40 Cows Flee L.A. Slaughterhouse; Compassion Brings Two to Sanctuary

Yet-to-be-named cow, standing on hill at Farm Sanctuary

40 Cows Flee L.A. Slaughterhouse; Compassion Brings Two to Sanctuary


June B. Free & Susan

Rescue Dates

June 26, 2021 and July 1, 2021

Quick Facts

These resilient cows are the only survivors of a mass escape from a slaughterhouse. They’re overcoming trauma and healing together at Farm Sanctuary.

– – – –

Story Update (7/1/21): A Second Cow Was Found and Brought to Sanctuary
It turns out, a second cow had evaded capture after escaping from a slaughterhouse in Pico Rivera, CA last week. She was found on Wednesday morning––more than eight days after her herd escaped––in a park about 12 miles away. On Thursday, 7/1, we welcomed her home to our Acton Sanctuary, too.

More on this update below.

Most farm animals’ lives are hidden from us, from birth to death. But every so often, the curtain slips open and we see what animal agriculture doesn’t want us to see.

This week, forty cows escaped a slaughterhouse in Los Angeles. Video after video shows them lost, scared, and running for their lives. And during the few hours that this curtain was open, everyone could see the cows as living, breathing, feeling animals––and people cheered for their freedom.

In a gesture of compassion, one of the forty cows was released to live her life to the fullest at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, California.

An Unlikely Escape

It was early evening when the cows fled Manning Beef, a slaughterhouse in Pico Rivera. But once outside of the gate, they had nowhere to go. They were in a seemingly endless maze of streets and houses and yards.

Soon, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was getting calls; the group was now a mile from the slaughterhouse––and a herd of scared, disoriented cows isn’t stealthy. They were racing through a neighborhood, crashing through fences, flattening bushes, likely trying to find somewhere, anywhere, that felt safe.

Ranchers and police gave chase on foot, in cars, and on horseback. Lights flashed, helicopters droned, cars honked, and searchlights swept the area. The herd galloped on in terror, colliding with vehicles and mailboxes; onlookers reported the animals were injured and bleeding. Cows were roped, wranglers were dragged. A deputy shot and killed a frightened cow who got too close to a family.

June B. Free and Susan Cows

Approximate Timeline

  • 40 cows escape slaughterhouse through an unlocked gate and are chased through an L.A. neighborhood.

  • Approximately 38 of the 40 cows are forced into trailers and returned to the slaughterhouse. One cow has been killed, one is known to be missing.

  • Missing cow is discovered and captured in a park, 2.5 miles north of slaughterhouse.

  • A press conference is held, announcing one cow will go to Acton Farm Sanctuary.

  • The rescued cow, June B. Free, arrives safely at Sanctuary. Reports show the remaining cows were slaughtered.

  • A second escaped cow is discovered in a park about 12 miles away from slaughterhouse.

  • Second cow, Susan, is rescued and arrives to safety at Sanctuary.

What Happens When We Meet Our Meat

It’s important to note that while this was a scary event for residents, this was an absolutely hellish experience for these sensitive animals. Words like “fear,” “scared,” or “terror” are not used lightly, nor are they intended to anthropomorphize. Science shows cows are contemplative, social animals––and stress is contagious.

In this stolen moment between transport and slaughter, these cows––and their obvious fear––had the rare chance to be seen by the public. As news of the escape spread, onlookers arrived to take photos and videos. More people cheered them along on social media. And here is the truth that the animal agriculture industry wants us to ignore: When we actually get the chance to see cows, especially those fighting for their survival, we want them to live.

The conversation was particularly pro-cow when news came out that one cow had completely vanished––in crowded Los Angeles, of all places. She was found more than a day later, two and a half miles away in a park. She, too, was put onto a trailer and returned to the slaughterhouse. Folks on social media crossed their fingers for her and, thankfully, her story didn’t end there.

Cows experience fear and can even “catch” each other’s feelings. When their peers are stressed, they become stressed.

We do have feelings as humans for animals and I think this symbolic gesture is that."

Eric Lutz

Pico Rivera City Council member

A Step Toward Compassion

In a rare turn of events: Pico Rivera’s City Manager, Steve Carmona, stepped in to help facilitate the release of the lost-then-found cow to Farm Sanctuary. This arrangement was also possible thanks Grammy Award-winning songwriter Diane Warren, Vice President of Social Compassion in Legislation Simone Reyes, and countless others who worked behind the scenes.

