Patty Shenker (Southern California activist)
Rows upon rows of dairy cows – the reason Oreo came into our care in the first place as an unwanted male calf birthed to one of these mothers whose milk would go to humans rather than her calf. Animal Acres is a farmed animal sanctuary outside of Los Angeles, Ca. It was co-founded by Lorri Houston and myself in 2005 and it houses over 300 farmed animals who have been rescued from abusive situations. Recently, we rescued three calves from the horrendous veal industry. As is often the case, they were in need of medical care. One little guy, Oreo, never did recover completely from losing his mother and her much need colostrum and he died last week. Our education and outreach liaison, Cameron O’Steen, writes a touching piece here about Oreo and all the calves who suffer due to the milk and veal industries.
It was one of those calls you know ahead cannot be good, yet when I answered the caregiver’s call I had hoped it was a question easily addressed over the phone. “We need to get Oreo to UC Davis.” It was the statement that we had been dreading – Oreo, one of the three calves rescued from being dumped alive in a stockyard dead pile in the middle of February, had been having health issues since he came to us. The immediate treatments he received helped, but didn’t solve his health issues. A stronger antibiotic regimen saw the lassitude and listlessness Oreo demonstrated his first weeks disappear, along with the fading of his persistent cough. He started to play with his herd brothers Peanut and Cocoa more, to interact with sanctuary visitors and seek attention; we were so relieved to see this improvement.
On Wednesday the 25th, the upswing in Oreo’s health took a sharp turn for the worse. He was having trouble breathing normally, taking rapid and shallow breaths. His evening temperature was 104.5. We had to get him help. I got back to the sanctuary at 8:30 pm and was met by volunteer Alicia (one of Oreo’s aunties) who would share the driving with me up to UC Davis, a six and a half hour journey one way. We were on the road by 9 pm. At 3:30 am we pulled into Davis’ Large Animal Clinic who knew to expect us.
A veterinary team met us with an oxygen tank to hopefully help Oreo’s breathing while they prepped him and the space. It was heart-wrenching to see my friend struggling to breath under the oxygen mask. We helped the team get him into their spacious examination room, and watched feeling more than slightly helpless as they began to listen to his lungs. We stayed with him for a short time longer, knowing with certainty that he was going to get the best care, yet so hesitant to leave him; however, we had the long drive home still to finish.
With sunflower seeds, apples, and vegan chocolate bars fueling us, singing Glee songs and playing alternate reality to keep awake, we headed back down the 5 freeway. Along the way we passed several transport trucks, some empty, but others bearing animals on their way either to slaughter or finishing facilities or stockyards. One transport bore young calves, not much older than Oreo, peeking out through the tiny holes. Our transport of Oreo in as comfortable a set up as we could manage still caused him stress, and I could plainly see the wide-eyed terror of these young ones being transported clustered in a large metal box on wheels with no hay to cushion their bodies.
With the morning light came the smell. Driving through Coalinga, home of Harris Ranch, California’s largest feedlot with 100,000 cattle, you know you are near something not right by the nausea the odor induces. And then we passed the dairies. Rows upon rows of dairy cows – the reason Oreo came into our care in the first place as an unwanted male calf birthed to one of these mothers whose milk would go to humans rather than her calf. Standing in mud and muck, not free to move very much, these girls are treated as machines to generate milk, their female children as their replacements when they are “spent,” and their male children as a byproduct. The juxtaposition of our rush to get Oreo whatever medical care he needs with the thousands of cattle we passed who are treated like production units only strengthened our resolve.
When we arrived back at Animal Acres, we were met with the news that Oreo’s condition remained guarded. His lungs were inflamed, which was causing his shortness of breath, and there was the danger that he could stop breathing all together. The UC Davis vet team gave him nutrients and liquids intravenously, and got him on a drug to hopefully open his lungs. On Thursday afternoon he had more energy yet still was breathing shallowly. The vet team remained hopeful that if he could pull through the next few days, he would recover. However, at 1 am as Thursday moved into Friday, he crashed. His lungs were failing. I can only imagine how terrified my young friend must have been as his lungs failed to provide him breath. Though his will to live was strong, the painful decision had to be made to let him go so that he would not suffer needlessly.
What solace I have comes from knowing that so many people fell in love and shared it profusely with Oreo, which he so often returned in a nuzzle or lick, experiences that he would never have gotten at the place he was born. Watching him bravely stand in the back of the truck as we prepared to leave melted my heart, and I desperately wish I was on my way back up to Davis to bring him home healthy and happy. If you are able, please consider making a donation here at our secure online giving page in memory of Oreo to help us in our rescue and refuge efforts. Your contribution will help all the other farmed animal friends who call Animal Acres home. You can also visit our Facebook page for an album of photos of Oreo and his trip to Davis, along with more photos of the dairies we passed. We and all of our farmed animal friends thank you for your well wishes and support during this time of grief. I know that Oreo will be watching over us now.
Cameron O’Steen, Education & Outreach Liaison at Animal Acres
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