When we reported Tuesday that a fourth sick, emaciated goat had been found wandering in the area of Pelham Bay Park near the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Bronx, one commenter provided a possible explanation for the mystery: "These goats aren't 'escaping' from anywhere. they're the victims of Santeria sacrifice that regularly takes place in Pelham Bay Park." Indeed, locals have long reported seeing candles, fruits and animal bones and skulls in the area.
Santeria, a centuries-old religion that came to New York by way of the West Indies, is known to sacrifice animals such as goats and chickens during rituals. The blood is used as a religious offering, while the meat is usually eaten. Animal rights groups have tried to stop the sacrifices over the years, but in 1993 the Supreme Court ruled that the practice was a religious sacrament and protected by the Constitution. In 2007, a high school principal in Soho was fired for using chicken blood in a Santeria ritual to "cleanse" the school, and evidence of Santeria rituals has been found in Central Park.
Susie Coston, the national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary, tells City Room, "The neighborhood where these goats are being found, there are a lot of Santeria, people who practice Santeria." But if these goats were being used for a Santeria ritual, wouldn't they be dead? It's a mystery. Someone really ought to head up to Pelham Bay Park one dark night and look into this—and it's not going to be us!