Big Island Sanctuary Steps Up for Displaced Dairy Cows

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Krishna Cow Sanctuary. Courtesy photo.

With the recent closing of Big Island Dairy in Ōʻōkala on the Hāmākua Coast, another group has stepped forward to provide a place of refuge for the displaced cows.

Krishna Cow Sanctuary, an organic, ethical homestead in Kurtistown, manages and has access to over 120 acres of land pasture.

Unlike the other rescue efforts, Krishna Cow Sanctuary maintains all of the cows it rescues and ensures they all live out their lives “peacefully and happily on grass pastures.”

Krishna Cow Sanctuary. Courtesy photo.

“We never sell or slaughter any cows, calves, or bulls,” said James Higgins, sanctuary organizer and spokesperson. “All are protected for life on beautiful grass pastures. We also rescue abandoned or neglected cows and also cows that can longer be cared for by their owners.”


“We believe that it takes a dedicated, long term team to ensure these cows are as happy as possible,” said Higgins.

For years, Big Island Dairy, the Idaho-based concentrated animal feeding operation of nearly 3,000 cows had illegally discharged manure on the Big Island, endangering local waterways and the neighbors that rely on them with massive amounts of animal waste.

The dairy will cease operations this month and is selling off all their cows.

Krishna Cow Sanctuary. Courtesy photo.

“They have a total of 2,800 cows!” said Higgins. “Unfortunately, whatever cows can not be sold will be slaughtered within a few months. We are doing everything in our power to rescue as many cows as possible!”


Higgins said they already have over 30 acres of land that the cows can live on, thanks to community networking with landowners. The cows always remain under the supervision of the sanctuary organization.

“With year-round grass, we will be able to care for these cows efficiently and won’t rely on regular donations,” said Higgins. “We are actively enlisting new properties for this project as well; many landowners are already interested in helping these cows and more are contacting us daily.”

Krishna Cow Sanctuary. Courtesy photo.

What they really need help with, he said, is funding to save the cows, which are being sold for $100-350 each.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to save cows for pennies on the dollar and ensure they will be properly cared for throughout the rest of their life,” Higgins said. “Please consider donating to or sharing this fundraiser. It’s gonna take vegetarians, vegans, animal lovers and people with big hearts to save as many of these beautiful creatures as possible!”


Krishna Cow Sanctuary has set up a gofundme account to raise money for to save as many cows as possible and keep them from being slaughtered.

The fund was established on Jan. 5, 2019, and as of Jan. 58 people donated $31,919 of the organization’s $108,000 goal.

Contact the sanctuary at [email protected].

Krishna Cow Sanctuary. Courtesy photo.


Because of the industrial dairy’s pollution, the Ōʻōkala community has been unable to fish, swim, and enjoy their own beautiful streams and ocean.

In May 2017, after months of complaints from the community, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health issued a Notice of Violation and Order to Big Island Dairy for the “unlawful discharge of wastewater” from the dairy to Kaohaoha Gulch. In June 2017, community group Kupale Oʻokala and the Center for Food Safety filed suit against the dairy in U.S. District Court.

In response to the groups’ June 2017 Clean Water Act lawsuit, it became clear that an industrial dairy of Big Island Dairy’s size cannot operate uphill of Ōʻōkala without causing unlawful and dangerous discharges. The timeline for removing the animals has now been finalized and filed with the court.

In November 2018, the dairy confirmed that it will cease operations, saying that it “has reached a point that it lacks the additional resources needed to continue the operation under current economic and regulatory conditions.”

Despite the announced closure, another wastewater discharge was reported below the dairy in December. The public was advised to stay out of Kaohaoha Gulch and the coastal waters fronting the area.

The settlement stipulates that milking shall cease no later than Feb. 28, 2019. The “target date to terminate all operations” is April 30, 2019.

Homes Needed for 2,600 Big Island Dairy Cows

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