Idabelle: The Cow Who Swam for Her Life

Please enjoy this article from the latest issue of our magazine, PETA Global. To begin your subscription, become a PETA member today!

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If there was one thing that Idabelle knew for sure, it was that she was not staying on that boat, a freighter docked in Virginia and bound for Venezuela. Her future and that of the other cows looked grim: Once they arrived at their destination, they would be milked until their production waned – probably in less than five years. Then, they would be slaughtered, their bodies ground up for cheap hamburger meat, and their skins tanned for shoes, handbags, and car upholstery, some “goods” no doubt ending up on Virginia store shelves.

Like most cows raised for their milk, Idabelle was pregnant. Cows are continually impregnated to keep their milk production high. Perhaps instinctively, she sensed that staying on the boat would lead to disaster for both herself and her baby. She had to do something. She pushed her way to the railing, broke through the ropes, and leaped into the James River. Possibly powered by adrenaline, her maternal instinct, or some combination of both, she managed to swim all the way to an island.

She scrambled up the bank and disappeared into the woods. Little did she know that while she was “on the lam,” she was getting a little help from her friends: PETA was fighting to prevent her from ever having to end up back on a dairy farm, where calves are typically torn away from their mothers within hours or days of birth so that the milk intended for them can instead be consumed by humans.

Thankfully, PETA was successful! Idabelle was found and whisked off to a vegan farm, where she gave birth to her calf, who was named Jimmy. She got to spend every day with him, grazing peacefully and keeping a watchful eye on him, as mothers do. Thanks to her courage and PETA’s persistence, they would be together for the rest of her life.

Take Action Now

Save other cows like Idabelle by avoiding all dairy “products.” Read more inspiring stories of rescued animals in Love and Rescue: Tales of Survival, available at