“Seeing these cows escaping their horrible fate broke my heart,” said Warren. “They knew what awaited them. These are smart, empathetic, beautiful souls. What Paul McCartney said is so true: if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”

The city made the announcement at a press conference Thursday morning. Holding a press conference about saving just one animal may seem strange, especially as the other 38 were sent to slaughter. But it shows that the city, the media, and the slaughterhouse heard the people––and the people were calling for compassion. To ignore her demonstrated will to live would have appeared cruel.

“This last cow is going to live the rest of its life in a sanctuary,” said Erik Lutz, a Pico Rivera City Council member. “We do have feelings as humans for animals and I think this symbolic gesture is that.”

These animals became visible and tapped into our empathy––and they ignited a conversation about the ethics of eating animals.

The (First) One Who Made it to Sanctuary

On Saturday, we welcomed the arrival of the as-of-yet unnamed cow. She is definitely a fighter! The 1,200 lb. Angus is very very hesitant and fearful of humans to the point of showing signs of aggression, which is understandable considering everything she has gone through, especially in the last few days.

She will most likely relax as the days go on and she comes to recognize that we aren’t going to hurt her, though she may never really warm up to humans fully. But that is one of the great parts of Sanctuary: we don’t force her to like us or spend time with us. She is able to live out her life in whatever way she wants. But for now, she is happy to be here and to have lots of open space to roam and free from the sounds and smells of slaughter.

This also marks the beginning of her thirty-day quarantine period in our back ISO pasture. Over the next few weeks, our Shelter Team will wear gloves, booties, and scrubs as they assess her health and run a few tests. All of this is to make sure she doesn’t have anything she could pass on to our other residents. They’ll also be monitoring her to make sure she’s eating, drinking, and defecating normally. If we see any signs of illness, we will call in a vet.

These first days, though, are just for her to settle in. We’ll try to be as hands-off as possible while she adjusts to her new home––she has been through quite an ordeal and she needs some time to rest.

If Manning Beef sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time they’ve shown mercy and compassion for these animals. This cow will be joining other Manning Beef survivors at Farm Sanctuary including Liberty and Indigo, who were rescued with the help of actor and activist Joaquin Phoenix. Jackie also came from the same place, as did Frida, Amelia, Jade, and Juno––the latter two found forever homes at Charlie’s Acres.

Story Update - 7/1

One More Life

Yet-to-be-named cow at Farm Sanctuary

The second survivor arrives at Sanctuary.

It turns out, a second cow had evaded capture after escaping the slaughterhouse. She survived on her own, without care, and went undetected for eight days. She was found Wednesday morning at a park in La Puente, California, about 12 miles away from the slaughterhouse. After failing to corral her with police cars, officers from the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center eventually roped the exhausted Angus.

On Thursday afternoon, we welcomed her home to our Acton Sanctuary. When our team picked her up, she was petrified, shaking so badly that all she wanted to do was lie down, but she was so afraid, she kept charging in fear. She is thin and dehydrated after 8 days on the run through the streets of LA fueled by nothing but fear, instinct, and the will to live.

“The entire nation found themselves rooting for a herd of escaped cows to make it to freedom and not end up on someone’s dinner plate,” said Reyes. “Getting two of the cows out alive, thanks to the compassion of Pico Rivera officials, the generosity of Manning Beef, and the tireless lifesaving work of Farm Sanctuary will go down as one of my proudest moments as an activist.”

“We are glad to see a positive outcome for the future of this last remaining cow,” said Carmona. “I’m personally glad the owner of Manning Beef realized the positive nature of this generous gesture of giving this animal to Farm Sanctuary.”

Many, Many Thanks

We are grateful to Manning Beef, Steve Carmona and the City of Pico Rivera, Simone Reyes, Diane Warren, Lisa McGinnis, to those who ensured they were captured alive, and the countless others who have been instrumental in the release of both escaped animals to Sanctuary.

Also, a huge thank you to our incredible Shelter team, who have been working tirelessly to make sure these two cows are as stress-free and comfortable as possible. We’re so grateful for you all!

And one last update: the first cow to arrive officially has a name: June B. Free. June was named by Lisa McGinnis, a compassionate Farm Sanctuary supporter who provided a generous donation to support June’s care, and Diane Warren, who helped make June’s rescue possible. Lisa’s gift will also help us continue to rescue and care for other farm animals in need, and we are beyond grateful for her generosity.

