NEWFANE – Six months ago, Tracy Murphy met Albert, a day-old calf, at a Western New York auction house and knew she had to take him home.
Shivering, barely able to walk, Albert had just been separated from his mother and faced slaughter.
“He was crying for his mother, and it was the saddest thing I ever saw,” Murphy recalled. “I knew I had to get him out of that situation. I brought him home and the vet came out the next day and said he had a 50/50 chance of living. But he’s doing great now. He’s absolutely the most beautiful steer. He’s friendly, loves hugs, and has known only love here.”
Murphy took Albert home to Asha Sanctuary, 2969 Coomer Road, Newfane, where Albert will help celebrate the sanctuary’s summer kickoff with a “Kiss a Cow” event from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Sunday.
Murphy founded the nonprofit sanctuary to rescue “farmed” animals and give them a safe and nurturing environment. “Asha” stands for Acres of Sanctuary and Hope for Animals.
Guests to the sanctuary also will meet rescued sheep, turkeys and hens, as well as a rooster, and possibly donkeys, a goat and a pig that are being adopted from the Lakeview Animal Sanctuary in Pendleton.
“We want people to come and meet the animals in a friendly environment so they can say, ‘Hello,’ ” Murphy said. “We’ll also offer a yoga session at 10 a.m. (included in admission price) for another chance for early risers to meet the animals.”
Buffalo musician Alison Pipitone will perform, as will magician Don Rogers. The event also will feature a vegan bake-off, with the public helping to winnow down the choices for the celebrity judges to make the final selection. Judges include: Doug McNish, a Toronto executive chef; Lindsay Wilczynski, owner of Wheatberry Bake Shop in Snyder; and Michael Broderick and Robin Faulring, owners of Orange Cat Coffee Co. in Lewiston.
“Best in Show” in the bake-off will receive the “Moo” ribbon, and the winning dessert will be featured at Wheatberry Bake Shop.
Also planned are a wine tasting, cooking demonstration, children’s activities, exhibitors and vendors, plenty of vegan fare and an appearance by Vegan the Friendly Cow.
Murphy purchased and moved to the property in 2013. She started building the first henhouse that year, completing it in 2014. She filed for 501(c) status as a nonprofit in 2013.
“We built this from the ground up,” she noted. “We have almost 27 acres, and our goal is to have hiking trails so that when people come to visit, they’ll have something else to do.”
Murphy, who spent 27 years in the banking industry before taking the helm of the sanctuary, pointed out that the organization relies heavily on donations.
“We struggle to pay medical bills, and we need many things, like a tractor, improvement to our drainage system, running water and electricity for our barn, feed, hay and straw,” she said.
“People don’t realize that it costs a lot of money to run a sanctuary and run it the right way, so that the animals are taken care of. If we’re a true sanctuary, we need to address medical issues right away. That’s why we desperately needed this fundraiser.”
The event also will educate any visitor interested in veganism.
Murphy turned to veganism after learning about factory farming and what she calls “the cruelty in the dairy industry.”
“If you’re unlucky enough to be born a male, you’re taken from your mother right away,” she said. “That’s what happened to Albert, and he would have been slaughtered right away. It broke my heart.”
“People come here and ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” she said. “First, you can stop eating the animals. So we encourage people to try a vegan meal, just one meal at a time. It’s never been easier to go vegan. There are so many products out there that make it so easy.”
Why does Murphy call them, “farmed,” not “farm,” animals?
“We want people to understand that these animals are being farmed and you have to start thinking, ‘Is that right to farm an animal like you farm corn?’ ” she said. “Think about what that means. These animals are being treated as a commodity, for maximum profit, and if they are being farmed, there is no way they can be treated humanely.”
Murphy said Albert is “the sweetest boy – highly intelligent. People don’t realize these animals are smart and highly emotional, just like dogs and cats.
The purpose of this event is to give people a chance to meet the animals and examine their own food choices and connect with these living, breathing, emotional and intelligent animals.”
Discount advance tickets for the event may be purchased up to the day of the event for $8 at ashasanctuary.com/events.html, or are $10 at the door. The bake-off entry deadline has been extended through Friday. Visit ashasanctuary.com/bakeoff.html for guidelines.
Murphy said she hopes to open the sanctuary to guests for visits with the animals on subsequent Sunday afternoons and will hold vegan cooking classes beginning at 11 a.m. June 13 with chef Laura Rogers of Strong Hearts Café in Syracuse. Another event is planned for 6 to 10 p.m. July 25, featuring music, a bonfire, craft beer, vegan fare and camping.