In 2020, Gentle World volunteers joined with a local Big Island animal sanctuary to provide five rescued dairy cows with the grazing land they badly needed.
Bella, Iolana, Naevia, Anela and Mirijam had been rescued as calves by the Hawaii Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network and rehomed at Magical Creatures Sanctuary. In an effort to provide the cows with sufficient grazing land to meet their ever-expanding needs, at just under two years old, they were brought to Gentle World’s agricultural property known as VeganLand, where they spent six months enjoying the abundant grass.
While we had hoped that it would be a long-term arrangement, all five cows are now back at the sanctuary, due to a series of unexpected events that culminated in the closure of the agricultural ditch that services our local area.
Thankfully, in the months since, Magical Creatures was able to acquire an additional 22 acres, and the cows now have all the grass they can eat.
During the sixth month period that they spent at VeganLand, however, it was a privilege for us to commune with them, and to learn more about their unique personalities and temperaments.
Bella, Naevia, Anela, Mirijam, and Iolana were bred into existence at a local dairy, for the specific purpose of taking their mothers’ milk for profit. Their male counterparts would have been taken from their mothers to be sent to slaughter soon after birth. Known by the industry as ‘replacer females,’ these five wonderful beings would have been expected to take the place of their mothers on the production line as the next generation of breeding slaves once their mothers’ milk production lessened. Their bodies would have been turned into milk machines, and their own beloved babies would have been sent to death: one after the next, after the next, after the next.
In 2019, when local residents complained that the pollution from the dairy was spilling into nearby waterways, the dairy was forced to close, and hundreds of cows were suddenly faced with either relocation or slaughter.
But when news of this horrific situation reached Alessandra Rupar-Weber (a committed vegan and founder of the Hawaii Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network) she decided to spearhead a remarkable rescue initiative. With the help of a tiny crew and nothing but the financial support she generated by working around the clock, Alessandra and HLFARN managed to save the lives of 401 cows and calves who were allowed to stay together in the new homes she tirelessly worked to find for them, on an island where sanctuary space is limited.
When found by their rescuers, the calves were barely two months old, fed by bottles and buckets mounted on cell walls, with no grass or even earth underfoot; their hooves standing on the wire floors of their cages.
Their mothers were confined in a milking shed nearby, out of sight or smelling range. When the cages were opened, the calves touched the ground for the first time in the eight weeks since they were tagged and thrown in prison. As is to be expected after weeks of such confinement, they could hardly walk, and many slipped on the concrete when trying to run.
As a result of the efforts of HLFARN and more than 60 families who opened their hearts and homes, hundreds of Big Island dairy refugees have now been invited to live out their lives in peace.
When they came to VeganLand, Bella, Naevia, Anela, Mirijam, and Iolana had spent the past year and a half in a place of refuge, encountering no human beings other than those whose only aim was to care for them and show them love.
As one might expect, convincing them to leave the safety of their sanctuary was no easy task!
Upon arrival though, it didn’t take long before they made themselves at home. Within the first ten minutes, they had set off exploring in every direction multiple times, reveling in “all-you-can-eat” grass.
In a stroke of tremendous good fortune, Gentle World had recently welcomed two volunteers (Holly and Elsa) who had previously been at Magical Creatures for three and six months respectively, so they were able to be a part of the welcome party. As a result, the cows were met on this new terrain by people they already loved, and before they even knew what it was they were coming to, they were welcomed by the loving voices of two trusted caregivers they had come to know as family.
Watching them graze under VeganLand’s sky, one can’t help but reflect on how comforting it must be for these escapees to be standing in the sunlight as they were always meant to be, after spending so many weeks as youngsters seeing the light of day only at a distance, from beneath a ceiling that had shut them away from the sky altogether.
To observe their enjoyment of the green grass (which they all but vacuum up with their mouths as they move from meadow to meadow) it’s easy as anything to recognize how essential it must be for their psychological wellbeing to have grass underfoot and undernose.