Farm Sanctuary’s story began with a downer named Hilda. Found discarded on a pile of dead animals at Lancaster Stockyards in Pennsylvania, Hilda was too weak to stand or walk and, crawling with flies and maggots, appeared to be dead. She had, however, only collapsed due to dehydration, and thankfully after a visit to the veterinary hospital she was able to stand up again. Hilda spent the next 11 years roaming happily at our New York Shelter until passing away peacefully in her sleep in 1997. While she is gone, her memory continues to inspire all the work we now do.
Hilda’s story was in itself shocking, but what was more alarming was that it wasn't an isolated incident: animals were constantly being left to languish in stockyard alleys. Take Maya for example. As is standard in the dairy industry, Maya was taken away from her mother the day she was born so that the milk meant for her could be brought to the market. She never saw her mom again – Farm Sanctuary’s Co-founder, Gene Baur, found her at a Pennsylvania stockyard in 1987 after she had been left for dead.
Maya spent 22 happy years at our New York Shelter. During her time here, she stood not only as an ambassador for suffering animals nationwide, but as a teacher and role model; despite being motherless, Maya’s maternal instinct saw her nurture and love many other rescued calves as if they were her own.
One of the animals Maya cared for was Opie. He had been abandoned at only a few hours old at a stockyard in upstate New York. A dairy industry discard, his temperature was so low that it could not even be read by a thermometer. So we placed him on IV, provided him with colostrums and bottle-fed him until he was well enough to join the other cattle. As soon as he did, Maya instantly filled the role of a protective and watchful mother, caring for him unconditionally. Eventually coming to stand six feet tall and weigh a ton-and-a-half, this steer left many visitors speechless! No one would ever have guessed his beginning as a sick, abandoned calf.
Through the years, we’ve rescued dozens of downed animals from stockyards, slaughterhouses and farms, discarded like rubbish and denied food, water and veterinary care. Their stories highlight the magnitude of the suffering these sick, injured or weak animals endure, and the urgency of regulatory change to prevent them from being slaughtered and entering the human food supply.
The Obama administration’s regulation last March preventing downed cattle from being slaughtered for human consumption was a step in the right direction. But the wellbeing of millions of animals depends upon this regulation being extended so that it protects all species. Just last year, we rescued Jack, who – suffering from hypothermia and a navel infection – was left to die at a sales stable in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. As a goat, Jack is one of many animals falling outside the scope of current regulatory protection.
Most downers are not as lucky as Maya, Opie and Jack, but by pressing the issue on the political agenda, we can help them. If you haven’t already, please urge the Obama administration to protect downed animals of all species by signing our Petition for the Pigs today. If you’ve already signed, please forward to everyone you know and ask them to do the same. The animals are counting on us to be their voice!