Police were called to a Howard County restaurant Saturday evening after one of the men protesting the alleged mistreatment of a calf dumped fake blood on himself outside the establishment.
The demonstration is perhaps the most visible manifestation of a campaign to “Save Sophie,” a calf that was stolen from Braglio Farms in Marriottsville, taken to an animal sanctuary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and returned to Braglio Farms by Baltimore County Police in May.
The Woodstock Inn, where Saturday’s protest occurred, is affiliated with Braglio Farms as its “farm-to-table restaurant.”
Howard County Police did not identify the four male protesters and said no criminal offense was committed during the protest, which happened around 7:45 p.m. Saturday. The men expressed their displeasure with the owner of the restaurant inside the building before one of them poured the fake blood on himself outside the establishment, police said.
When Howard County officers arrived, the men were walking to their vehicles, and police officers advised the men that the manager of the Woodstock Inn asked they not return to the area.
Ryan Phillips, who runs Life With Pigs, the animal sanctuary where the calf was taken, said the calf had become a “family member” and he’s worried about her condition and future prospects.
When the calf, called “Sophie” by the animal sanctuary and “Milly” by the Braglios, was brought to the animal sanctuary, Phillips said she appeared emaciated and neglected or abused.
Phillips has shared dozens of photos the calf, taken, he says, when she arrived at the sanctuary, that appear to show damaged hooves, lice and bones visible through skin.
Braglio Farms, however, accused Life With Pigs in a statement of staging and falsifying the photos; Baltimore County Police said the photos did “not play a significant role in our investigation” because they were unable to tell if the photos were “cropped or altered.”
Phillips said he did not work with the protesters in Howard County, but he was “grateful to anyone” who speaks out about the calf in a non-violent way.
“I love that there’s so much passion and support,” Phillips said. “But I think that the best way to get our message out is to tell [the calf’s] story to people.”
Braglio Farms in a statement last week denied that “Milly” had been neglected or abused, and said she was a family pet. Neither Braglio Farms nor Woodstock Inn responded to a request for comment for this story.
Baltimore County Police said Tuesday morning that the Animal Abuse Team investigated Braglio Farm and its observation of “the calf and the farm appeared normal and did not warrant any further investigation.”
Philips, meanwhile, has created a Facebook page called “Friends of Sophie Action Network,” which each day has posted a number of “action items” for supporters to do, including contacting members of the media and elected officials to draw attention to the story.
The page has gained more than 560 followers so far, and followers have sent group emails sharing videos about the calf and urging public officials to get involved in the case. Independent of the public Facebook page, some supporters have taken to leaving negative online reviews of Braglio Farms and the Woodstock Inn.
Two women were arrested for the theft of the calf. Jennifer L. Sully, of Baltimore was arrested May 27 and Erika Lynn Wilkinson, of Falls Church, Virginia, was arrested May 31. Both have been released on unsecured personal bonds. Sully has a preliminary hearing scheduled for June 21 and Wilkinson has a preliminary hearing scheduled for June 28.