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For Fennel, Forever

We are so sorry to report the death of the cow called Fennel on Friday. One week before, Fennel had sustained nerve damage which left her unable to stand or even lift her head. Quick intervention and sustained physical therapy led to improvement, and she was soon able to lift her head and eat on her own. However, while she was able to move her legs, she remained unable to stand. Because of the way that cows’ digestive tracts are configured, there is a danger of death every day they remain down. We lifted Fennel several times each day, to get her system moving and to give her physical therapy. On Friday, she began breathing erratically while being lifted. Cheryl lowered her immediately and then cradled her head as she died.

Fennel came to the sanctuary from a small-scale “dairy” farm, where for many years she suffered the cycle of forced impregnation, separation from her calf, and mechanized milking until she ran dry and was impregnated again. At some point, the owner of the farm ran out of money and quit feeding the cows. They survived as best they could by foraging but, come winter, began to starve. Fennel and her comrades received intensive veterinary care after being seized by authorities but were still skin-and-bones when they arrived at VINE in early 2012.

Fennel, upon arrival

Fennel, upon arrival

Cows are social mammals, living for and through their relationships with others. Fennel’s closest relationships were with the three cows with whom she arrived at the sanctuary: Blake, Rosetta, and Addison. She seemed closest to Blake, the leader of the crew, who often expressed her affection for Fennel by intently grooming her. Fennel herself was quiet and reserved, although we cannot know if this was her original personality or a reaction to the grief and trauma she endured. We would have liked her to have more time here at the sanctuary, to continue to become herself.

We do feel glad that Fennel and her herd had a spectacular summer in the back pasture. More than any of the other cows, the quartet that included Fennel love that hillside. While other cows can be easily enticed elsewhere with grain, they always linger as long as they can.

Fennel and Blake (front), with Vito in their favorite woods

Fennel and Blake (front), with Brutus in their favorite woods

Now that quartet is a trio. We can only guess what Blake, Rosetta, Addison and the other members of Fennel’s herd are feeling or how the herd itself has been lessened by her loss. We do know that Fennel’s human herd (that’s us) is hurting.

Much more than the physical labor, feelings are the hardest part of sanctuary work. We are always aware, as we extend care to the animals here, of all of the animals elsewhere. What each of us feels when someone dies depends on many factors, such as the manner of death, our personal relationship with that animal, and the length of time that he or she lived happily here in comparison to how much and how long she or he suffered before coming to sanctuary.

Sadness and rage are only two of the strong feelings that sometimes grip us in our grief. As animals, we are meant to be motivated by our emotions. That’s why our bodies have feelings. So, rather than grieving in private, we would like to mourn Fennel in a manner that channels our  feelings into effective activism.

One thing we might do is redouble our efforts to demystify “dairy,” and to do so while keeping Fennel in mind. We need help with that. Specifically, we need past examples and fresh ideas of ways to make people —and especially the mothers who do the preponderance of grocery shopping— aware of the physical and emotional pain hidden within every glass of milk, block of cheese, and bowl of ice cream.



What about you? What do you feel when you learn that Fennel or another animal at this or another sanctuary has died? What do you do with your feelings about all of the animals who die by human hands every day? What do you think we could or should do to mourn Fennel or those other animals? Please share your thoughts here or on Fennel’s memorial Facebook album.

9 comments to For Fennel, Forever

  • Meg and Jocelyn York
    Jocelyn and I are thinking, and want to be of help in whatever way possible. If we come up with effective advocacy tools, we will let you know. If you think of something, please share it with us so we can do some work – for Fennel, and for all cows trapped in the horror that is the dairy industry.

    Our thoughts and our hearts are with you. We can’t imagine what you are going through. Thank you for caring for Fennel – for loving her and letting her live. For really KNOWING her.

    This was a beautiful piece and a stirring call to action. We may be across the country, but the whole country needs this message. Let us know how we can be of service.

    Miss you all.

