Vegan actor Joaquin Phoenix Phoenix, a vegan, frequently speaks on animal rights issues - Media Credit: Luigi de Pompeis / Alamy Stock Photo

Joaquin Phoenix Slams Arrest Of Animal Sanctuary Owner Who ‘Stole’ Cows From Beef Farm

Tracy Murphy maintains she has a right to keep the cows and faces death threats for saying so

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3 Minutes Read

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.

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The Author

Amy Buxton

Amy enjoys reporting on vegan news and sustainability initiatives. She has a degree in English literature and language and is raising a next-gen vegan daughter.

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Tea Stuart
Tea Stuart
9 days ago

Shame shame. I know Tracy from facebook. She is a compassionate human who gives her life het time all the money to rescue defenceless and voiceless. Insaw many videos tears coming down her cheeks because she could’nt save some animals. That’s how farmers love their animals beat them keep them in awful conditions. Shame shame on that greedy bestard farmer to sebd her to jail.for saving cows. Now cows are back to be slaughtered. Compassion and love is not felony. Laws have to change. Animald deserve rights
All the animals

Tina
Tina
9 days ago
Reply to  Tea Stuart

Oh good lord. Keep watching to see what a fraud she really is. ..

Carola
Carola
10 days ago

Everyone is for animal “welfare” reforms: But animals are still property, and the property “owners” — whether scientists in a laboratory; agribusiness CEOs on the factory farm; or the management of rodeos, circuses, and zoos — have every right to do what they wish to animal bodies. The legal rationale are two-fold: any act causing animal suffering is acceptable so long as it is part of a “tradition” of animal exploitation and/or has some “rational” purpose such as making profit or “disciplining” an animal. Thus, while the burning or beating of a cat or dog is a felony crime in many states, this is so because it has no redeemable utilitarian function for society, not because it is intrinsically wrong. Where animals are property, the property rights of individual animal “owners” trump public moral concerns, such as voiced by animal advocacy groups, and many a just battle has been lost in the courts through an exploiter’s appeal to “ownership” rights over animals.–from Dr. Steven Best’s essay “Legally Blind: The Case For Granting Animals Rights”

Sheila Loe
Sheila Loe
9 days ago
Reply to  Carola

BS! You are the kind of human who feels superior in the animal world! Poor you! Maybe we should start eating humans, they are the destroyers of life for most! They are warring money hungry power driven ego maniacs! Let’s eat them instead!

Karen Davis
8 days ago
Reply to  Sheila Loe

Carola does not believe that nonhuman animals are rightly considered nothing but property. She is an animal rights advocate. She is quoting a writer who explains the plight of animals in our society including the fact that, legally, “wanton” cruelty is considered Cruelty,” whereas utilitarian, money-making cruelty isn’t.

Dee Knight
Dee Knight
9 days ago
Reply to  Carola

It was not that long ago that ownership of human beings as property, and the right to do with them whatever you want at will, was classed as normal acceptable practice, and totally within the law.
However several forward thinking, individuals, questioned these practices and maintained that just because a practice or behaviour is commonplace and legal, does not make it right.
Animal, rights campaigners are echoing this belief, and want all animals to be recognised as sentient beings, with the right to live a natural life, without threat of abuse and a violent premature death.
As the slave trade ended, so will the trade of animals. Unimaginable!!! Unthinkable!!!
Yes that’s what the abolition movement were told. That didn’t deter them, and it won’t deter animal defenders.
Times are changing, and we need to recognise that animals are here “with us” and not “for us”
The future is Vegan. 💚💚💚

Asha
Asha
10 days ago

Why would anyone trust what you say. The calves stolen by Asha’s Sanctuary belonged to a child and was a part of a 4h project. Anybody that condones adults stealing and causing emotional trauma to children are immoral, unethical, haters and criminals of the worst kind.

Emme
Emme
10 days ago
Reply to  Asha

You don’t know they were stolen – pure speculation on your part….And please, the whole premise of these 4H animals is that they will be ripped away from the children raising them and killed! The cows would stay alive at the sanctuary., and the child could visit them. 4H will require that the cows are slaughtered – how will the child feel about that?

Rachael
Rachael
10 days ago
Reply to  Asha

C’mon.. “the children” were putting them into a show and were then selling them.. to be murdered.. that’s trauma..

Lynn
Lynn
10 days ago
Reply to  Asha

Do you know what happens to 4H animals that are under care of children after the “project” is over? That is what I would call emotional trauma.

Carola
Carola
9 days ago
Reply to  Asha

Sorry, using children to hide behind and spin the story to place shame on the Sanctuary won’t wash. Stop doing what the Pope always does: pitting people against animals!

