ll follow you around until he is sure you have seen how beautiful and awesome he is, 2) he likes his reflection in the window at the Melrose Small Animal Hospital, and 3) he chooses a select few people who can pet him. Turpentine had his own Facebook page, too, with more than 800 fans. It was plastered with photos featuring our special guy, typically in front of, next to, or right in the middle of a group of humans delighted that he had made himself the star of their shot.
That was thing about Turpentine. No matter who you were, he made himself a part of your story. But of course, really, you were a part of his. Everything about him expressed his sense of self. You could see his pride, his joy in his own life and home, his fascination with people. He gave such an impression of a mind at work, a fellow intelligence.
At Farm Sanctuary, we work to help invisible animals, the billions who die every year unnamed and unknown. The only difference between Turpentine and those billions was that he had the chance to show people who he was. Turpentine insisted on being known.
His charisma made him an outstanding ambassador for turkeys and a great friend too, and he left a trail of grinning humans wherever he went. Turpentine made sure you couldn’t ignore him. And looking back through the pictures now, I can almost imagine that, with every photo-bomb strut into the frame of someone’s captured moment, he was making sure none of us could ever forget him.
Ivan has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve worked at Farm Sanctuary. When I arrived at the New York Shelter 14 years ago, Ivan was here to welcome me; he had been rescued during a cruelty case years before. And in the years since, I had the pleasure of seeing this incredible goat nearly every day.
When I think of Ivan, I think of the beautiful friendships he forged during his time with us. For many years, he had two best friends: TJ, an older goat who was the head honcho and reigning curmudgeon of the goat herd, and a goat named DiMaggio who was around Ivan’s age. The three of them spent their days rambling through our lush pastures, enjoying every moment of shelter life. Sadly, TJ passed away in 2009, leaving Ivan to assume the role of herd leader.
Ivan and DiMaggio became inseparable after TJ’s death, and they loved each other fiercely. From play-fighting out in the pasture to sleeping contentedly side by side in the barn, these two boys did everything together. Their friendship was an important part of Ivan’s life, and he was distraught when DiMaggio died of cancer.
Farm animals form strong bonds and mourn when they lose their herd mates, but thankfully Ivan was able to open his heart again. He developed another close relationship with an elderly goat named Shante who also had lost two close friends. Once Shante began spending time with kind and loving Ivan, each found a new best friend and a renewed sense of comfort. They spent the last two years of Ivan’s life making each other very happy.
Ivan and Shante playing.
Although Ivan was healthy and active as he aged, last winter was difficult for him. Some health issues arose that are common among elderly goats, as did some symptoms that stumped his doctors. But, with care and treatment, Ivan rallied and managed to have yet another wonderful year.
This winter was different, however. Regardless of the many precautions we take and the extra comforts we provide, winter is a hard time for our elderly animals — and Ivan was no exception. Everything seemed fine until one day Ivan was suddenly too weak to stand. His legs were swollen, and he was clearly dehydrated. We quickly drove him to meet our vet in a parking lot, where he put a catheter in place and drew blood, which was rushed to the diagnostic lab. Unfortunately, the results revealed that Ivan was a very sick goat suffering from the final stages of renal failure.
Even with fluid therapy and around-the-clock care, Ivan’s condition rapidly worsened to the point that he was unable to hold his head up. At 17 years old, Ivan was clearly ready to say goodbye, and any extreme attempts to treat him would have been more for our benefit than for his. Euthanasia was the only compassionate option to spare him further suffering, and we were all devastated to lose our cherished friend.
We have all felt this loss deeply. It’s hard for me to convey just what a powerful presence Ivan was at the shelter. He was an impressive giant of a goat with long, graceful horns, but he was gentle and kind to every member of the herd. Goats establish a herd hierarchy largely through physically challenging one another, and dominance is determined primarily by strength. Yet, even when Ivan was older and clearly weaker, no goat in the herd ever challenged him. His benevolent leadership was accepted unanimously.
Despite the cruelty he faced early in life, Ivan was gracious to humans and patient with everyone he met. He was even patient while asking for attention and known for silently inching to your side, politely waiting for you to give him some love. His sponsors adored him, and those who were able to visit him always brought him treats. And although he saw these sponsors only a few times a year, Ivan clearly remembered them as well as so many other human friends he has made over the years.
Ivan loved to roam and graze in our goat pasture and lounge casually on our goat jungle gym. But no matter how far away he was, Ivan would always come if you called his name. Knowing that we’ll never see Ivan and his beautiful family running to greet us when we call out to him is the hardest part. Now, our magnificent, regal Ivan has gone on to roam further pastures, comforted by his old pals.
