A goat that was found running around the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn has been adopted by the Catskill Farm Animal Sanctuary in Willow. Based on the number tags in his ears, the goat, now named Wilfred, is believed to have escaped from a slaughterhouse but will now live out his days in the comfort of the sanctuary, surrounded by pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and other rescued farm animals, a population of approximately 200 creatures.
“We hate the number tags,” remarked the sanctuary’s founder, Jenny Brown, gazing fondly at Wilfred as he stood in the corner of his own spacious pen, chewing his cud, in a barn fragrant with hay. “But he’s still pretty skittish with people. We sit in his pen every day and feed him treats, hay and greens, to get him socialized. He has an appointment to be neutered in two weeks, so we’ll wait until he’s put under to pull the tags out.”
Brown pats an enormous pig in the adjoining pen, cooing, “Hi there, Curly.” She says once Wilfred is castrated and more familiar with people, he will be put out with the other goats. “We don’t allow breeding going on here,” she explains. “Our space is reserved for animals in dire need. And he has to be socialized so we’ll be able to get him in at night.”
So for now he’s in a barn with pigs for neighbors. “He’s probably never seen a pig before,” she observes. “There have been some nose-to-nose sniffs, but no fighting.”
When Wilfred was spotted on the streets of Brooklyn, several police cars cornered him in a hospital parking lot. A hospital security guard, who had once been a goatherd in Africa, managed to grab him by the horns. Police officers tied the goat’s feet together and loaded him into the back seat of a patrol car. A news report showing the capture came to the attention of the wife of Mike Stura, a sanctuary volunteer who lives in New York City.
Stura, a trucker, has a custom-made trailer designed for transporting rescue animals, and Brown says he loves participating in rescues. He called Animal Care and Control in Manhattan, which takes in stray farm animals and often releases them to the sanctuary. Stura picked up Wilfred, who was named by his wife, and brought him to Willow.
“When we rescue an animal that has escaped from a slaughterhouse, it wins the hearts of people. They not only see the animal as an individual, but they realize that all creatures want to live,” says Brown, whose mission is both to shelter abused animals and to raise public awareness of the pain animals suffer under modern factory farming.
From chickens that live their entire lives crammed together in small cages to calves and kids that are separated from their mothers at birth so all the milk can be harvested for sale, Brown feels that people should know what large farms do to maximize their profits. An estimated 97 percent of animal products sold in the U.S. come from factory farms.
Retired from breeding
Wilfred arrived in an undernourished condition, but blood tests showed that he had no illness. Based on the length of Wilfred’s horns, a vet estimated his age at four years. Brown believes he was used for breeding and was on the verge of being retired in favor of a younger stud.
“There are about 100 slaughterhouses in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx,” she says. “They cater to immigrants from a variety of backgrounds, who are often used to going in and pointing out an animal they want slaughtered. They want to see if the animal is healthy. Americans want distance from all that.”
In New York City, slaughterhouses look like ordinary storefronts, says Brown, but they have signs that often read “Live Poultry” or “Halal Meat.”
Goat meat is eaten in many Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American countries and is consumed in larger quantities than any other red meat. With the rise in immigrant populations, the number of goats slaughtered in this country has doubled every 10 years for the past three decades, with nearly 1 million goats killed for their meat last year in the U.S., according to the USDA. This number probably does not include goats fresh-killed or provided for home or ritualized slaughter by live-animal markets.
Goats farm-raised for milk or meat often undergo painful processes such as “disbudding,” which involves cauterizing the stubs of sprouting horns to prevent them from growing. On large farms, both disbudding and castration are generally done without benefit of anesthetic.
Having escaped his intended fate, Wilfred can be expected to live to the age of 14 or beyond. Hopefully, he will learn to appreciate his incredible luck and will bond with sanctuary staff as the other resident animals have done.
“He’s never forced to do anything,” says Brown. “We’re trying to let him know he’s in a safe place.”
The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, located on Van Wagenen Road in Willow, is open to visitors from April through October, on weekends only. Donations toward the running of the sanctuary are appreciated, and volunteers are welcome year-round to assist in caring for the animals. For more information, see https://woodstocksanctuary.org.