The 4H project teaches kids to harden their hearts with the message that sacrificing their animals for profit and pleasure is just fine because farmers and ranchers regard the animals as “property” like tractors and pickups. If “The Law” says that a cow has five legs, does that make it so? Unjust laws need to be challenged, and that’s exactly what the Sanctuary owner bravely did–she defied an unjust law for the sake of providing sanctuary to two deserving sentient beings whose only “crime” is not having been born HUMAN!

Michael
Michael
6 days ago
Reply to  Asha

4-H is just the mechanism by which children are indoctrinated into becoming animal abusers and killers. The youngest 4-H kids are traumatized when they realize that their animal is gone after the auction. Each year the kids become more accustomed to caring less about the plight of the animal and to care more about the check they receive, until they are hardened to the suffering, and only equate animals to money.

Robbie Lockie
Admin
10 days ago

Absolutely shocking behaviour on behalf of the policeman. Shameful!

Tina
Tina
9 days ago
Reply to  Robbie Lockie

Shocking????? They arrested a thief. Cows ain’t cheap. It doesn’t matter what the farmer planned to do with them. SHE assumed he was butchering them.. so what if he was..he’s a beef farmer,thats what they do. None of her business. This could be a cat,a dog,a small child lost..so according to her mentality it’s finders keepers… Vegans,animal extremists of course flipping the narrative to fit their agenda. Keep watching,,there will be investigations coming. This woman is a swindler ,preying on caring people for cash. She pays herself $80,000 a year to care about animals. She ain’t doing this out of the goodness of her heart people It was all a publicity stunt to take in cash ..and she’s sitting back laughing. So much stacking up against her..,IRS ,Misuse of donations..etc and so on Wait and see. More to come. Even her own workers said the only time she’s around the animals is when she’s filming a sob story and asking for money. She has some chickens and ducks and a few cows. No way in heck does she need that much donation money. Where’s it go?? Hmmmm. I’ll wait n see.

Lorraine
9 days ago

Wow, now I know why most websites these days don’t have a comments section. So many people lacking in common sense….

For the animals.
Go ahimsa.

Sheila Loe
Sheila Loe
9 days ago

People are militantly stupid, devoid of compassion for the animals brutally murdered for their hides and their meat. Meat eaters are addicted to their meat, usually big bellies, etc and they really can’t see giving up their addictive tastes. I used to be a meat eater but I longer can attribute to the brutality of the industry. I am much healthier, happier, and thinner. I have no guilt toward what I choose to eat. I’m sure there are meat eaters that have no guilt. I don’t have much in common with them. I love and favor animals to most humans! They don’t have a mean one in their body! They do feel fear, grief at losing those they are bonded with and they form close bonds with other cows, other animals and humans! For god’s sake, let them live! Eat healthier, eat more plant based foods. Live longer!

Care
Care
9 days ago

Do you think the argument that the farmer “owns” the cows is enough justification for the slavery of animals? What about racial slavery? Are the people that helped runaway slaves hide from their owners considered thieves, or are they now thought of as heroes? It’s not like Murphy is charged with stealing a car. These cows are living, breathing animals. The idea they should be thought of as property is flawed to begin with.

Karen Davis
8 days ago

Please don’t say cows “which” . . . Please say cows “who”

“Thing” pronouns reinforce the view of our animal kin as inanimate objects rather than as the living, breathing, feeling creatures they are. The conflict between Tracy Murphy and the farmer is being legally treated as a property dispute in which the cows are Live Stock – live “property,” live “wealth,” indistinguishable from farm equipment.

Thank you!

Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns. http://www.upc-online.org

Concerned citizen
Concerned citizen
8 days ago

Have any of you watched the video? She is not a kind person, she is totally irrational, confrontational, mean, spiteful, undiplomatic, nearly deranged. You guys are giving animal welfare activists a bad name. You’re making people write off all of us who care about animals as crazy people.

Sarah
Sarah
8 days ago

$100 a day to “board” the cows??! That’s a load of bull crap (pun fully intended). Wouldn’t even cost a tenth of that to feed two full grown cows a day, let alone calves. She’s a lying thief and was rightfully arrested. Shame on her.

Poughkeepsie Legal
Poughkeepsie Legal
6 days ago

Another example of humans exploiting animals for money, enlisting the all too willing police to suit their needs. Is there a donation page setup for Tracy Murphy’s legal fees?

In The Know
In The Know
6 days ago

Sadly there is a lot of false information surrounding this issue. Even more sad is that it was perpetuated by Tracy. Despite what many think they know about her, not disputing her work to promote animal rights and the vegan lifestyle, there is more going on and this situation has highlighted it. Tracy has been taking well meant donations to buy up homes that sit vacant. All of her posts ask for money and she even states the sanctuary is in jeopardy. Not true. One example of a property she recently purchased is 1808 Lockport-Olcott Rd in Burt Ny. She paid $133,500 for it last August and it has been vacant ever since. Niagara County Real Estate transactions are public information so feel free to verify. Dinate if you wish but understand where a alot of those donations are going.

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