When we welcomed Romy to our New York Shelter, the young lamb was clinging to life. He was unable to stand or even hold up his head. He couldn’t drink from a bottle, and tube-feeding efforts failed because his digestive system couldn’t handle the milk. He was septic, likely from receiving an insufficient quantity of immunity-building colostrum from his mother’s milk. At Cornell University Hospital for Animals, Romy was put on oxygen and began receiving nutrients, fluids, and antibiotics through an IV. No one was optimistic that he would pull through.
Romy began life on a permaculture farm in central New York State. He was one of a pair of twins, and his mother rejected him. At the time the babies were born, the weather was unseasonably harsh, with cold, heavy rains and overnight temperatures in the 40s. As others in the flock headed to shelter from the storm, this little lamb was likely too weak to accompany them and he was left to fend for himself.
When farm staff found Romy, his desperate medical needs were beyond the farm’s capacity to fulfill. The farm breeds sheep to produce lambs, who are then sold for slaughter. Caring for a sick lamb simply was too much of a drain on resources for the small operation. Such individualized care in general would be financially unsustainable.
This is the inconvenient truth of animal agriculture, even for small farms. Focused on permaculture and agroforestry and growing a variety of plant foods, the farm where Romy was born is dedicated to sustainability and stewardship of the land. It also raises animals, who are used for their meat and eggs. Though the farm explicitly states its dedication to its animals’ wellbeing, its business model requires the separation of mother ewes and their babies and the killing of young animals. Ewes and their lambs form deep, tender bonds with each other — something the farm owners recognize, touting the strong maternal instincts of their ewes — and the lamb business requires the painful severing of these bonds.
The rigors of the bottom line apply to all farmers, even those concerned for the welfare of their animals, as Romy’s caregivers are. At an industrial farm, Romy would have been left to die, but at this farm, staff cared about him. Though they could not provide the treatment he needed, they did the right thing and sought help. They brought him to our New York Shelter, and that decision saved his life.
Despite the odds, Romy did rally. He got stronger. But this beautiful lamb is not out of the woods. Romy requires daily monitoring for heat and swelling in the joints and for signs of recurring septicemia. This unique individual is valuable in his own right, and here at Farm Sanctuary, where no financial interests are entangled in Romy’s life or death, we are fully free to treat him as someone, not something.