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Inside Scoop on the Slaughter of Cedar, the California Goat Who Went on the Lam
Joe-Mathews
By Joe Mathews
Published 5 months ago on
November 24, 2023

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I, Cedar, may be as dead as the narrator of the film Sunset Boulevard. But from my warm and dry pen in caprine heaven, I can still hand down a hard lesson for my fellow Californians:

Never, ever, let the government get your goat.

Photo of Joe Mathews

By Cedar the Goat

as told to Joe Mathews

Opinion

The story of my short life is a parable of these head-spinning times, when cruel is the rule, and mercy is as rare as affordable housing. The circumstances of my death also raise questions about the responsibilities of children, the harshness of animal husbandry, and the excesses of law enforcement.

But the hardest question is the most straightforward:

Who killed me?

There are many suspects in this hiricide.

Did I die because of the young child who raised me?

Until shortly before my death, I was under the care of a 9-year-old girl in Shasta County, who decided to enter me in last year’s Shasta County Fair. What she didn’t seem to understand was that county fairs aren’t all and fun and fried dough. Entering me into the fair meant I could be auctioned off for slaughter.

And that’s what happened. I was auctioned, for $902, to State Sen. Brian Dahle, who was the Republican candidate for governor in 2022. When it was time to hand me over, the 9-year-old cried and refused to let me be taken away.

Was my death the fault of fair officials?

Dahle, as purchaser, was willing to cancel the sale — he knows what it’s like to get slaughtered, having lost to Gavin Newsom by 19 points. My former owner’s mother begged for my life, saying she was willing to buy me back.

Farm Animals Aren’t Pets: Fair Officials

But fair officials insisted that rules were rules, that farm animals aren’t pets, and that I had to be carved up. My death, the fair CEO said in an email , would also teach that little girl, and all children, life lessons — specifically that  “making an exception for you would only teach youth that they do not have to abide by the rules that are set up for all participants.”

Was it the long arm of the law?

I used to stare across the pasture and wonder about the life of sheep. After the fair, I finally went on the lam.

Instead of handing me over for slaughter, my owner’s mom took me away and placed me at a Sonoma County farm that could care for me.

The fair insisted this was grand theft, and called the Shasta County authorities. Crime levels are high in that county, but the sheriff’s department devoted resources to getting a warrant and sending deputies well outside of their jurisdiction, 200 miles southwest to Sonoma, to bring me back to Shasta County. They didn’t read me my rights or give me an extradition hearing.

Was it another management failure by Gavin Newsom?

The governor has declared that the death penalty will no longer being carried out in his state. But his office didn’t stop my execution. When the sheriffs got me back to Shasta, they turned me over to fair officials, who had me slaughtered, without a trial before a jury of my fellow goats.

Are state legal officials, and the courts, not to blame?

The legal system failed to protect me — and then stood in the way of justice for my death. After my execution, my owner’s mom sued the fair, claiming a violation of their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and of state law allowing minors to back out of contracts.

Bonta Countersues Girl’s Mother

You might think state officials would settle the case quickly, with apologies emphasizing their supposed commitments to children and the right to choose. Instead, state Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta — who is planning to run for governor in 2026 — countersued the girl’s mother, demanding that she pay all legal costs.

When government officials are willing to treat a child and mother like that, you can’t back down. You have to be even more stubborn than a goat, and cultivate a fierce gruffness. Looking back, I wish I could have behaved like the big, third goat in the children’s story “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” who pokes out the eyes of the troll who tries to eat him.

So, when the authorities come for your goat, think of me, Cedar the Goat, and fight for the rights of children, the rights of animals, and your right to poke the eyes of anyone who would punish you for holding onto another living thing.

About the Author

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

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