Tracy Murphy of animal sanctuary Asha’s Farm Sanctuary was arrested on Tuesday and charged with grand larceny in the third degree.
Earlier this year, two cows escaped from a beef farm and were found in the woodland near Murphy’s sanctuary. The animals seemingly belonged to Scott Gregson, a beef farmer in Newfane, New York. Gregson asked Murphy to return the cows, which she claimed had wandered onto her property. She offered to buy their freedom instead.
The two have been embroiled in a disagreement for a number of weeks. Now, a warrant for her arrest has been issued and executed, along with the retrieval of two cows. She has been formally charged with stealing.
Actor and animal rights activist Joaquin Phoenix heard about Murphy’s arrest, telling Plant Based News that he believes the “harsh punishment” given to the sanctuary owner is “astounding.”
He noted that Murphy was “simply showing kindness to two individuals who had wandered onto her property.”
“There was an opportunity here to show compassion and mercy,” added Phoenix, a longtime vegan. “To allow these peaceful creatures to remain without fear or anticipation of harm for the rest of their lives. What this merciful opportunity was met with was such a shame. I applaud Tracy for standing her ground in the name of animal liberation.”
What will happen to Tracy Murphy?
Following her arrest, animal activist Murphy was taken to SP Lockport for processing. She was then moved to Niagara County jail for arraignment.
Her lawyer, Matthew Albert, claims her rights are being violated and that she has a legal entitlement to retain the cows.
“They’re entitled by law to hang onto these animals until that lien is paid, that never happened here,” Albert said in a statement. “They’re not following the Lien Law 183 and if they were, my client wouldn’t be charged criminally.”
New York State Lien Law states that a boarding stable can consider animals as collateral against boarding or upkeep fees. Animals can be surrendered, in lieu of payment. Murphy states that Asha’s Sanctuary is entitled to a $100 per day boarding charge.
State troopers worked with the Niagara County District Attorney’s office and claim the Lien Law is not applicable in this case.
“During the investigation, we did look at some of the laws that she proposed to the owner of the cow’s attorney and things like that. So we looked into those and we worked with the Niagara County DA’s office and those laws that were provided in the books for a very long time under the Newfane town court don’t apply to this,” state trooper James O’Callaghan said in a statement.
He added: “The cows in question did have a working fence and wasn’t broken at any time. And with that Murphy never filed anything with the Newfane town courts so that’s why we were able to move forward with a criminal arrest.”
Support for Murphy on social media
Gregson felt the farming town of Newfane rally around him; residents lent support in the form of placards and roadside banners. “Release the beef” and “Don’t mess with farmers” were common themes.
But as well as Phoenix’s support, Murphy has also garnered online encouragement and sympathy as she faces multiple death threats from pro-farming protestors.
Screenshots of anonymous threats, including one stating a “promise” to hang Murphy, are being posted on Twitter. They are being shared in a bid to rouse law enforcement, which is allegedly ignoring the threats.
The case continues.
This article was originally published on August 3, 2022. It was updated on August 4 to include a statement from Joaquin Phoenix.