The town of Sherborn, Massachusetts, is a relatively small community and much of the area consists of scenic farmland and quaint neighborhoods. Along Route 27, near the town’s center, is the Peace Abbey: a park dedicated to pacifism, non-violence, and conscientious objectors with memorials and plaques dedicated to many renowned advocates of peace throughout history such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Susan B. Anthony, and many more. However, people are not the only ones to be honored here.
Emily the Cow is also honored here, a local cow who narrowly escaped death and became a powerful symbol inspiring the world with her harrowing tale. The Peace Abbey dedicated a $98,000 bronze statue of the bovine on Earth Day in 2003.
November 14, 1995, probably started off as any ordinary day for Emily the Cow but unbeknownst to her, she was scheduled for slaughter that day. When the opportunity arose the three-year-old heifer weighing 1,600 pounds (730 kg) bolted over a 5-foot (1.5 m) gate and dashed for freedom.
Despite heavy snow, Emily evaded capture for 40 days and upon hearing the story many townspeople came to her aid feeding and sheltering her. Meg Randa and her family were especially moved and saved the cow’s life, purchasing her from the slaughterhouse for only $1. On Christmas Eve, the Randas brought Emily to live at the Peace Abbey.
After arriving at the Peace Abbey the story of Emily spread across the world and she became a celebrity. Many people saw religious significance in her story as she was brought in on Christmas Eve and was at large for 40 days the same length of time God cleansed the Earth with rain, Moses fasted, and Jesus wandered the desert.
The story also resonated strongly with the Hindu community as her escape date, November 14th, was also the birthday of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and a white patch of fur on her head resembled a silhouette of the country. Many visitors from India came to meet her and she became a symbol of animal rights, vegetarianism, and peaceful coexistence between animals and humanity.
On March 30, 2003, Emily passed away after suffering from uterine cancer. Seven days before she died, the local Lakshmi Temple in Ashland, Massachusetts blessed Emily. A priest there tied a piece of gold thread around her leg and tied another through a hole in her ear where the number tag she received at the slaughterhouse used to be.
After Emily’s death, the Randa family commissioned a life-sized bronze statue of her. In the statue, Emily wears a blanket and a garland of flowers hangs around her neck. Both are Hindu symbols of respect. The state was installed above her grave where it was unveiled on Earth Day. After her death clippings of hair from Emily’s forehead and tail, traces of blood, and the golden thread placed through her ear were released into the Ganges River in India.
The story of Emily the Cow is one of determination, survival, compassion, and love. She was an ordinary animal who became an extraordinary symbol and brought people together over county lines, international borders, and different faiths.
If you would like to pay your respects to Emily and other champions of peace and non-violence throughout history, the Peace Abbey is welcome to all.