To the Other 38...and 10 Billion More

While we wish we could have rescued all forty of the lives this week, we know the animal agriculture industry wouldn’t allow it. And with 10 billion animals killed for human consumption each year in the U.S, we also know that we cannot rescue our way out of this—we need system change.

The purpose of Sanctuary is to heal the animals who have been rescued. Through their stories, we raise awareness of a food system that is fundamentally oppressive to animals, people, and the planet.

Please share their stories to help spread the word that every farm animal is deserving of compassion and care.

Better Together: 40 Cows Flee L.A. Slaughterhouse; Compassion Brings Two to Sanctuary
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[UPLIFTING MUSIC] The first couple of weeks, we couldn't approach them.

We really wanted to make sure that they were acclimating and getting accustomed to sanctuary life.

And as the weeks progressed, they started actually chasing us. And then, once they started kind of trusting the humans that were part of their life, they started getting even more healthy. And we saw that again when we introduced them into the herd.

They were surviving for so long. It's time for them to thrive.

You've probably seen it, the herd of cows that had to be rounded up after breaking free from a local slaughterhouse.

Sheriff's investigators say 40 cows in all got loose when a gate at the Manning Beef Company was accidentally left open.

When I heard of them escaping, I knew they saw their opportunity. And they took it and they ran. I knew we had to fight for them as they were fighting for themselves and that they needed a community to stand beside them in that fight for freedom. And that's what they got, a community fighting for them.

That week, the weather was particularly brutal. It was the middle of summer. And so we quickly got to work preparing everything that we needed to do. So I got a truck and trailer ready. And we have an isolation area for some of our larger animals. And then, we just kind of sat and waited.

When we got the reports that we could only save one, we fought. We fought back. The community fought back.

On the way there, we were kind of prepping to have to see everybody that wasn't going to be rescued. And that was kind of a difficult thing that we just kind of talked about and just sat together in silence, just to kind of process.

Then, the report came that the rest had already been killed.

Slaughterhouses, such a stark difference to sanctuary. There were cows everywhere that we couldn't save, that were being led to slaughter in front of us. And we knew we had to focus, emotionally focus on the task at hand. And that was to rescue her.

When we got there, we saw June. And she looked pretty rough. And she probably was not eating, sleeping, or drinking too well, if at all. We finished loading up the trailer. And then, after that, we took her back to her new home.

When June came here, she was very nervous. She was skittish. She wouldn't let us really approach her. We could probably get within 35 feet of her at best. And when we did that, she would throw her head around, start pawing at the ground, and act like she was gonna try to come and get us. She spent a lot of her time sitting at the top of the hill, like she was just listening for danger. So she was super stressed out.

While we knew it was going to be a long road ahead for her to fully trust and relax into sanctuary, the sooner she could be with the herd, the better.

Grammy-award winning singer Dianne Warren has saved a second escaped cow from the slaughterhouse. The owner has now agreed to donate the cow to the same farm sanctuary in Acton. The cow will arrive at the farm later this afternoon.

It wasn't until we were pulling up to sanctuary with Susan and unloading her, where we saw June, hearing the commotions of the truck and trailer, came up to the hill, and was watching us, going, what's going on here?

Back. Just stay back.

And you could hear Susan in the trailer.


I know. It's stressful. OK? We're gonna get you out of there.

We opened it up and June let out this beautiful loud mooing to her.

As soon as Susan came out of the trailer, after we rescued her, June ran right up to her. And you could tell that they were going to get along very well.

The entire team was there. We had been waiting for this moment for them. And we all hugged each other and cried and laughed and cried some more. And we've fought for as many as we could. And we were able to rescue two. That feels like a win. It feels like a win.

I really think a big part of why they did so well so quickly was that they had each other. June, like I said, was really nervous early on. And once Susan came, she really started changing. And I think if we were to keep just June alone, I don't think June would've been able to get to where she's at today.

They found other cows. Liberty, Indigo, they have similar stories. That's the power of being better together and them going into this next journey together. It's a really beautiful thing.

The Someone Project: Cows

Daisy cow and Milbank steer at Farm Sanctuary

The Someone Project is a Farm Sanctuary-sponsored research-based initiative documenting farm animal sentience through science. Download our white paper on cows titled Thinking Cows: A Review of Cognition, Emotion, and the Social Lives of Domestic Cows.

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As with any violent ideology, the populace must be shielded from direct exposure to the victims of the system, lest they begin questioning the system or their participation in it.

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"Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows"

Connie sheep at Farm Sanctuary

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