In the waning hours of 2018, sightings of a mysterious “cow in the woods” began to be reported in the town of New Britain, Conn. (or, as New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart soon dubbed it in a memorable hashtag, #MooBritain).
— Mayor Erin Stewart (@erinstewartct)
When word of the escaped steer reached Jennifer Wynn, a dedicated animal advocate and Farm Sanctuary Friends of Hilda Club member, she knew just who to call. And Wynn’s determined efforts over the following weeks, in collaboration with a team of compassionate locals and Farm Sanctuary staffers, culminated in this lucky bovine’s rescue in the early-morning hours of January 23.
In rescue, sometimes it truly takes a village, as Wynn saw firsthand while working to help save the steer she named Finn. “Seeing everybody come together to help Finn has been really one of the most special things about this whole experience, other than Finn’s life being saved itself — I think that’s the most important thing. But I think what’s made this whole action possible, especially in the timespan that we’ve been able to help him, has been largely due to the way the community came together, the animal community came together, to rally support around him in this common shared mission,” she said.
The 4-to-5-month-old bovine — named in honor of Mark Twain’s Connecticut-penned classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — had apparently been purchased at a livestock auction by a local man planning to take him to a special butcher. But Finn, like his namesake, had an appetite for adventure and a strong desire to live. He made a dash for freedom as he was being transferred from the man’s van to his garage, remaining on the run for weeks and earning a fan base of animal-loving community members along the way.
— D. Bouchard (@flyfisherx)
Fortunately for Finn, his advocates included local resident and CT Votes for Animals Advisory Council member Mark Bailey; he contacted Wynn (who serves on the organization’s Board), who in turn reached out to us.
Wynn knew that Farm Sanctuary was no stranger to “cow on the loose” rescues (in fact, Finn will join a long and proud line of bovine slaughter escapees, including well-known current residents Frank steer and Queenie cow, in his new home at our flagship New York Shelter). Our rescue team quickly got to work devising a plan to bring Finn to safety. As in the case of another recent rescue — a fellow bovine escapee named Bonnie — that plan included a feeding station; a remote trail camera; and a team of devoted animal advocates: in this case, consisting of Wynn, her partner (and fellow Friends of Hilda Club member) Ashkan “Ash” Samadzadeh, and Paula Poplawski — local resident and Chair of the New Britain Commission on Animal Welfare.
Samadzdeh “was our humble — but critical — trail cam technician,” Wynn said. “And since it constantly broke down from the cold weather, he was there multiple times and saw Finn twice! We also appointed him ‘Chief Hay Bale Carrier’ one particularly icy morning.” Poplawski procured Finn’s feed and joined these arduous feeding rounds, trudging up steep, icy hills to deliver Finn’s next meal. As they worked to gain Finn’s trust, Poplawski simultaneously worked to elicit the town’s support from Mayor Erin Stewart, herself! It was now time to develop the next stages of their plan, to effectively bring this vulnerable calf to safety.
The cow initially escaped from a trailer in December after being purchased for slaughter from an auction. Erin Stewart said the city located the owner, who signed over ownership of the steer to the city https://t.co/5W0P8AD7hH
— New Britain Herald (@NewBritHerald)
It wasn’t long before Finn appeared on the trail cam, hungrily scarfing down the food. To Wynn, Samadzdeh, and Poplawski’s delight, they soon found him waiting at the feeding station for his next meal!
With Finn now recognizing the feeding station as a reliable source of food, it was time for the next step in the rescue mission. On January 22, a team of Farm Sanctuary rescuers set out from Watkins Glen for New Britain to begin the scouting and setup process for Finn’s rescue, aided by Wynn, Samadzadeh, and Poplawski. With a limited window of time to conduct this work, the team worked as quickly as they could until it was time to leave for the night, planning to return the next day.
But fate had a different timetable for Finn’s rescue.
— FOX 61 (@FOX61News)
“About two hours later, I realized we had left something there that we needed to go back and fix,” recalled New York Shelter Director Tara Hess. “[Director of Facilities Mario Ramirez] and I made a spur-of-the-moment visit to go get it. On the way, Mario sort of joked, ‘What if he’s in the pen; wouldn’t that be something?’ And I thought there was no way that would be possible. But then we walked up, it’s literally midnight, and he’s in the pen.” To the team’s surprise, the frightened Finn didn’t try to flee (as Bonnie had several times before her eventual rescue) but instead allowed Ramirez to close him into the pen, and later, walked onto the Farm Sanctuary trailer that would shuttle him to safety.
Wynn was on hand to wish a fond “farewell, for now” to her friend Finn (whom she plans to visit at Farm Sanctuary later this year, once he’s had a chance to settle in). “When I said goodbye to Finn…I felt exhausted,” Wynn recounted after the rescue mission was complete. “I felt relieved. You know, this has really been all-consuming over the past month. It’s hard to sleep thinking about him out in the cold by himself without a family, without his herd, without anybody, without knowing he’d be safe. … I just felt kind of speechless this morning, honestly. I felt like there aren’t words to describe this – this elevated sense of happiness. That this animal is not just going to live, but thrive in the happiest place on Earth for animals.”
— Mayor Erin Stewart (@erinstewartct)
Finn’s first stop was the Nemo Farm Animal Hospital at Cornell University, where he was evaluated thoroughly for any health issues.
Finn has been through a great deal in just a few weeks — more than enough to stress any bovine. But for now, he’s taking the latest developments in his life — rescue, transport, a hospital visit, and a new home — all in stride.
“He’s pretty calm,” noted Hess. “Some of these guys are really flighty — you get them on the trailer and they start running around in circles. Many will pace or slam against the door, but he’s sort of hanging out. It was one of those things; he was ready to go. Like, ‘Let’s do this,’ and he did it.”
Once medically cleared, Finn was able to come home to Farm Sanctuary, where he has even been introduced to some new cattle friends! Cattle are deeply social animals with rich emotional lives, and their friends and families are incredibly important to them. While we can’t reunite Finn with his original family, we know that he will find comfort and fulfillment in the new relationships he will be free to build at Farm Sanctuary.
“Cows, just like humans and all other animals, have a strong desire to live and enjoy their one time on this planet,” said National Shelter Director Susie Coston. “We’re deeply grateful to Mayor Stewart, Paula Poplawski, Jennifer Wynn, and all of the compassionate people of New Britain who joined forces to bring Finn to safety.”
In the aftermath of the rescue, Ramirez was quick to stress the team aspect of this operation — from Wynn, Bailey, and other community members to local officials to Farm Sanctuary staffers. “I think everything went extremely well … As exhausted as we all are (I’ll have been up 36 hours with no sleep), it’s not about that, but it’s about the animals,” he said. “Finn is just one of the lucky ones.”
Asked what she hopes others will take from Finn’s remarkable story, Wynn reflected: “When people see an animal like Finn and they get to know him and they’ve seen the experience and his will to live – he wanted to live. He wanted to evade what was his intended fate. He saved himself, really. … [W]hile Finn is unique just like every human is unique, all animals are Finn. All of the billions that are slaughtered are Finn. And if you can help people make that connection, it’s a really powerful gift. And it’s a gift from Finn. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
If you know of a farm animal in need, please contact Farm Sanctuary’s rescue and placement team at firstname.lastname@example.org.