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Emily, Tyke, and animal escapes


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 nearby woods.

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 cow.

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 entertainer, Daisy.

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: [email protected]

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