On October 17, yet another cow – a bull, actually – ran for his life from a slaughterhouse in New York City, injuring a child in his bid to live. The #BrooklynCow, so dubbed on social media, was eventually tranquilized by police and rescued by Skylands Animal Sanctuary in New Jersey.
This is not the first rescue of a runaway animal in New York – in fact, those of us with knowledge of his background are unsurprised when it winds up being Mike Stura, the founder of Skylands, who saves the day. I always watch with a mixture of anxiety for the animals and exasperation towards those who root for them, even as they plan their steak dinner. It’s easy to feel for an individual, easier still to ignore the nameless billions who die in the system those individuals escape from. But does an individual who, by some stroke of luck, escaped his fate deserve to live any more than the others who weren’t so lucky?
Animal sanctuaries are forever homes to others like the #BrooklynCow, since named Shankar – cows and pigs and goats and chickens and turkeys who, by a stroke of luck, do not suffer the fate of their brothers and sisters. They often need medical care when rescued, and when they outlive the age span they are bred for. They are ambassadors for their kind, and they change hearts and minds; I’ve seen it happen.
What sanctuaries and news stories about escaped animals do is important to the goal of stopping the use of animals. The morning after Shankar’s rescue, I discussed what had happened with some co-workers before a meeting. One person asked, “Do you think they know [they’re going to die]?” I didn’t hesitate when I answered, “Yes. They absolutely know.” I saw a video many years ago of two cows, waiting outside the kill floor. As the door closed in front of them and they heard the bellowing on the other side, they backed up in fear. Though the video wasn’t violent, it was difficult to watch.
If you’ve ever heard your dog or cat yelp after accidentally getting a tail or paw stepped on, you know that they feel? And yet, it continues to be harder for people to accept that animals they don’t see as companions also feel. There is a reason the cellophane-wrapped slabs of meat at the supermarket are presented they way they are: they don’t suggest the living being that died that meat case to be filled in the slightest.
I’m relieved that Shankar will live out his days in safety with others like him. I only hope that the next time a bull makes the evening news, or, as was the case this time, Jimmy Kimmel Live, someone watching makes the connection and stops eating others like him.
For updates on Shankar, visit Skylands Animal Sanctuary on Facebook.