Imagine standing in a filthy feedlot with others like you, scared and confused about why you are there. Anxiety is high as you are packed into trucks to make the journey to the slaughterhouse, often without food or water or any way to rest. You see friends and family collapse in hot weather and in cold weather, you may see others freeze to the side of the truck. Once you reach the slaughterhouse, you may be too sick or injured to walk (called “downers” by the meat and dairy industries).

Once you arrive at the slaughterhouse and have somehow not collapsed from the journey, you are shocked with an electric prod and sometimes dragged off the truck with chains by workers. Sadly, this is the reality for millions of cow every year. In the U.S., more than 29 million cows suffer and die in the meat and dairy industries every year, according to animal rights organization PETA. If you had a chance to escape this hell, wouldn’t you take it?

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For six cows earlier this year, they took the opportunity to flee a slaughterhouse in St. Louis. The cows took police and animal control officers on an exhausting five-hour chase through the streets of St. Louis, chasing what all animals want: love and freedom. Animal lovers everywhere cheered the steers on, but even after the dramatic chase, their freedom was not ensured. They had to wait at the slaughterhouse in limbo, as many locals and farm animal sanctuaries desperately pleaded with the slaughterhouse to spare them.

A Second Chance 

The six were rescued thanks to a crowdfunding page started by Adam Brewster. He raised a staggering $16,500 and donated all of the money to The Gentle Barn so that they could purchase the steers and transport them. The decision to buy the cows was met with opposition by Farm Sanctuary, however, who wanted the slaughterhouse to donate the steers to a sanctuary, believing that paying for rescue animals perpetuates abuse in the industry. While there have been concerns raised on either side, the cows have been saved from slaughter, most importantly, now have their happily ever after.

The steers have since been picked up from the slaughterhouse and have been taken to a local area farm. The six stayed at the farm for a couple of weeks to rest and have since made the incredible journey to The Gentle Barn’s new animal sanctuary in Missouri.

Jay Weiner, co-founder of The Gentle Barn said at the time, “They’re scared. They’ve gone through a lot. But they are destined for good things.” And with the many animals already living their lives in peace at both of The Gentle Barn’s locations in California and Tennessee, the steers are in good hands.

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Since arriving at the sanctuary on September 10, 2017, the steers have been adjusting to sanctuary life. Understandably, they were scared at first, having only known abuse and cruelty from humans in their lives, but through love and kindness thanks to The Gentle Barn, these six amazing animals are learning to trust again.

The Gentle Barn has been updating their supporters on Facebook on the steers’ progress and it’s nothing short of remarkable. In one touching video, The Gentle Barn shares their joy when one of the steers, Chico, trusts his caregivers enough to walk up to them. The St. Louis Six also love cookies and will happily munch on the treats.

From their daring escape to their journey to a farm animal sanctuary, the St. Louis Six have become ambassadors for the millions of cows who aren’t as lucky. Many visitors are awed in the steers’ presence, as they are a living testament to the desire for life that we — human or animal — all share.

Changing Hearts and Minds 

Already, the St. Louis Six have turned people away from seeing them as only meat. Being able to get up close and personal with a rescued farm animal helps people realize that humans are not the only species on Earth deserving of love and respect. Other animals have thoughts, feelings, and desires of their own, which deserve to be acknowledged, even if we can’t fully understand them. The continued presence of farm animal sanctuaries, such as The Gentle Barn, where threatened, neglected, or abused animals can live in peace, is vitally important.

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Cows are extremely intelligent and emotional animals. Like humans, cows develop strong bonds with their children and have best friends. They even have special calls for the ones they love – the same way we give our friends and family nicknames. Most cows are treated like commodities and are unable to live their life with the love and understanding they deserve, but for the six cows who took a chance and made a dash for freedom, they are now in caring hands.

As animal lovers, one of the most important things we can do for them is to raise awareness of their plight in any way that we can and support all those who have the courage to speak out and work tirelessly on their behalf.

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How You Can Help

Have the St. Louis Six inspired you to make a difference in the lives of farm animals? Volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary is an incredibly worthwhile and beneficial experience for you, the sanctuary staff and the animals. The work can be physically challenging, but you’ll go home recognizing that you’ve worked to help animals who have endured more than we can know.

Even if you don’t live near The Gentle Barn, there are still hundreds of sanctuaries that are looking for dedicated volunteers. Volunteering to help animals means more than just cleaning up messes. Animal rescue facilities have websites and social networking profiles and need tech-savvy people to help maintain a web presence. They need party planners, cooks, and artists to help advertise and run outreach events. Handy people are needed to build storage structures and play equipment for the animals. Writers and artists can pair compelling rescue stories and pet profiles with attractive videos and photos to share on the rescue’s website and social media pages. Even legal experts are in demand to review copyright and animal welfare issues. No matter what your passion and specialty, your local rescue could use your help.

For more information on The Gentle Barn and the incredible work, they do on behalf of all animals, visit their website. And for more information about volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary, check out these other One Green Planet articles:

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Image source: The Gentle Barn Missouri/Facebook