I will miss Ivan dearly, as will everyone else who had the pleasure of meeting this special goat.
It was a baby-boom summer at our New York Shelter! We frequently rescue young and even newborn animals. Less frequently, we have the opportunity to help deliver animals at the sanctuary when we rescue those who are already pregnant. In these cases, our caregivers face intensive prenatal rehabilitation efforts, sleepless nights keeping watch as the crucial moment approaches, high-risk deliveries, plenty of hard work to help new moms and babies in the early days… and great excitement as we watch new life begin to flourish and new families grow.
Julia and Her Babies
Just a five days before July 4, Farm Sanctuary’s Emergency Rescue Team arrived at a factory pig farm where authorities were confiscating a pregnant breeding sow. The day before, a worker had brutally kicked, beaten, and shocked her as she screamed in pain. Settling her in our trailer, we saw the bruises and burns on her body — and profound fear in her eyes.
A mere eight hours after arriving at our New York Shelter, the sow, now named Julia, gave birth to 16 premature piglets. Our entire shelter staff leapt into action to provide the 24-hour, critical care these fragile babies needed to survive. Their mother, too, required weeks of careful treatment including fluids and treatment for mastitis. Although she still required medical care, her fear was clearly gone. The trust she immediately displayed for her new caregivers, and the patience and love she gave to her babies, have been an inspiration to us all.
Today mom and babies are thriving. Dynamic duo Antonio and Bertha and best pals Gus and Ben have already found wonderful adoptive homes, and more adoptions are coming soon. With their new families, these piglets will be showered with attention and spend the rest of their lives in the company of their beloved siblings. Mom Julia is staying with us along with two of her piglets, Diane and Linus.
Oleander and Pappas
Earlier in the summer, we rescued seven emaciated cattle from a central New York property where they had been starving to death in a barren field. In adjacent barns, sheep, chickens, and a goat also languished in neglect, and nearby loomed a makeshift slaughterhouse. We rescued more than 60 animals from this grisly scene.
During physical exam, we quickly discovered that Oleander, one of the cows, had been struggling not only to survive but also to support new life. Neglect had placed both her and her unborn calf at risk, and we did all we could to nourish them both as the birth drew near.
With vigilant care, Oleander gained sufficient strength to bring a healthy boy, Pappas, into the world. Her growing strength was accompanied by growing joy. The young mother and her son delight in each other, and Oleander is never far from her youngster’s side. Recently, this little family has grown with the addition of a calf named Elijah, who has become a best friend to Pappas and a second son to Oleander.
Belinda & Elijah
The story of Elijah’s mother, Belinda, exemplifies the maternal benevolence of cows, not only toward their own flesh and blood but also to other calves in need. Belinda was among the herd of rescued cattle that included Oleander. She too, already desperately depleted from starvation and nursing her calf Octavia, was carrying a new baby. She is also a very old cow, and it is likely that she was kept in a cycle or pregnancy for more than a decade before arriving at our shelter. By the time Belinda was rescued, her body had stopped producing milk in order to support her new pregnancy. Fortunately, herd mate Luna stepped in, allowing Octavia to nurse alongside her own calf, Orchid. This trio became inseparable, and after recuperating at our shelter, they have been adopted by Vine Sanctuary in Vermont.
With the help of Luna and her new caregivers, Belinda was able to carry her baby to term. Mother and son’s time together, however, was soon interrupted. Still weak from neglect and taxed from giving birth, Belinda fell gravely ill and was rushed to the hospital. Although he was sad to be away form his mother, Elijah was a trooper during her weeks of recovery and quickly took to the bottle.
Finally after more than six weeks, Belinda was well enough to return to the shelter. Still weak and vulnerable to udder infection, however, she was in no condition to nurse. We tried fitting her with a special bra to prevent Elijah from trying to suckle, but his presence caused her to begin lactating again, and she immediately contracted mastitis. Knowing this could cost Belinda her life, we were forced to separate them. To lift his spirits, we introduced him to Pappas and his mother, Oleander. The two calves bonded instantly, and, within a few days, Oleander had fallen for Elijah as well, allowing him to nurse and becoming as protective of him as she is of Pappas.
Now Belinda can focus all of her energy on getting well. When she grows stronger, she will join other rescued cattle, make friends, and form new bonds. As Octavia and Elijah have done with their adoptive mothers and siblings, she will build a new family. That’s part of the new life created by this baby boom: not only life beginning but also life beginning again.
