farm operation in Cattaraugus County, NY, is not difficult
but it is still hard. It is hard because it is painful to think that the beautiful beings we now know so well came from this hell on earth.
It is hard because these loving, caring, and kind individuals were living in darkness — some never seeing the light, feeling the sun, or touching the earth for years on end.
Matilda, whose original rescuers took her babies away, was suffering from horrible mastitis, emaciation and exhaustion. Now. at Farm Sanctuary, she is happy and thriving.
All of the animals living in the barns were living in darkness with no opportunities to venture into the sun or fresh air.
It is hard because these fragile, gentle creatures went without care
− some without shelter in the dead of winter.
The geese were left outside without shelter in the dead of winter, but mud season was actually worse. Due to improper housing, and living in areas with multiple deceased animals, the girls arrived with a rare and very difficult to treat parasite.
It is hard because mothers, who we know love their children, had to see them taken away to be sold for food, and then were forced to reproduce and create more children to love and lose.
From a birthing pen, where baby after baby is taken, Izzy and Daniella had their next babies at our sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. These babies, as you can see, are as big as mom and still with their family.
So we remember. We cry for those who never had a chance to get out
− for the hundreds who died on that farm. We feel pain for the babies sold for lamb as their mothers were forced to let them go.
When we arrived to pick up the sheep and goats, many were being removed or had been removed by local farmers. We could only take some of the remaining animals. Gabby, above back left, was one who made it to Farm Sanctuary.
We remember those who were left to survive in barns so filthy that humans were not allowed to enter without respirators; where our eyes and throats burned from the ammonia in the air.
Beeley Pippin, before and after. Arriving dirty, emaciated, and in poor feather condition, this girl has made a huge change for the better.
But we also celebrate. We celebrate because those who are at sanctuary are feeling the earth, soaking up the sun, protected by shelter, able to live with their loved ones, and seen as someone, not something. We celebrate because we know them as the individual beings that they are
Queenie over 16 years ago and her great escape – painting by Sue Coe
Maxine thankfully was also roped after only light sedation and again she was run into a yard and had the ability to calm down. She was also much smaller.
Darted and roped- this was done right! Photo by Robert Stridiron
Frank Roped to a tree- already darted twice- and in the end darted 3 times. Photo by Robert Stridiron
Photo by Ellis Kaplan of the recent escapee being chased – already darted too many times.
Running for Your Life: Another Bull Attempts Escape
Last week, yet another bull escaped from a New York City live market — the third in less than 13 months. And people are outraged.
From left to right: Queenie (rescued August 2000), Maxine (rescued September 2007), Freddie of Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue (rescued January 2016), and Frank (rescued April 2016).
And this bull had a place lined up to go — a chance not only to survive, but to actually live out his life with other cattle and a new family. Upon learning of this bull in need, Mike Stura of New Jersey-based Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue immediately set out for the city, but sadly, this sweet boy — one of millions killed every year for food — was already gone.
Freddie enjoying life as a free man at Skylands — loving his people and his hay.
For the sake of statistics, more than 18,000 cattle are slaughtered in the U.S. each day. So why is this bull so special? Because he got loose — he was free, and people were rooting for him. People saw him. There are likely others in the same facility — but we saw him, and watched him try. But he still died, and now, for many people shocked and upset by the loss, there seems to be the need to blame someone — in many cases, the police — but is that really fair?
The most handsome face of the now sweetest boy, Frank. Although he attempted to hurt people during his escape, he has been a perfect gentleman since his arrival at Farm Sanctuary.
I, too, watched the live video online and did the same thing: I screamed at the computer — “Stop chasing him!” “They hit him too many times with the darts!” “You’re going to kill him!”
And they did. But even a bull as young as this one was could easily have
killed someone else — because he was running for his life. The police are not hired to protect and serve cattle — many will eat a burger after work. They are hired to protect people.
Queenie is one of our smallest cows and was an adult when she arrived — although she was the size of a calf. Here, she demonstrates that even an 800-pound girl like herself can cause damage — serious damage.
So are the police officers who tranquilized him alone to blame? Should all 32,000 potential police officers in New York City be trained to properly tranquilize bulls? Again — they are hired to protect people.