  • Because of magical places like VINE, or Happy Trails here in NE Ohio, and because what I actually learned about the dairy industry and the fowl industry and “factory farms,”my significant other and I became committed vegans over a year ago. Each day that passes, we grow more angry watching people eat a hamburger or chicken wings or ice cream or bacon. I’m so saddened that Fennel only had a short time at VINE, really emotional at reading of her passing. I make my living as a mystery writer—28 books so far,and counting—and in my last three books,which are admittedly violent, I’ve managed to slyly include a message about domestic animal abuse, and in my latest, “Win, Place, orDIe,”which is set in the harness racing industry, my co-protagonist chooses to consider the beautiful horses who race—and my personal research tells me that they ARE treated well in the stables and are most often adopted for another vocation when their racing days are done—as PRISONERS. All this to say, I guess, that every day now, I shed a tear over some animal, be it dog,cat, cow, horse, chicken, or fish. I live in a spacious apartment, so adopting a cow or horse is impossible—but my three beautiful cats remind me every day that ALL animals are sentient, have emotions, feelings, and are eager to receive love and affection, which they ALWAYS return. So RIP, Fennel;your last moments were filled with love.
  • Cathy
    Perhaps we can all honor Fennel by reaching out to at least one non-vegan friend or family member and relating Fennel’s journey. The personal impact Fennel had on each of us may just be the catalyst necesssary to actually help someone truly understand and begin the process of transforming their life.
  • Lorene
    So sorry to read about Fennel. I know how heartbreaking it is to lose an animal you so lovingly cared for. Thank you for making her final year of life one filled with love and compassion as well as giving her the freedom of beautiful green pastures in which to roam.
    I too get so discouraged with every trip to the grocery store as those ahead and behind me on line stand with their baskets filled with meat, dairy and eggs; purchased without a thought to the cruelty from which these products are produced. It would be great to get the support of vegan-based companies who would be willing to produce “kindness koupons” offering moms and other consumers a discount off their products. The coupons could have a message printed on front or back explaining how their purchase will save countless animals pain and suffering as well as QR codes to informational pages on their website about nutrition and the myths behind our “need” for animal derived food.
  • Patricia Massari
    How sad to hear about Fennel!! Thank you VINE for giving her a chance and the love and dignity she always deserved…going to be sharing her story far and wide as many people don’t understand whether factory/industrial or “small scale” how horrific and cruel dairy is…Her legacy will live forever as we all share and help people quit the GREAT cycle of suffering which is dairy…
    RIP Fennel…Gone but not forgotten..
    Much love to you at VINE…
  • Dianne
    “…where for many years….” So sad. Thank you Vine for your compassion.
  • Jann Stauffacher
    Dear kind hearts of Vine … Fennel was one lucky girl to have your love and kindness… I love cows and all animals… writing through a veil of tears for you and all of us that care so deeply for these beautiful gifts which have been given… we must protect and defend the innocents. So very happy to be vegan. Bless you all! Peace, love, light. Warm hugs, Jann
  • CQ
    Fennel’s story touches my heart. I wish I could hug each and every friend at VINE who helped her feel welcomed and be well, feel loved and be love.

    Also, the condolences above stir my soul, as does Lorene’s “kindness koupons” idea from Lorene.

    It’d be nice if a lovely brochure with Fennel’s photo and life journey could be mass-produced and placed near the milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream shelves of every grocery store in Vermont. Yes, I know the dairy farmers wouldn’t stand for it, nor would the store owners/managers allow it, but maybe the suggestion will lead to a do-able action in Fennel’s memory and on behalf of all her sweet sisters worldwide.

  • Marcia
    I’m so sorry to hear that another sweet, innocent animal has died, one who suffered abuse and exploitation on a dairy farm. One consolation is that she had a home before she died where she was appreciated and care for. I hope her spirit is above all her suffering on this earth and in the presence of all the unnamed and unloved who are finally in their forever home.

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