A Nine-Year-Old Girl’s Beloved Goat Was Forcibly Taken and Slaughtered

UPDATE, January 5, 2024:

The legal battle continues over Cedar, a nine-year-old girl’s goat who was tracked down and killed after the girl’s family backed out of the Shasta County Fair. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has filed a countersuit against the girl’s mother, Jessica Long, blaming her for the ordeal and stating she should pay the defense’s legal fees.

Long’s attorney, Ryan Gordon, says the state’s countersuit is nothing more than an attempt to discourage Long from exercising her rights, and he plans to ask the judge to dismiss the state’s claim. “It’s really preposterous,” he said. “You don’t waive your constitutional rights as a matter of law. You do not waive your constitutional rights by signing your kid up for a kids’ club.”

Originally published on April 5, 2023:

Detectives recently drove over 500 miles to forcibly remove a nine-year-old girl’s beloved goat. While it may sound shocking, this story is just another example of the heartbreaking cruelty of 4-H programs.

Last year, Jessica Long purchased Cedar, a floppy-eared brown-and-white goat for her daughter to enter Shasta District Fair’s 4-H program. These programs are intended to teach children about animal agriculture and harden them to the realities of the meat industry. Children are often given a farmed animal to raise with the goal of sending that animal to slaughter—and empathy is greatly discouraged. In this case, Cedar was supposed to be entered in an auction and sold for meat.

Long’s nine-year-old daughter spent three months walking, feeding, and bonding with Cedar. When the time came to send Cedar to slaughter, she couldn’t go through with it. Long wrote to the fair’s manager, sharing the situation:

My daughter sobbed in her pen with her goat. The barn was mostly empty and at the last minute I decided to break the rules and take the goat that night and deal with the consequences later.

In her letter, Long begged Shasta District Fair chief executive Melanie Silva to make an exception. She explained that her daughter had already lost three grandparents within the past year and that their family had “so much heartbreak and sadness” she couldn’t stand the thought of her daughter suffering the loss of her beloved goat. She also offered to pay for Cedar and any other necessary expenses. 

Despite Long’s heart-wrenching plea, Silva seemed more concerned that other children would attempt to save their own farmed animals’ lives as well: “Making an exception for you will only teach [our] youth that they do not have to abide by the rules.” She also mentioned that the dispute had been a “negative experience” for the fair on social media.


Resolute in their decision to slaughter poor Cedar, fair officials reached out to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office. Armed with an extensive search warrant that allowed deputies to “utilize breaching equipment to force open doorway(s), entry doors, exit doors, and locked containers,” police hunted down Cedar. He has since been slaughtered.

While Long has filed a federal lawsuit against Shasta District Fair officials and the county, citing “egregious waste of police resources,” among other things, it is too late for Cedar. According to Vanessa Shakib, an attorney for Advancing Law for Animals who represents Long, it was “never about the money.” The officials “wanted to teach this little girl a lesson.”

As long as programs like 4-H exist, children’s natural compassion will be threatened, and the kinder world we envision will be harder to build. Learn more about 4-H and what it actually teaches children