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Meet Princess

Princess came to VINE Sanctuary from an agricultural college, where she was the subject of agricultural experiments. We don’t know exactly what was done to her, but we do know that she was bred repeatedly, suffering both forcible impregnation and the grief of having her calves taken from her. We first suspected, because of the deep and heartbreaking flinch we have seen on her face when she sees someone carrying a pole-like object, that an object of pain (such as a cattle prod or whip) was used to control her movements or perhaps even to punish her. We have learned that this would be a violation of that college’s standard practices, but we also know that animal abuse can happen behind closed doors if adherence to animal welfare policies is not rigorously monitored and enforced.

Portrait of Princess


The flinch looks like this: She squinches up her face and squeezes her eyes shut while holding very still as she awaits the pain.

Happily, we have not seen Princess flinch in a long time. And we are delighted to report that her overall relaxation, sociability, and apparent happiness have increased significantly over time. Princess used to keep apart from the herd, interacting only with Buddy (who is affectionate to everybody). Now she’s close friends with Luna, takes a strong interest in the calves, and just generally socializes more frequently with the other cows. She still spends some time alone each day, as many of us like to do, but Princess is now fully a part of the cow community. She even approaches human visitors, which she never used to do!

Princess and Harvey

Princess with Harvey Milk

Princess has a placid, steady energy that seems to be soothing to other animals. The sheep like to lie down near her, and many of the chickens like to roost on her broad back.

Princess with Nigel and Lamby

Nigel and Lamby resting with Princess

Here’s a video of chickens roosting on Princess, which happens almost every day. She’s definitely their favorite: The barn can be filled with reclining cows, but Princess will be the only one with chickens on her back!

Princess is available for sponsorship. Click here to find out how to sponsor her or another resident at VINE.

(A VINE staff member has stepped up to sponsor Princess.)

12 comments to Meet Princess

  • Thank you for the wonderful work you do. Do you do any clicker training with the animals in your care? I run a donkey and mule rescue and use this method of training in getting animals to trust and be able to form a relationship. If you do not, and have any interest please let me know as I would be happy to help with training or teaching people how to do it. Keep up the great work!

    Kind regards,

  • Kristin
    Thanks for the great work that you do! Princess sounds like a beautiful soul who has found a wonderful place to spend her life!
  • pattrice
    We’re happy to do that work!

    Ann, when Miriam and I first started what was originally a small chicken sanctuary, our motto was “let birds be birds.” Now, I guess, we also have to say, “let cows be cows” and “let sheep be sheep” and etc. and etc.

    So, we do not use clicker training nor any other sort of “training” per se. We see even our rehabilitation of fighting roosters as a form of “un-training,” relying not only on soothing contact and positive reinforcement by people but also on socialization by the flock or herd to undo the damage humans have done, thereby allowing the animal to become themselves (rather than who we might want them to be).

    That doesn’t meant that we don’t set (non-injurious) limits on behavior that might be hurtful to the animal or other residents, just that the intent is always to free the animal from the effects of human intervention, rather than substituting one kind of human control for another.

    That does mean that we recognize that–for all social animals–other animals of their kind are much more important to them, and often much better able to teach appropriate behavior, than are people.

    So, for example, our method of fighting rooster rehabilitation does involve positive reinforcement of peaceful behavior and does also involve a kind of “protective custody” until such behavior is reliably present. But possibly the most important aspect of our method is that it allows roosters in rehab–who never had the opportunity to learn from adult chickens the behaviors by which roosters naturally settle their disputes–to learn by observing other birds interacting with each other and resolving their disputes. That’s something that no human could ever teach them, because it’s about responding to particular gestures and postures with other gestures and postures.

    Getting back to Princess, I am certain that the steady kindness of her caregivers here has made a huge difference. But I am equally certain that the steady affection shown to her by the cow known as Buddy helped to bring her into the herd. More recently, she had the opportunity to spend quality time with a subset of the herd, including the calves as well as a cow called Luna (who we’ll be profiling soon). That brought her out of her shell even more, and she retained that confidence when the whole herd came down from the back pasture to rejoin the small group.

    Similarly, we have seen many of the adults of the herd–male and female alike–step up to teach the calves things we never could teach them. We don’t have to worry that the young adult males will act out, because we know that older males like the gentle giant called Thunder will calmly but firmly keep them in line.

    All of which is to say that while we absolutely recognize the power of positive reinforcement upon which clicker training depends, we do not think of anything we do as “training,” and we do rely heavily on socialization by the flock or herd to augment the care that we can give, with the aim always being the restoration (insofar as possible) of the freedom to be themselves.

    And–yes, Kristin–Princess is a beautiful soul. I can’t quite express how moving it has been to see her come out of her shell in recent months.

  • CQ
    The cow whose cud-chewing you set to music looks as serene as the sonata sounds!

    If I were a chicken, I’d be clucking atop sweet ‘n’ soft Princess, and cloaking her in the royal robe of my purple feathers. :-)

    What most warms my heart is knowing that Princess will never again be abused, and no longer has to squinch up her beautiful face.

  • AnimalLovingStudent
    As a student and worker on the farm where Princess once lived, I am deeply hurt by your accusations. How dare you accuse us of using a cattle prod. This farm has never owned such an instrument of torture and to suggest such a thing is to tell an outright lie.

    Princess was not a good fit for this farm because she was too unpredictable around the young and inexperienced. She actually injured students on more than one occasion, despite being unprovoked. However, the people of this farm know never to blame an animal for anything. It is always the fault of humans for failing to give her proper training so that she is 100% comfortable around people. I’m glad to hear Princess has changed and is more comfortable now.

