Aysha: Sheep Spared from Sacrifice

On October 16, “Gothamist,” a popular New York City news blog, published a headline declaring, “Activist Rescues Sheep From Brooklyn Butcher, But It’s The Wrong Sheep.” Just the day before, a sheep had escaped from Brooklyn’s Al Noor Halal Meat Market. When activist Mike Stura read the news story about this incident, he quickly set off for Brooklyn to see if he could help this poor sheep.

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On the way, he phoned the owner of the slaughterhouse and managed to persuade him to relinquish the sheep. However, when he arrived and was presented with the pardoned sheep, Stura immediately realized that she was not the escaped sheep because he knew from the news story that the first sheep had a number painted on her back and was clearly a different breed.

Stura still did not hesitate to accept the sheep offered to him at the meat market, knowing that she would otherwise face a death sentence. He later learned that the escaped sheep had been captured and reclaimed by the market. Despite her brave dash for freedom, this sheep’s fate was sealed the moment workers labeled her with a number, designating her for slaughter for the Muslim holiday Eid Al-Adhha for a customer who had selected her. Along with thousands of others throughout the city, this sheep was killed for the holiday Feast of the Sacrifice.

Stura, who rescued our friend Michael earlier this year, brought the newly rescued sheep to our New York Shelter. He asked us to name her Aysha, which means “alive and well” in Arabic.

Aysha was terrified when she arrived. Amid the clamor and bloodletting at the meat market, she likely witnessed the slaughter of her entire family. As our shelter staff gently tried to settle her into a hospital stall, she lunged frantically, attempting to escape any way that she could. Convinced that danger was all around, Aysha was desperate to keep herself alive. Clearly, she, too, would have fled the market if given the chance.

National Shelter Director Susie Coston and fellow caregivers finally managed to help Aysha calm down. As she experienced compassion and kindness — possibly for the first time in her life — the exhausted sheep mustered enough trust to eat from their hands. A few hours later, she fell asleep with her head resting on Susie’s shoulder. When Susie was expected on a telephone conference, she took the call from Aysha’s stall so as not to disturb her much-needed rest.

Aysha is still traumatized, but caregivers stay with her to ensure that she will not have to face her fears alone. As a new arrival, Aysha must stay in quarantine while we test her for parasites and diseases. Soon, though, she will be ready to join our flock of nearly eighty sheep where she will find life-long comfort and companionship.

The courageous sheep who made a dash for freedom through the streets of Brooklyn could not save her own life, but she has changed the lives of many others. She inspired action in a rescuer and mercy in a butcher. She brought a precious new member to the Farm Sanctuary family. And she gave Aysha a gift that, only the day before, she had no chance of receiving: the promise of a lifetime at sanctuary surrounded by family and filled with peace.

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