|A community near Newcastle, England, has come together to mourn the loss of a cow shot by police.
On Sunday, May 17, a cow nicknamed Bessie escaped from a farm in Wallsend. Bessie was one of three cows that ran loose through the streets.
What ensued next was a three-hour chase by police to contain the bovines, which Northumbria Police said were a “significant risk” to the public.
The police department closed off roads in an effort to corral the cows, but Bessie, especially, posed problems for the town, according to officials.
A spokesperson for the Northumbria Police said that the cow “was in a highly distressed state and considered to be a significant risk to members of the public and motorists.” As a result, “The decision was made for the animal to be destroyed by firearms officers at the scene.”
In addition to armed police, a helicopter was also present at the scene. The other two cows were left to be wrangled by their owners.
Area locals say that this response by law enforcement was unnecessary.
Freelance photographer John Millard said that Bessie was “standing there, just eating” when he took a picture of her.
The cows had reportedly been spooked by dog walkers in the neighborhood and had jumped over a fence, but no other evidence suggests that the cows were a serious threat to residents.
Barry Aitchison had been asked by police if they could use his upstairs window to shoot the cow, but they ended up going to a neighbor’s house instead. “It was wrong for the police to kill a cow,” he told The Chronicle.
The outrage over the incident spread beyond the small town and to the internet. A Facebook group, “R.I.P. Wallsend Cow,” has picked up nearly 8,000 likes and is hosting a candlelight vigil for the cow on May 22.
Guests are encouraged to light a candle for Bessie and say a prayer for her while wearing a set of cow pajama onesies to show their support. So far more than 400 people have RSVP’d to the memorial.
“What is more comforting than a cozy pair of footed onesies?” said John Fitzpatrick, CEO at Big Feet Pajama Co. “Footed onesie pajamas will help the guest remember happier, more peaceful days as well as keep them warm during the memorial. I might question the wisdom of cow print onesies in light of past police response.”
But the event has done more than encourage mourners to buy a set of animal onesie pajamas for adults. It has also caused Brits to question an excessive police presence for such a minor incident.
Millard said that he not only witnessed the cow being shot, but he also saw a “massive police presence” with at least 15 police cars and a helicopter.
He had assumed the response was to a terrorist threat, not a “docile little cow standing in a field.”
Dave Turner, who set up the “R.I.P. Wallsend Cow” page on Facebook, said Bessie wasn’t doing anything.
“It wasn’t doing anything, it was just eating a bit of grass,” Turner said. “It probably got sick of the grass it was eating elsewhere, it heard about a nice new patch, went down and started grazing, and the next thing is police turn up and start firing at it.”
The candlelight vigil is meant to be “a serious send-off for Bessie,” according to Turner.