In November of 1995, Emily the cow escaped. The three-year old heifer
had just arrived at a slaughter-facility in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.
Reaching the end of her employment as a dairy worker, Emily had one
final and vastly profitable task to perform: to be ground into beef
and bone-meal. Yet, this 1,600 pound cow had other ideas. Namely, she
wanted out. Leaping over a five-foot fence, she made a dash for the
The facility staff tried to catch her but Emily was too fast. The
staff tried for a week to trap her with cachés of hay but Emily was
too smart. For forty days, she roamed about the rural community. There
would be infrequent sightings sometimes she would be seen foraging
with a herd of deer. During this six week period, Emily became a
national celebrity and folk-hero. Many people cheered for the cow and
supported her struggle against exploitation. In fact, the
slaughter-facility sold Emily if she ever resurfaced to a local
peace abbey for one dollar. In due course, she did emerge from the
woods and, for the coming years, lived on a large pasture at the
abbey. Sadly, "the Cow who saved herself," as Parade Magazine wrote,
died from uterine cancer (a side-effect of rBGH) in March of 2004. In
her honor, the Sherborn abbey erected a bronze statue of Emily the
In actuality, escapes from farms, slaughterhouses, laboratories, etc.
are not unusual. Most of these instances pass unnoticed, as the
animals are quickly rounded up and sent back to work. But occasionally, they can elude capture for a significant amount of time.
On 20 August 1994, the city of Honolulu entertained its last circus
for Tyke the elephant came to town. This 20 year-old performer had
enough of her employer, the Hawthorn Corporation. She was tired of
being leased out to circuses and amusement parks. She was tired of the
dismal and dangerous working conditions: the routine beatings,
untreated injuries and wounds, the constant travel. She was through
with the lack and poor quality of food. She was through with the lack
of sanitation and basic health-care. But most of all, she was through
with performing day in, day out.
It was only one year earlier that Tyke stormed off stage in Altoona,
Pennsylvania, ripping off the building's doors in the process. Three
months after that in Minot, North Dakota, she trampled her handler
during a show and darted into the fairgrounds. In both instances,
trainers were eventually able to calm her down. In Honolulu, though,
Tyke was finished with her job. In front of hundreds of spectators,
she killed her trainer, mauled her groomer, and ran out of the arena.
On the street, Tyke chased down a clown and stomped the circus
promoter. The police, true to form, wasted little time - firing 89
shots into the elephant. Ironically, in March of 1933, the Honolulu
police similarly gunned down another recalcitrant pachyderm
Yet, contrary to what some readers may be thinking, Tyke's actions
that day were anything but futile. In fact, hundreds of lawsuits were
filed against the city, state, and Hawthorn Corporation. Public
discussions intensified. Private individuals, who beforehand never
thought about circus performers, were engaged and moved into activism.
Animal-rights organizations were fueled. Outrage was voiced. Protests
and boycotts were staged. The US Department of Agriculture (who
oversees the industry) was consequently spurred into increased
vigilance, enforcement, and prosecutions. In 1994, the federal
government confiscated sixteen circus elephants from John Cuneo Jr.
the owner of Hawthorn. Indeed, Tyke's resistance that August day
propelled the development of social change. She made history.
Jason Hribal is co-author of Cry of Nature. He can be reached at: