A sweet, “puppy-like” Jersey steer named Delbur was spared slaughter thanks to his friendly, magnetic personality.
Shiane Holzwarth and her family took up cattle farming during the COVID-19 crisis, purchasing two steers to be raised for slaughter. While their Michigan hobby farm had been home to dogs, cats, horses, ducks, and turkeys, this was the first time they had bought cattle. The family was accustomed to raising animals for meat, with Shiane having slaughtered some of them herself. But something about Delbur hit her differently.
Even as a calf, Delbur was very friendly. He would play with balls, moo at guests, and greet delivery drivers dropping off packages. Shiane stated:
We noticed really fast that he was odd. He was like a puppy. … When we went down to see him, he started running and jumping—the older he got, the more he’d buck and jump around. We were like: “What is his problem?”
Despite falling in love with his sweet personality, Shiane and her husband loaded Delbur and their other steer into a trailer when they were old enough for slaughter. While the other animal was reluctant to enter the trailer, Delbur happily walked right in. Shiane cried on the way to the butcher, with mascara “running down her face,” while her husband, who was driving, said:
You better stop crying because once we get to the butcher they’re gonna think you’re a weirdo crying over cow.
Luckily for Delbur, the butcher determined that he was too small for slaughter and would need to be “fattened up.” The Holzwarths chalk that up to Delbur’s nature, being so friendly and docile that he would allow the other animals to eat before him. Relieved, Shiane said: “No, this was meant to be. He’s going home with me, and he is not going back to the butcher.”
Delbur now lives on the farm with ducks and turkeys as companions. The steer he had grown up with was butchered, and the family’s horses are gone. Delbur has changed Shiane’s mind about being a cattle farmer. She said:
I don’t think I want to raise any more cows—I’ll end up with a whole herd out there because I’m not going to be able to get rid of them.
While the story has a happy ending for Delbur, cattle and other farmed animals shouldn’t have to “act like puppies” to avoid slaughter. The worth of an animal’s life should not rest on how well they get along with people. Every animal is a unique individual with his or her own thoughts, feelings, and desires. And they all want to live.
Help make a difference for the countless “Delburs” awaiting slaughter at farms by eating more plant-based foods. Download our free veg starter guide for tips, recipes, and more.