One of my favorite things about those who have escaped slaughter is that they are drawn to each other. Here, Queenie and Cinci Freedom spend time together enjoying sanctuary life.
Cattle are prey animals, and they have a fight-or-flight response. Bulls and cows brought to the live markets are originally from farms, where they
spend their time with their bovine family and herd outside grazing. A very
few of them are shipped into New York live markets; most are sold at auctions and slaughtered elsewhere.
This bull was likely not the only bull,
cow, sheep, goat, chicken, duck, etc., who died that day in a Queens slaughterhouse. And he was scared. Even when we have to sedate our friendliest, calmest steers at sanctuary, we walk away after the sedative drugs are given — we don’t chase them or even hang out around them, so that they will feel safe and go to sleep.
Maxine disguising herself as a powdered doughnut.
So let’s look at other cases in which animals lost their lives in recent years. Many animal lovers placed the blame on those whose decisions, in the end, led to the animals losing their lives. But are they really to blame?
1. Many blamed the zookeepers and the mother of the child who fell into the exhibit in the 2016 case that ended tragically with the death of the magnificent gorilla Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo. But was the blame only theirs? Again, I don’t think so.
2. I vividly remember the 2011 case of Ohio resident Terry Thompson, who threw open the cages of his private exotic animal collection before committing suicide. Police, having no method to tranquilize these animals, ended up killing 48 of them. There was an outcry against the officers, who were accused of being trigger-happy — but was that really the cause of this tragedy?
3. In 2010, a very pregnant Holstein cow in a birthing tent, where visitors to the California State Fair can witness the miracle of birth, escaped. Because she was unable to be knocked down with tranquilizers, she was shot and killed.
4. Just last year, another fairground-escapee bovine ran over a police officer and a teenager, and was shot and killed.
5. And then there are these cases of escaped cattle killed who were not even given a chance, and were instead shot:
The Queen — our first live-market escapee, Queenie, is still with us more than 16 years after her dash for freedom.
Multiple times each year, cattle are shot down to avoid injury to people in areas where they escape. And just a few weeks ago, a steer escaped, but was recaptured. This happens, too, and the ending is far worse for the animal: being returned to the slaughterhouse.
Cinci Freedom was always aware when humans were near, and like so many escapees, did not ever fully become comfortable with humans.
So when thinking about this most recent case, as in the endless other cases, perhaps stepping back and looking at the big picture is the only way to fairly assess why these beings died.
The bottom line is this: Gorillas should not be captive in zoos — they
should live in their jungle homes with their families. They are in zoos because people pay money to
come and see them.
Big girl Maxine with her people. The one in the right rear is Queenie.
Private citizens should not be allowed to obtain exotic cats and dangerous wild animals. A small Ohio town (or any town) is not equipped to rescue that many loose and potentially deadly animals in one night.
Frank and his new family — and new best friends. From front to back: Frank, Nik, Dennis, and Chandini.
And animals should not be put on display — especially a vulnerable, pregnant mother ready to give birth. Of course she ran — she was afraid.
The beautiful Maxine! Although she has never become close to people, she loves her cattle family.
And the bottom line in this sad case: This bull should not have been in the
city. We mourn the loss of this and all beings whose lives are cut short, who go unnoticed and who never get the chance to really live. R.I.P., sweet boy.
Ben David piglet bedded down next to Honey, his adoptive mom.
Eric’s first bed.
Walk Around the Farm With Susie: Pigs Go to Bed
One thing we see time and again when we rescue pigs — especially those who’ve come from factory farms or been forced to live in pens consisting only of mud or in concrete-floored barns — is that bedding is what they seem to enjoy and want the most.
Noah and Portia hate to be disturbed when napping!
Now, I love to sleep, and nothing feels better than sleeping in soft, comfortable bedding. Sleep needs to feel safe, secure, warm, and snuggly — and no one appreciates this more than a pig.
The family that nests together stays together.
So today’s walk around the farm is all about pigs and going to bed! We will watch as our rescue-barn resident pigs make their beds and get ready to sleep. With the snow falling down right now and temperatures dropping into the teens, nothing says comfort like a warm, soft bed!
