A Sentience Article from All-Creatures.org

Shakti, we will not rest—I will not rest—until you are safe

From Indraloka Animal Sanctuary
January 2024

This poor cow had been shot in the face in her own pasture, among her herd, while grazing peacefully.... The look in her remaining eye was proud. Determined. A maggot wiggled in her other eye socket, burrowing into the dead, black flesh. She kept her distance, eying us warily, yet even from a distance, the stench of her infection was overpowering. 

Cow Shakti

This poor cow had been shot in the face in her own pasture, among her herd, while grazing peacefully. As the story unfolded, tears poured down my face. Knowing how incredibly sensitive cows are, and how, fenced in and highly visible on a hillside, gun shots from unknown sources must be beyond terrifying. And then the pain…

The farmer wanted to surrender the cow to us in order to ensure that she could get veterinary care. I was scared. I knew we had to help, but our emergency rescue fund was dangerously depleted after our recent rescues of four piglets.

Still, I had faith. I knew in my bones that I had no choice but to help her. I wouldn’t be able to do anything else, I knew, until she was safe.

The farmer reported that the gunshots had been coming on and off for a long time, and that many other cows were shot but healed. (I’m not able to share details regarding the shooting right now, other than to say that efforts are underway to bring the perpetrator to justice and protect the cows.)

When we arrived, I feared we would find more wounded cows. What we found was an extremely skittish herd in a huge pasture on a steep hill with deep mud, but only one other cow with an obvious limp, which the farmer said was not from a gunshot wound. I saw bullet holes riddling an outbuilding adjacent to their pasture and looked at the woods all around us, shuddering.

The injured cow reminds me of a feisty, tough version of Penny Power, one of my first cows. In my mind, I’ve started calling her Shakti, after the fierce and powerful Hindu deity.

We nearly had Shakti on the trailer on Friday, then she spooked and jumped over the paddock fence, which is a good bit taller than me. The farmer told us there was more shooting on Saturday morning. We were nervous, knowing the cows would be panicked and we would be at risk from the unknown shooters as well. So, we asked the police to go in with us, but they said they’d call back and never did.

Shakti’s situation was so dire that after waiting in vain for several hours for the police, we felt we had to try. We brought reinforcements and had a new plan, and we were able to separate her from the herd a few times, but she panicked and jumped the fence each time. Frightened and injured cows are extremely fast and strong, running up to 25 miles an hour when frightened. Through mud and up and down steep hills. And she did. For hours.

Shakti’s injuries are horrifying. But her will to live is no less than extraordinary. I have so much respect for this wild woman in cow form. I could practically see the fierce goddess in her, a blazing column of flame screaming out her determination to overcome even this.

Almost every time we do a rescue like this, the animals respond to our calm. To put this herd’s level of terror in perspective, I’ll share that one time, we were rescuing cows from a herd whose farmer routinely had herd members slaughtered in their view, and who told us he purposefully made their deaths as frightening as possible because he believed the meat tasted better if they died afraid. Even that herd was less skittish than this one.

At one point, Shakti ran straight through two closed metal gates, bending them in half without breaking stride. We feared her injuring herself and it was clear that her stress was making it worse. So we made the decision to give her some time to calm while we gathered the people and tools we needed in order to get her safely on the trailer and to the hospital.

I cannot describe how difficult it is to think of this cow in such tremendous pain and fear. I have not slept a wink. I can’t focus on anything else. I hate that she is not already in the hospital. But between the cows’ abject terror and all the other complications, we need to be thoughtful and strategic.

As we were gathering our supplies and clearing out, Shakti stood, breath heaving, assessing us out of her one eye. I whispered, “I promise you, Shakti, we will not rest— I will not rest— until you are safe. And I will continue to love you, cherish you, and protect you every day of your life.”

And I will.

Cow Shakti

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