For four generations, Sonnen Ranch, in Angleton, Texas, was a place where cattle were raised for dairy and eventually for slaughter, but that tradition ended a few months ago when the place became an animal shelter where cattle and other domestic animals can live out the rest of their lives in peace and comfort.
The story of this unusual transformation – believed to be unique in the country – began six years ago, shortly after owner Tommy Sonnen remarried his wife Renee. She started hanging out with the livestock, naming the cows, talking and even singing to them. Despite Tommy’s warnings not to get too attached to the cattle, she didn’t listen, and soon she became his worst nightmare – a vegan who couldn’t stand to live in the same house with a cattle rancher.
“I would give the cattle names, get used to their personalities, play with them, and then came the day when he’d take them to the slaughterhouse on the red truck,” Renee told ABC13. Soon she couldn’t take it anymore, so she gave her husband an ultimatum: “He was just going to get out of the business or our marriage was going to be over.”
Tommy himself knew things couldn’t go on the same way, so he told her he was going to sell the herd to save their marriage. That would have probably been enough for most vegans, but not Renee. She didn’t just want the cattle gone, she wanted to save them, so she asked her husband if he would sell her the animals. “And he looks at me like ‘You have lost it! You are crazy!’” she told CBS Evening News.
But what Tommy didn’t know was that his wife had begun writing an online blog called “Vegan Journal of a Rancher’s Wife” which had attracted thousands of followers, many of which jumped at the opportunity to help her fulfill her dream. Renee managed to raise the $30,000 she needed to take over Sonnen Ranch.
These days, the old cattle farm is known as “Rowdy Girl Sanctuary”, a non-profit where around 30 cattle graze in peace all day long and rescued chicken wander. There’s also a pig that was rescued just before being put down at an animal shelter, and new residents are expected to arrive soon, as people have already started calling to see if Rowdy Girl would take in animals deemed unfit for breeding.
As for Tommy Sonnen, his transformation is perhaps even more remarkable than that of the ranch. After a lifetime of eating steaks, he stopped eating meat and found that it made him feel better, so he followed in Renee’s footsteps and became a vegan. He continues to work at the ranch, only now his main concern is keeping the animals and his wife happy and relaxed.