So sit back and watch some of our pigs get comfy — and I hope you all have an equally comfortable and happy sleep!
Eric started out snuggling on a stuffed pig, and now he does the same with his real friend Bob and in snuggly straw!
Bob and Eric now — Bob is the live version of the Gund pig above!
National Shelter Director Susie Coston takes us along for the ride as she bids her bovine friends good night at our New York Shelter!
One of our cow residents, Belinda, is currently wearing a coat at night to give her a little extra warmth. When she decides that she might prefer not to wear it, her friends come over to check on her and make sure everything’s all right! This is just one of many reminders we have the opportunity to see here at Farm Sanctuary that these incredible animals have rich emotional lives and form strong bonds of friendship and family, just like we do. Learn more about these intelligent and deeply social beings at The Someone Project.
Mama Claire guides Erika through her first days of life!
Baby Erika gets adjusted to her legs.
“Aunt Felicity” checks in on baby Erika.
Facilities Coordinator Danielle Petrovich meets Claire the day before she started her internship.
Erika shares some love with fellow “kid” pal, Nicole!
Actress Beth Behrs recently visited the farm, and was charmed by these two lovely ladies!
Claire only has eyes for her new pal, Beth Behrs.
A day in the life of Claire and Erika — making it through each day together!
Claire and Erika: Family, Best Friends, and Partners in Crime (and Life)
If there’s one thing guaranteed to visitors of Farm Sanctuary’s Southern
California Shelter, it is a likely glimpse of Claire and Erika goats snuggled
together. This mother-daughter pair is, indeed, inseparable. Erika is one of
the lucky few to have been born on the sanctuary, and therefore has only known
the good life.
Her mother, Claire, was rescued as part of a large-scale
cruelty case seizure by Los Angeles County animal control services from a
Southern California illegal backyard butcher in 2013. Claire was seized along with 13 sheep and a
calf. Most of the sheep were elderly, emaciated, terrified, and suffering from
a variety of ailments. All appeared to have been bred repeatedly. We suspect
the butcher used these aging sheep to breed lambs for his customers and
probably killed the babies within earshot, if not eyesight, of their mothers.
Twelve of the sheep, as well as the calf, were transported to
our Northern California Shelter to receive more intensive care and
rehabilitation. Claire goat, however, remained at the Southern California
Shelter along with a very special Barbados Black Belly sheep named Felicity, with whom
she shared a tight bond.
Coming from a backyard butcher, it was no surprise that quite
a few of the sheep were pregnant — and, as it turned out, Claire was pregnant,
too. Unlike most of the other pregnant sheep, however, this goat was a young
mother and this may have been her introduction to motherhood — at least, we hope
Usually when an animal is expecting to give birth, we isolate her from other animals to minimize any possible harm to the baby. But Felicity sheep was equal parts terrified
of us and bonded to Claire that they refused to be apart. Rather than cause either Felicity or Claire
undue stress from separation, we retained the status quo and monitored the
The day that Claire gave birth to her beautiful baby was
exciting indeed at the sanctuary. The
loving bond was instantaneous and strong.
Claire radiated love, and from that moment she
vowed to stay by her baby’s side. Erika, in turn — like any baby — dutifully followed her mother everywhere she went. Felicity quickly became infatuated with tiny Erika, too, and welcomed the honor of becoming Aunt Felicity. The three became one and were so bonded that
the staff referred to them collectively as “Flerika”.
Though wary of our interference with her baby, Claire
reluctantly accepted that we had Erika’s best interest at heart when we
performed regular health checks. Luckily
for everyone, Erika was the perfect picture of health and monitoring and
maintenance was all that was needed from us.
As mothers worldwide can attest, Claire did all of the hard work in
rearing Erika; we were just along for the ride.
Before they were ready to join our main sheep and goat herd, “Flerika” lived in an enclosure adjacent to our cattle pasture. “Big brother” Paolo and the rest of the herd would check in on their new neighbors to make sure they were comfortable before the big “mooove”
When Erika grew big enough, she, her mom, and her
aunt — Flerika — were all introduced to the main goat and sheep herd. The trio was an instant hit among their
mates. And, unsurprisingly, they
remained a close knit trio, not straying far from one another at any
point. Whether in the barn, roaming the hillside, or at the feed trough, Flerika
“Flerika” posing on the hillside together!
