Escaped cow that tore through Brooklyn finds home at sanctuary

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MARCH 24, 2023

Photograph: John M Lund Photography Inc/Getty Images

It’s been one hell of a week for the Canarsie cow, a black angus calf who started this week on his way to a slaughterhouse and will end it settling into his new home on a New Jersey farm.

After he escaped a truck hauling him from a Pennsylvania farm to certain death at Saba Live Poultry in Canarsie, Brooklyn, he went on a rampage through the streets. Slaughterhouse employees and workers at a nearby pizza shop tried to catch up with him, in a chase that lasted several minutes.

Though the liberated calf was eventually subdued and brought to the slaughterhouse, he found a hero in Mike Stura, owner of Skylands animal sanctuary and an animal rights advocate who makes a habit of rescuing renegade livestock.

Stura secured the cow’s release during a three-hour phone call with the farm owner and the manager of Saba Live Poultry, which Gothamist described as “tense”. Stura would not comment on exactly how he clinched the deal – he does not want to reveal his methods – but he did make clear that he does not pay for any animals. (A worker at Saba declined to comment.)

“Paying money would be counterproductive to my goal,” Stura, who is vegan, told the Guardian. “We don’t want there to be any slaughterhouses, so how can we be animal advocates and pay them at the same time?”

Initially, the cow was reported as being a baby girl, but Stura had his doubts. “I saw him jump a fence in that video, and I saw something hanging underneath,” he said. As it turns out, the cow is in fact male. Stura named him Stewie.

Stewie will live his life on Skylands, a New Jersey animal rescue where over 400 animals live together on 232 rolling acres of pasture. Visitors can go for a day trip or stay at the farm’s bed and breakfast to meet other celebrity livestock, like Freddie, another slaughterhouse escapee who made headlines after bolting from a cage in Queens, and Brianna, who jumped from a transport truck as it sped down Route 80 near Paterson, New Jersey.

Stura made plans to meet with the truck driver transporting the cow for a handoff on Wednesday morning. He drove three hours into Pennsylvania to pick Stewie up. When he got there, the driver was nowhere to be found. “I was there at 2pm sitting in my truck like a dumbass,” he said. After waiting all day and night, Stura said he was “about to give up and go live on Facebook to say I guess they screwed me over”.

But “five minutes” before he planned to go live, the truck driver called Stura. He was at their meeting point. Stura drove over immediately, and had Stewie on his way back to Skylands by lunchtime on Thursday.

When they get to the farm, Stewie will enter an isolated area and wait for a veterinarian to come check him out. “I’m sure he’s going to be a nervous wreck,” Stura said. Once the vet gives an OK, the cow will enter the general population of the pasture. Stura suspects he will room in a pen led by Emma, a Jersey cow who “acts like a mother” and “keeps the kids in line”.

“My guess is that he will be ecstatic to meet them, and I know that whatever group he goes in with will jump around like maniacs,” he said. “They love to welcome new animals. Cows are extremely inquisitive.”

What makes a cow decide to run for it? “I believe animals know when they will be slaughtered, but more are so petrified they just shut down,” Stura said. “There are a few who say, ‘I gotta go man, I just gotta go,’ and if they see an escape they just go for it. I do think they’re different from the others – not smarter, they just have more of a fighter response. And I notice that the ones I rescue are always a pain in the neck. They’re kind of free-thinkers and have something that enables them to run instead of just standing there.”

Stura said that he is “not your typical” animal rights advocate. “I’m a truck driver, I’m 240lb, I’m a Harley-Davidson guy,” he explained. “I’m not a peace and love, hippy kind of person. I’m not good enough to be one of them.” But something about being with animals brings out “infinite patience” in him.

It’s one of the reasons why he felt compelled to save the cow, even though the timing could not have been worse for him. On the day Stura headed to Pennsylvania to pick up the cow, his girlfriend was in the hospital for a planned surgery. “I hate myself for that, but for the past 13 years, there’s been no me without animals,” he said. (Stura’s girlfriend encouraged him to make the trek, and is recovering well.)

So what’s next for the cow? “Hopefully, he’ll live 20-some-odd more years, and pass away at old age,” Stura said. “You should see these animals when they flourish. You would never believe they were the same ones who ran away in the first place.”


Courtesy/Source: The Guardian