by: Maria Rivera

Over the summer Tracy Murphy, owner of Asha’s Sanctuary, and Scott Gregson, nearby cattle farmer, got into a heated dispute over two cows that wandered onto Tracy’s property. It sparked a lot of arguments between locals and found its way across the internet, encouraging outside perspectives to make their way in.

Joaquin Phoenix, an award winning actor that’s active in the vegan community, came across the issue and commented, “There was an opportunity here to show compassion and mercy. To allow these peaceful creatures to remain without fear or anticipation of harm for the rest of their lives.” It is without a doubt that he supports Tracy in her mission, and was upset by the arrest charges made back on August 2nd this year for grand larceny.

When I first heard of the conflict, there seemed to be a lot of misinformation. Unfortunately for Tracy she got the brunt of criticism, but it’s not unexpected. When the cows turned up at her sanctuary it was before both the Niagara County and the Erie County Fairs, and Scott Gregson’s family just so happened to participate in 4-H events. Facebook posts hinted that the cows that Tracy held onto were meant to be shown and were alleged 4-H cows, but that’s untrue.

People indulged in speculating that Tracy removed the ear tags as well, claiming an employee anonymously shared this information but was later fired. There are no other sources to back this up. I find that it is easy to spin in gossip circles on Facebook, and it isn’t exactly normal for people to demand evidence or hard truths when presented with information. I want to be glad that the cows landed somewhere safe, and I do understand the frustrations that locals have expressed. The public has been under the impression she was outright refusing to return the cows.

Photo Courtesy of Jacob Fries

It seemed that she was (rightfully) awaiting proof of ownership while things heated up. Neighbors began protesting, leaving signs like “ARREST THE BEEF THIEF” and “ASHA RETURN THE COWS” to line Coomer Road. People set up a tent along the property line and sat there waiting for her arrest, and when the charges were made I saw a few posts celebrating.

Scott Gregson had assumed obtaining the cattle would have been an easy task, but Tracy is a vegan activist that does a lot to protect animals. Her entire brand and livelihood is based upon protecting farm animals. Scott said, “I thought I would simply knock on the door, and get my cattle back and that would be the end of the story.” This was not the case, as he did not provide the proof of ownership immediately and Tracy had been advised to hold the cows until further notice.

Discussions turned into arguments, and what could have gone from a smooth hand off to an eventual purchase quickly deteriorated. The cows have since been given to Scott and a case is carrying on. Attorneys are working out the details for who owes who money now, as Tracy’s attorney claims she is owed for boarding and care while Scott is charging Tracy for not returning the cows.

The latest update as of October 26th is that the case was postponed until sometime later this month, and if you check the official website for Asha’s Farm Sanctuary you can see the added development of an adoption application. It’s clear that this beef between the community has cost her massive support, and it could ultimately lead to the closing of the sanctuary if she cannot clear her name.

“What this merciful opportunity was met with was such a shame. I applaud Tracy for standing her ground in the name of animal liberation.” – Joaquin Phoenix

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