Saving But A Few

By Howard Beckman 03/26/11

In the past six months or so we noticed that some of the bison were no longer there. Maybe the herd had lost a few members, or perhaps they had been sold? We also noticed that they were not so healthy looking. They were becoming thinner and thinner. As time went on it became obvious to many that had seen them for the last few years that something wasn’t right. There was not enough grazing land for the horses and bison in the pasture, but the bison were suffering the most. Horses can eat short grass, but it needs to be longer for bison, as well as cattle. Obviously no hay or grain was being supplemented.

Many concerned neighbors had called the Marion County Animal Services, but nothing was done. The problem was that the laws protect people’s “property”, which the animals were considered to be, but not the animals themselves, not unless they could be seen to be dying, which is ridiculous, as often it is then too late. About a month ago Animal Services came out and said they “inspected” the bison, saying, “they look as we would expect them to look after the winter”.  The bison got thinner and thinner.  Last Friday Mar 18th we saw that one of them had gone down and was lying in the pasture. Animal services came out and took pictures from a distance, but no proceedings to do anything were instituted.

Help had come too late for this buffalo. Obviously it had died of starvation and its body was now food for vultures. Yogamaya called me and in a choked up voice told me that what remained of the herd, two small babies and a mother cow bison, looked painfully thin and she wanted to get food to feed them.  I said I would be right there.

When I arrived the three remaining bison were in a stand of trees right inside the front fence to the property. What I saw outraged me, tears streamed down my face. These once majestic creatures were reduced to the most pitiful state and unimaginable for America’s largest land mammal. They were literally skin and bones.

I had brought a large bale of Timothy grass hay and another bale of alfalfa with me, which Yogamaya and I began to break up and throw over the fence for them. The young buffalo went for the hay first, one stumbled and fell from weakness trying to walk to the hay. The cow was so far gone that she couldn’t even bring herself to eat. Then from the far distance, out of nowhere came a bull, his huge beautiful head on tiny shrunken shoulders, tentatively putting one foot in front of the other.  Mustering all his strength to get to us and the food. We just stood there, planted to the ground, willing him to make it. He stumbled, we held our breath, he regained his balance and made it to the food. I immediately called 911, then being referred to Animal Services received a weekend pager. We left a message and prayed someone would call back. They did, thank you, thank you.

We threw hay over the fencepager number. After a while the officer on duty called me back and when I told him of this tragic situation he promised to meet us there soon.

It took him several hours to arrive, and it was hot and we were frustrated and angry to say the least. When I showed him what the bison looked like he couldn’t believe it. He took photos and made a plethora of calls and finally convinced his higher ups that this was an emergency and these animals needed to be taken off the property. He assured us they were coming and promised us that they’d be taken off that very afternoon. Oh, what a relief, they would be saved from certain death. It was Gaur Purnima  and we had planned to go to the Krishna temple’s celebration in Alachua. So we left feeling gratified that something was finally being done. We also meditated on what an awful place the world is for so many innocent creatures.  So much suffering caused by people with absolutely no compassion for anyone else on the face of the earth.

The next morning, Sunday, we went back to check and they were still there. Horrified I called Animal services and found out that they had tried, but were obviously not equipped to be able to round them up properly. Animal Services had inspected the property, brought food and told us that another baby bison had died not long ago and the body was left where it fell in the pond, rotting and contaminating the water. The bison were so sick and had terrible diarrhea. We came to find out that there were a total of 4 skeletons still lying on the property from bison that had fallen from starvation and illness.

We emphatically said that something MUST be done and must be done immediately. We were not leaving until something was!! I called several television newsrooms and forwarded photos of the fallen bison’s body being eaten by vultures and the pitiful state of the other 4. By that afternoon animal services were back out there and had brought a large water tank for drinking water and a fire truck came to fill it up for them. They had brought sweet grain for them and were hoping to be able to get another warrant to enter the property and take all the animals there, the 4 bison and at least 6 horses, also in terrible shape and sick, although not like the bison.

Again Monday we showed up, with TV reporters and cameras rolling. Several reporters from print media and television interviewed us both and we ended up on the evening news by Monday night. Now animal Services were actively trying to get the warrant and could see unequivocally that these animals were literally being starved to death.Just skin and bone

Tuesday we went back and stayed at the property, making sure there was food. We were afraid that whoever owned them might even shoot them, as had they chosen to do so there would have been nothing the law could have done. Only after a warrant was obtained would they no longer be considered their “possessions”. Another television news reporter came and interviewed us at the property that afternoon and we kept up the pressure as best we could. Animal Services were cooperating beautifully at this point and they all desperately wanted to see them saved.

Finally Wednesday morning the judge signed the warrant and a team of Animal Services personnel went to the property along with several police squad cars to serve the warrant. They had brought some local cowboys with their large trailers and several horses and a dog, all trained to round up cattle. The reporter from Channel 20 in Gainesville was there again filming and as we all watched the bison were corralled and loaded onto one of the trailers within 20 minutes. We were elated, but saddened that we could only save but a few of the original herd.

It took quite a bit longer to round up the horses, but finally they were all rescued and taken to a county facility. Now the court process will go on and our hope is that they will be permanently taken from these awful cretins masquerading as human beings and put up for adoption. We are staying in close touch and when they are, we plan to be ready to adopt them. They would then live on the Vedic Cultural Fellowship farm for the rest of their natural lives. The possibility does exist, though, that even when the judge says they can be adopted the county could opt to auction them off. If that happens we will have to go outbid anyone else (most others would only want them to slaughter for meat) in order to be able to take possession of them and bring them home where they will be safe. Such dignified creatures reduced to the most undignified of circumstances. I am sure that anyone seeing these photos will feel their heart break.

Anyone that wishes to help in any way we would be very grateful. No matter what it takes we are bound and determined to see this case to its end and see these bison returned to their glorious natural selves again. We will give them a home for life on our farm.

Please be vigilant if you see any animals suffering and try to help them if you can. If you own an animal and can no longer afford to feed it, please call your local Animal Services and they will help you! Please. Don’t just ignore the suffering of others, be they human or animals. Show compassion for all those who are suffering in this world. From such compassion and acting upon it will come joy and more satisfaction will take residence in your heart than anything else imaginable.