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Cattle that escaped from St. Louis slaughterhouse are headed to animal sanctuary

Cattle that escaped from St. Louis slaughterhouse are headed to animal sanctuary


Six steers that ran amok on the streets of north St. Louis last week after escaping from a neighborhood slaughterhouse have a new lease on life — and a possible future grazing on the lush pasture of a Tennessee animal sanctuary.

The steers — including Chico, who dodged police and animal control officers during a dramatic five-hour bid for freedom that included a crash through an iron fence — were picked up Monday morning from the slaughterhouse, Star Packing Co., and taken to an area farm.

They had been waiting at the slaughterhouse in limbo since late Thursday as a stampede of sometimes-feuding groups tried to save them from slaughter after their recapture.

The infamous six will stay at an area farm for a couple of weeks before making the trip to an animal sanctuary. That will likely be a Tennessee property owned by the Gentle Barn animal sanctuary, said Gentle Barn co-founder Jay Weiner.

(And yes, Weiner says, the animals are steers — neutered males — not female heifers, as the meatpacking plant repeatedly told media last week. The steers are less than two years old and have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, when not headed to a slaughterhouse.)

“They’re scared,” Weiner said of the animals after they were delivered to the St. Louis-area farm. “They’ve gone through a lot. But they are destined for good things.”

The Gentle Barn has animal sanctuaries in Southern California and Tennessee. According to its website, the organization rescues animals from severe abuse and neglect that are “too old, sick, lame, or scared to be adopted into homes. The Barn is home to horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, llamas, peacocks, emus, cats and dogs who are allowed to live out their lives in peace.”

The Gentle Barn also works with disadvantaged children on its ranches, and uses animal husbandry as part of its therapeutic healing philosophy. So Weiner said the organization will work with the steers to ensure that they are comfortable with humans and can be cared for by youths and adults.

He said it is the organization’s intent to keep the steers for this mission either at its Tennessee farm or a new one. If that’s not possible, the cattle will stay together and go to another quality animal sanctuary, he said.

Their rescue came with the help of a crowdfunding page started by Adam Brewer, a St. Louis native currently living in Chicago. As of Monday, Brewer had raised more than $16,500 to help the animals.

He said Monday he donated the money to the Gentle Barn to purchase all six of the steers for an undisclosed sum from the slaughterhouse and help transport them to their final location.

Brewer said he came under pressure from the animal-rights group Farm Sanctuary, which demanded the owner of the slaughterhouse donate the steers to a sanctuary. The group opposes the purchase of animals for rescues, accusing slaughterhouses of charging inflated ransoms on animals and further supporting the for-profit slaughter of animals.

Brewer said Monday he decided the most efficient and easy way to keep all six steers together was to arrange a quick purchase through the Gentle Barn.

“I just really want to separate our cause from theirs,” he said of Farm Sanctuary.

Weiner said he flew to St. Louis to oversee the transfer of the steers along with Brewer. He said the steers were penned together at the meatpacking facility and were clearly frightened, breathing deeply and backed into a corner.

The steers were taken to an area farm and unloaded into stalls to help calm them further. There were plans to later let them out into a field to graze.

There was some doubt the cattle would stay together. On Friday, Kelly Manno, the initiator of another crowdfunding site supported by Kelly Backes, wife of former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, thought she had negotiated the $1,800 purchase and delivery of Chico to a private farm in Lincoln County. She had directly witnessed the capture of Chico on Thursday and said she felt compelled to save the renegade animal.

But Manno waited in vain Friday night for delivery of the animal. In text exchanges with the owner of the slaughterhouse, she was told all the steers would be spared and remain together.

She said Monday she was disappointed that Chico never arrived but was delighted the animals were saved and were going together to a sanctuary. She said she has already decided to donate her $2,738 in crowdfunding donations to the Gentle Barn.

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Nancy Cambria is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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