June 16, 2005

SHERBORN

Peace Abbey honoring its sacred cow

By Jennifer Rosinski

A crowd of people. Eloquent speeches. A bronze memorial statue. It sounds like a familiar scene

But this weekend in Sherborn, something will be different. The honoree will be a cow.

A statue of Emily the Cow, who became a national sensation after her escape from a Hopkinton slaughterhouse 10 years ago, will be dedicated at the place she once found sanctuary.

''Emily is part of a much larger message," said Dot Walsh, program coordinator at the Peace Abbey. ''If we need to save the earth, we need to pay attention to the vegetarian lifestyle, because grazing cattle destroy the earth.

''Cows are fed grain and lots of it. What it means is it takes 12 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat," said Lewis Randa, cofounder of the Abbey. ''In a world where people are starving to death, that's not where we want to go."

The 3 p.m. ceremony Sunday in front of the statue coincides with an annual Vegan Potluck lunch held by the Boston Vegetarian Society at the abbey.

Speeches proclaiming Emily's status as a symbol of nonviolence and vegetarianism will be given by Peace Abbey founders Lewis and Megan Randa, Krishna Bhatta of Ashland's Sri Lakshmi Temple, and guest speaker Camilo Mejia, a Florida National Guardsman who was imprisoned for a year after refusing to return to his unit and Iraq following a two-week leave in 2003.

The Peace Abbey is a pacifist retreat and education center founded in 1988. The abbey houses a pacifist memorial and museum, national conscientious objector registry, chapel, and vegetarian resource center.

Emily's statue, designed by sculptor Lado Goudjabidze, sits atop her grave in what the abbey calls The Sacred Cow Animal Rights Memorial. A statue of Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, which Goudjabidze also created, sits nearby.

''Lado has given [Emily] a life past her physical life. If you look into her eyes, there is compassion and a connection to her," Walsh said of the cow statue, which has already drawn hundreds of visitors. ''It's deeply moving."

Emily died on March 30, 2004, less than a month after she was diagnosed with bovine leukemia. She was buried at the Peace Abbey in April. Her statue arrived one year later.

Emily's saga began Nov. 14, 1995. The 1,500-pound cow was lined up in front of the A. Arena & Sons slaughterhouse in Hopkinton, waiting her turn to be chopped into steak.

But Emily had a different idea. The two-year-old Holstein leaped over a five-foot-high gate and ran into the woods while workers were on a lunch break. Her escape -- and her 40-day run for freedom -- caught the attention of the world's news media. The Randas captured the cow, and a jittery and skinny Emily ended up at the abbey that Christmas Eve after the Randas paid the slaughterhouse $1 for her.