May 3, 2017

My Little Runaway

Recently the news has been full of escaped farmed animals! The stories of these animals who manage to escape, often shortly before slaughter, capture the attention and hearts of the public. When an animal escapes, there is an almost universal call for the animal’s life to be spared.

A highly-publicized escape recently occurred in St. Louis, MO. Six steers escaped through an improperly latched door at the slaughterhouse and ran loose through the city for four hours before they were corralled by local officials. Once they were safely captured, the public who had watched the rescue unfold on television and social media raised nearly $20,000 for the rescue and aftercare of the steers. They have since been taken in by The Gentle Barn, where they will live out their lives in peace.

Photos from The Gentle Barn (link)

A local pig named Wally also garnered media attention when he jumped out of the back of a truck less than three miles away from the processing facility to which he was being transported. Dashcam photos show him considering the jump shortly after he managed to pry open the rear door of the truck. Luck was on Wally’s side as he jumped onto the freeway to save his own life; miraculously he only suffered some road rash and soreness. After being held for a short time at the Sioux Fall Humane Society, he was rescued by SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary. A recent SoulSpace Facebook update assured Wally’s many fans that he is living the dream! He enjoys fresh fruit and oatmeal for breakfast and has made fast friends with Amos, a miniature donkey.

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Photo from SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary (link)

Probably the most highly publicized escape in recent years occurred when Frank the Bull escaped from a slaughterhouse in the heart of New York City. Frank, named for Frank Lee Morris the famous prisoner who escaped from Alcatraz, led NYC animal control officers on a one-hour chase through the streets of Queens. Shortly after his capture, his happy future was secured when Tracey and Jon Stewart (yep, that Jon Stewart) rescued him on behalf of Farm Sanctuary. This handsome boy now lives a free and safe life at Farm Sanctuary’s New York location.

Finally, one of my favorite recent escape stories didn’t feature a farmed animal, but rather an octopus!   Mr. Inky escaped from the National Aquarium of New Zealand by squeezing through a small opening at the top of his tank, sneaking across eight feet of dry land, and sliding down a 160-foot drainpipe into the open ocean.  While his current whereabouts are unknown, I like to think he is enjoying long swims without hitting glass.

So why do so many cheer for farmed animals when they escape slaughter – including those who eat meat and other animal products?  It may be due in part to people’s strong desire for a “Just World.” We like to believe that our actions have predictable outcomes – and that in turn, we can influence the path of our own lives through our actions. In other words, we want life to be fair! Therefore, if a farmed animal manages to outsmart the industry and earn his freedom, he deserves to live. Escapees are also viewed differently than other farmed animals. People often see them as smarter or having a stronger will to survive than those who don’t escape. Despite evidence to the contrary, many continue to believe that farmed animals don’t have the ability to experience pain or emotions such as fear, leading them to  conclude that escapees are special and thus more deserving of life. However, I like to believe that people cheer for escapees because seeing their struggle brings our compassion to the forefront. Suddenly, that steer is not meat – but rather a feeling animal who wants to live. It makes invisible farmed animals visible and reminds everyone that they are someone, not something. This glimmer of compassion gives me hope for the future of all farmed animals.

Namaste.