Mother and daughter particularly piqued the interest of our
debonair llama Yoda, who is particularly adept at and fond of babysitting — which we learned when he met Erika. Erika was the first kid he met, and he
was instantly smitten. Claire accepted
the lanky giant’s interest with grace, never questioning Yoda’s intentions with
her beautiful daughter. Instead, Claire
recognized Yoda as an ally in protecting and guiding Erika. When Erika was young, she and her mom followed
Yoda everywhere, roaming much farther onto the hillside than they would alone,
now that they had their fierce protector in tow. Felicity followed warily behind at a
respectable, safe distance. Erika would
look up to Yoda before venturing on, appearing to seek guidance as to whether
they should continue. Those interactions
earned Yoda the nickname “Uncle Yoda,” and, with that, Erika’s family grew.
At base, her primary relationship remained with her mother,
and so it still remains. Mother-daughter
bonds are special to begin, but there’s something exceptionally notable about
Claire and Erika’s closeness. Perhaps it’s because Claire was so young when she
gave birth and the two of them are quite close in age. It seems like they could be sisters, and they
are without a doubt best friends.
The love of Claire and Erika is never more apparent than when
they’re resting and sleeping. Every day
they nap near one another and usually with one of them resting her head on
the other. Whether occurring in the
barn, on the patio, or on the hillside, this spectacle never fails to melt our
hearts and the hearts of all of those lucky enough to bear witness to this love.
Claire and Erika’s signature move. These girls are never far apart, and their love is truly a sight to behold.
Claire and Erika’s relationship is a great comfort to them both. They are always there for one another, in good times and in bad. When we had to evacuate our Southern California Shelter due to the Sand Fire last summer, Claire and Erika stayed side by side, helping each other get through the stress of the move and an unfamiliar setting until we were cleared to head back home.
These girls always have each other’s backs!
To this day, nearly four years after her birth, Erika is not
often found without her mother in close proximity. When they wander too far apart, Erika’s
bleats can be heard all over the sanctuary.
The doting and caring mother that she is, Claire responds to her daughter’s
cries and the two are swiftly reunited.
During routine health care checks, both Claire and Erika wait
patiently on the other side of the gate while the other has their hooves
trimmed and receives a full body check by the caregivers. They no longer act too
concerned — at this point they know the routine and that it’s nothing to be scared
of. But they do remain vigilant and watchful — patiently waiting, just in case — and
are always happy and relieved when they’re reunited.
Nowadays, Claire and Erika lead the pack roaming the
hillside. Sometimes Yoda and Felicity
are in tow, and sometimes not. Claire is
the clear matriarch of the goat herd. Paul Harvey, Vince, and Calvin often tromp around the hillside with
Claire and Erika. Erika and Paul Harvey
particularly enjoy palling around together and enjoy testing each other’s
In addition to goats, sheep, and one llama, Claire and Erika
also count many humanimals among their friends.
They’re often the first to greet staff members and visitors at the gate — usually
because they’re looking for treats. When
treats are not forthcoming, though, they gladly settle into being adored and
Claire and Erika ask for some love from their good friend Kim Kaspari. And we’re always happy to oblige!
When all else fails, visit the humanimals in the office for some treats!
Claire spends some time with her new friend, Beth Behrs, who plays Caroline on CBS’s “2 Broke Girls.”
The girls are also quite fond of their “kid” pals! Here, Claire enjoys a back rub from her friend Michelle, while Erika looks on from behind.
All and all, Claire and Erika are great goat ambassadors,
demonstrating to every visitor at the sanctuary the strong and unbreakable bond
between a mother and her child. We’re so happy that these lucky girls will
always have each other to turn to and to rest their heads upon.
Please share Claire and Erika’s story. Together, we can raise awareness that goats like them are each someone, not something. With your support, we can continue to promote compassionate vegan living through rescue, education, and advocacy efforts. A compassionate world begins with you!