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 cow’s rescue in the early-morning hours of January 23.
January 23, 2019
Finn knew that he was about to die, so he took a chance and ran for his life. At Farm Sanctuary, he now has a life that he loves.
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).
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.
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.
Finn escapes slaughter in New Britain, CT, and spends weeks on the run.
Farm Sanctuary, along with a team in New Britain, help bring Finn to safety.
The once-solitary calf joins his new herd at our New York Sanctuary.
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.
“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.
As exhausted as we all are ... it’s not about that, but it’s about the animals. Finn is just one of the lucky ones.
Mario Ramirez, Farm Sanctuary Facilities Director
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.”
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.”
Finn, like his namesake, had an appetite for adventure and a strong desire to live.
Once medically cleared, Finn was able to come home to Farm Sanctuary, where he has even been introduced to some new cows friends! Cows 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.
All of the billions that are slaughtered are Finn. And if you can help people make that connection, it’s a really powerful gift.
“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 [email protected].
The Adventures of Finn
Everyone's tagging me and saying, Mayor, there's a cow on the loose in town. Mayor, what are you going to do? There's a cow walking down my street?
I heard through social media that there was a cow wandering around, what appeared to be my neighbor.
Mayor Stewart says it's somewhere on the New Britain Water Department property.
He'd been on the run for weeks-- for several weeks-- successfully evading people that wanted to get him.
I would love to get it up there and figure out where we're going to set up. Because there's no room for error on that ridge, and if this thing slides out, we're done.
His name came about, I should say, when we realized this was real.
We figured if we named him, he couldn't be eaten.
So I thought of Finn. He's this little adventurous boy in the woods.
He's been successful, for a month, hiding from people that want to find him, so.
I did see him walk in the ridge and there was tracks going that way.
Seeing everybody come together to help Finn, has been really one of the most special things about this whole experience.
I wonder what Finn is thinking right now.
Am I good?
Yeah, you're still coming to the right.
OK. So it stays here.
You did it, man!
My knuckles are white.
Now we've got to finish.
Mario, you know, kind of rallied the team, as darkness fell, to put up all the gates, and bring out the feed, and set the whole thing up. And right as we were wrapping up, we look down this path where Finn had been sighted before. And Mario says, there's Finn.
It's like he wants to be here.
You can do it, Finn. Please, come on. Come on, baby.
Maybe we'll get lucky tonight. That'd be awesome.
I hope so.
He was in my backyard. I don't think when you're that close, you can overlook it. And I've read so many stories where animals were spared from slaughter because they escaped. I wanted his story to be that.
You have no idea what this means-- I have no idea what this means to me.
What it means to him, that's the important part.
His best life started last night. So, I'm just so grateful to all of you.
Finn did save himself. If the billions of animals who aren't so lucky could, they would.
I will probably transition to no meat at all. It will take me some time. But I think, based on this, I couldn't look into his face today and think that there could be anything else but a sanctuary for him.
I would like to think he feels super safe right now. You know, shouldn't be anybody chasing him anymore. So he should have a happy life.
For Farm Sanctuary to volunteer to come out here and do this and pick up on Finn's story, we're eternally grateful to you. I know Finn will be as well.
The Adventures of Finn