Animals used in food production, from dairy cows and pigs to chickens and sheep, rarely have the opportunity to experience the mother–child bond – in fact, piglets, calves, and lambs most often are taken from their mothers soon after birth. Some, such as male dairy calves, are sold for cheap beef or simply left to die in agony. Others, like the parents they’ll never know, become yet more “units” in our food-production system, processed for maximum growth at the expense of their health, their sanity, and their lives. This emotionally wrenching process is just one of the many hidden cruelties farm animal production.
Come meet these new families at our New York sanctuary and experience for yourself the remarkable love and devotion farm animals have for their young — or learn more about them online: The Mother and Calf Bond and Julia and Her Piglets.
Over the past two weeks, news outlets across the country have reported on the USDA’s closure of a cattle slaughter facility in central California for “egregious inhumane handling and treatment of livestock.” The agency was alerted to misconduct at Hanford’s Central Valley Meat Co. by animal protection organization Compassion Over Killing, whose undercover investigator gathered footage of workers shooting cows in the head repeatedly with a captive-bolt gun after the first shot failed to stun them, of a conscious cow flailing as she hangs from her back leg on the chain that will carry her to the throat-slashing station, and of sick or injured cows struggling as workers roughly try to force them to stand.
The cruelty uncovered at Central Valley Meat sickens me, but it doesn’t surprise me. The company and the industry will allege that the recklessness and brutality brought to light there are an aberration, but after more than 25 years investigating the abuse of downed animals and advocating on their behalf, I can tell you that such conduct is all too common.
Central Valley Meat Co. is one of many operations that specialize in slaughtering dairy cows whom producers deem “spent.” To keep cows in constant milk production, dairies subject them to an unremitting cycle of impregnation, birth, and lactation. Producing more than twice as much milk they did 40 years ago, cows are impregnated every year and are milked during seven months of their nine-month pregnancies. They are pushed to their biological limits. After a few years of this, they are exhausted — their bodies depleted, their bones brittle, their udders often painfully infected with mastitis. When they are no longer profitable as milking cows, these poor animals are sent to slaughter.
It was at a stockyard that a Farm Sanctuary rescue team found Fanny. This “spent” cow, had clearly endured not only the ordeal of milk production but also the misery of neglect. Her horribly overgrown hooves made every step excruciating, and her legs buckled under the weight of her enormous udders. Instead of trying to help her, stockyard workers hit her with wooden poles to make her move, striking her every time she fell, attempting to force her to get up.
Fanny and Orlando
As soon as we could gain access to Fanny, we brought her to Cornell’s veterinary hospital where we assumed she would need to be euthanized. Despite her ailments, however, with the care she received, Fanny began to revive. Within hours, her eyes were brighter, and by the next day she was standing on her own and greeted us with a loud moo. Against the odds, Fanny still had plenty of life in her.
And even after years of seeing every calf she bore taken away within hours of delivery, Fanny also still had a strong desire to be a mother. At our New York Shelter, she met Orlando, Arnold, Tweed, Conrad, and Milbank, young male dairy calves sold at auction for cheap beef when they were newborns and later rescued after their buyer shot six others purchased with them. The mother who had never known her calves and the calves who had never known their mothers claimed each other at once and became a blissful family.
The devotion Fanny and her adopted sons have for each other underscores the tragedy of dairy production. These animals suffer not only physically but emotionally. The lives denied them are not ones of mere survival but ones of intimacy, loyalty, and joy.
The slaughter of animals too sick, injured, or weak to stand and walk on their own (“downers” as the industry calls them) at Central Valley Meats, a supplier for the USDA’s national school lunch program, has justly raised concerns about the safety of the U.S. meat supply, not least because the violations occurred under the noses of two USDA inspectors stationed at the plant. Under federal regulations instituted in 2009, in part at the urging of Farm Sanctuary, the slaughter of downed cattle for human consumption is prohibited. Without strict oversight, however, businesses will continue to push downed cattle onto the kill floor, squeezing profit out of every animal they can. They will also continue to slaughter downed pigs, sheep, and goats with impunity, since these animals are as yet exempt from the regulations that are supposed to apply to downed cows.
Every year, more than one million animals become so sick or injured that they are unable to walk to slaughter. We are still fighting against great resistance to keep even these extremely unwell animals from being killed for food. If our government demanded that all animals slaughtered for human consumption actually be healthy, by any sane definition of the word, and if that regulation was actually enforced, the slaughter industry would be brought to its knees.
The USDA has decided against a recall of Central Valley Meats beef. I hope this does not put the matter to rest for consumers. This investigation has given people across the country a glimpse into an industry that breeds, raises, transports, and slaughters animals with systematic disregard for their welfare and for the welfare of those who consume animal products. I hope this story will make people think about the history of the meat on their plates, and I hope it will inspire them to replace that meat with food that has not been created with such callousness.