August 2, 2017

One Year Later: Looking Back on the Largest Farm Animal Rescue

rescued cows eating
Zeke, left, and Wilson, two steers, are living together at Uplands Peak Sanctuary in Indiana.

Just over one year ago, the ASPCA assisted in the largest-ever farm animal rescue in the Northeast after close to 1,400 animals were discovered living in deplorable conditions on a 70-acre property in Westport, Massachusetts. Following the removal of the animals (of various species), we aided in the investigation, as well as the care and sheltering of the animals in Westport. While the number of animals in this case was shocking, we were blown away by the community’s response. After the raid, the ASPCA and all of the rescues and organizations involved received an outpouring of support from the local community—support that continues to this day. 

Westport rescue display
From left: West Place Animal Sanctuary's Wendy Taylor, Executive Director; Amanda Laber, volunteer; and Pamela Holmes, board member, were responders during the Westport farm case, caring for animals that the ASPCA helped rescue in 2016. A year later, they attended a reflection ceremony to remember those animals.

Last week, in honor of the one-year anniversary of the case, many of the people of Westport gathered for a touching reflection ceremony to remember the animals lost to cruelty, celebrate the ones who were given a second chance, and thank the rescue groups and organizations that stepped up to help. The ceremony was set around a “reflection tree,” adorned with 1,400 hanging mirrors to represent each of the animals discovered living on the property. The moving gesture is one that will not soon be forgotten, and highlights the immense impact our work has on local communities. 

reflection and remembrance sign
West Place Animal Sanctuary's Wendy Taylor and Pamela Holmes at the reflection ceremony, held on the anniversary date of the rescue.

In addition to the reflection ceremony, we were also delighted to learn that two bonded steers from the case have been thriving in their new home. Wilson, a black-and-white three-year-old, and Zeke, a black one-year-old, are living out their lives in peace and safety at the Uplands Peak Sanctuary, a 20-acre refuge for animals and people in southern Indiana. In April, Wilson and Zeke took up residence alongside eight pigs, five goats, three roosters and another cow named Vegan.

Located in Salem, Indiana, Peak opened its doors in October 2013 and is open to visitors. Educational tours introduce people to the rescued residents and the realities of animal agriculture, according to Uplands Peak co-founder Mark Pruitt, who started the sanctuary with his wife Michelle. 

rescued cows
Zeke and Wilson remain inseparable after their rescue and placement at Uplands Peak.

“Cows are a big favorite,” Mark says. “They’ve been getting a lot of attention here.”

The Pruitts admit that running a sanctuary can be challenging, but it is rewarding above all. “It’s great to be on the cutting edge of something—rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected farm animals, educating the public to the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, and promoting sustainability,” says Mark.

One look at Zeke and Wilson – now safe, healthy and happy – makes it obvious that the reward goes both ways.

Visitors of Uplands Peak reach out to pet Wilson
Visitors of Uplands Peak reach out to pet Wilson, while sanctuary co-founder Mark Pruitt talks about the cows’ rescue.

Looking back at all of the hard work that went into rescuing the animals found alongside Zeke and Wilson, we are gratified to have been able to help such a welcoming community. Without the tireless efforts of so many people, Zeke, Wilson and over 1,000 other animals’ fates may have been bleak. Now, we are happy and proud to say that their suffering has ended.