  • pattrice
    The information in this profile is based on what we were told by her rescuer–who did know Princess while she was at the college–and on our own observations. If you were to see Princess flinch, as I have, your heart would break. And you would know, without doubt, that somebody hurt her.

    You noticed, I hope, that we did not name the college at which Princess was a research subject. However, if the college will release her records to us, including the details of any experiments and the fates of her children, we will be happy to both name the college and remove any statements that are not consistent with the records.

    If the college will testify that a cattle prod was never used on Princess, we will remove that speculation from the profile. However, we will still mention her flinch response, which does suggest that –whether in accordance or defiance of college guidelines– somebody hurt her. (I have seen a picture of a faculty member at that college wielding a whip over other animals, so —even if cattle prods are not used— the school evidently does allow the use of pain to control the behavior of animals.)

    We absolutely accept that whatever led to that flinch response might have been perpetrated against college policy. As an animal lover who attends that school, this should concern you too. Perhaps, instead of accusing us of lying, you could join us in seeking to ensure that cows like Princess are protected from abuse.

    We have all seen the undercover videos from research labs and slaughterhouses. We know that sometimes people do violate rules in very hurtful ways. I wonder what safeguards your college has in place to ensure that animals are not beaten, sexually assaulted, or otherwise abused by students of staff. I know that it is difficult to imagine that people within one’s own circle might perpetrate such abuses, but—just as with child abuse or domestic violence perpetrated by people who seem kind and friendly to their neighbors—we must always be vigilant for violence that occurs behind closed doors.

  • pattrice
    I was thinking about this again today as I was watching Princess–who seems to have found an admirer in Vito: he was lying up against her today and I’ve seen them strolling together frequently recently–resting in the pasture this afternoon. We’ve never seen even a hint of aggression against humans from her. Avoidance, yes. Aggression, no. Not even close. So, if she was engaging in “unprovoked” attacks on people while at the college, I would wonder what the hidden provocation might have been. That might be more evidence that someone was abusing her. But I also wonder if these “unprovoked” attacks took place shortly after calves had been taken from her. Cows, like other mothers, can go “mad” (in both senses of the word) when their children are taken from them.
  • Constance Ledlow
    Ms. Dayna Halprin, who brought Princess to you denies your story regarding Princess. You have refused to print her recount. My best guess is you feel you have to make it a great hardship story in an attempt to raise funds. Shame on you.
  • pattrice
    I wrote back to Dayna personally, declining to publish a comment that called me, as the author of this profile, a liar but inviting her to dialogue with me. She did not reply.
  • miriam
    As we have stated more than once on this blog, it is not now, and never has been, an open forum for all perspectives to be aired. Every social justice and rights-oriented issue has certain venues where like-minded folks can gather to share ideas, strategy, opinions, and knowledge. Such venues are closed to those who are hostile to the ideas of that movement (in our case, the idea that non-human animals are exactly equivalent to human animals in terms of their right to live life on their own terms).

    This blog is that kind of place. We exist to provide a safe place for people who genuinely care about the end of ALL use of non-human animals — a place to talk about sanctuary, animal rights, and liberation issues. This is not the place for folks to slander us and accuse us of various horrible things that are not true.

    For those who are crying censorship, please remember that we have not blasted other venues with accusations, as you have. Please also visit our Facebook page, where we dealt with the accusations that Dayna has made regarding Princess — whose original location we have never ONCE divulged. That identification was made by others, not by us. Moreover, not one single penny — not one — has ever been made by fundraising on her behalf (including, we might add, from Dayna, who has never donated funds to help support Princess after she brought her here).

    If posting on Facebook is not satisfying to you, you can certainly contact our organization with legitimate queries concerning the health and well-being of Princess, and we will answer them as soon as we are able to do so.

    For now, we will say she is happy and healthy and finally not flinching (well over a year later). She is finally making friends with other cows, which is also something new in her life. We are happy she finally has a chance to live her life in a place where no one is using her for their own purposes — a place where SHE can chart the course of her own days and nights and handle her own life as she sees fit. That is why we exist.

  • pattrice
    I wrote this profile. I have seen Princess flinch. I am tired of being called a liar for a statement like this:

    “animal abuse can happen behind closed doors if adherence to animal welfare policies is not rigorously monitored and enforced”

    Is there any person anywhere on earth who doesn’t know that child abuse, elder abuse, and animal abuse can happen anywhere? Is there anybody who doesn’t realize that even very friendly people who seem very nice on the surface can be abusers behind closed doors? Is there anybody in the United States today who doesn’t remember the last time that a college called people liars for daring to suggest that somebody associated with the college might have perpetrated abuses behind closed doors? Is there anybody who was with Princess 24 hours a day while she was at the college and thus really is in a position to swear that nobody ever hurt her?

    For heaven’s sake! Here is an animal with a behavior that leads animal welfare professionals to suspect she was hurt in some way. We don’t know what caused it. (Since publishing the profile, we have received numerous conflicting stories from people claiming to be staff or students at the college.) We cannot rule out abuse behind closed doors. We were careful not to identify the college in the profile since we didn’t know exactly what had happened.

    Anybody associated with the college–which we still have not named–should be concerned to ensure that it has implemented policies consistent with 21st century animal welfare standards and also that it has implemented procedures for monitoring compliance with those policies. That’s not something special for that college: Every college which uses animals in education has an affirmative obligation to be aware of and protect against the likelihood of abuse behind closed doors.

  • Alex
    Pattrice, you’re a dirty little liar