Revisiting the story of Benjy, the gay bull who captured hearts in Ireland

The bull from County Mayo had a big impact, garnering attention from media, animal rights groups, and LGBTQ+ activists.

Benjy the little gay bull touches noses with another bull through a fence.
Image: Twitter @Henry2Live

If you’ve been following GCN since 2014, you’ll likely remember the story of Benjy, the little gay bull from County Mayo.

Benjy was originally tasked as a breeder on an Irish farm, but after failing to impregnate any of the cows in his herd after one year, his owner had him tested for abnormalities. After all of his tests came back normal, the vet determined that the bull was likely uninterested in mating with female cows because of his sexual orientation.

When it was determined that he couldn’t fulfill his duties as a breeder, his owner decided to have Benjy sent to a slaughterhouse. Thankfully, a local journalist named Joanna McNicholas intervened by sharing his story which captured hearts in Ireland and abroad.

After Benjy’s story made headlines, animal rights groups and LGBTQ+ activists spoke out against the injustice and the #SaveBenjy campaign was born. Ireland’s Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) and The Gay UK worked together to create a crowdfunding campaign to save the bull.

The campaign gained public support as prominent news organisations and celebrities including Graham Norton shared Benjy’s story. PETA even shared the story with The Simpson‘s producer and co-creator, Sam Simon, who ultimately paid £5,000 to send Benjy to the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norwich – a beautiful shelter in the UK.

Everyone rejoiced when Benjy was rehoused. While he initially enjoyed meeting other bulls at the animal sanctuary, Benjy’s story took a turn when he was caught spending time with a female cow, leading to rumours that he may actually be bisexual.

Little was known about his life after moving abroad, but five years later, the same local journalist worked with RTÉ Radio to create a documentary called Benjy the Little Gay Bulwhich revisits his story.

The documentary first summarised how Benjy’s story gathered international attention, and then provided an update on Benjy’s life in 2019. At first, they weren’t sure if they would be able to locate him among the other 600 cattle at the sanctuary, but staff member John Watson helped. He found some recent photos of Benjy and was able to confirm that he was out grazing.

Joanna McNicholas and RTÉ journalists explored the sanctuary on foot, walking across fields and climbing over fences until they found Benjy in a group with 30 other cattle. He was immediately recognisable to the team although he had grown in size.

His identity was confirmed with thanks to the Irish tag on his ear, and they were delighted to see that he was in a group with Bernie, a red bull who was saved from a slaughterhouse after his owner confirmed he was sterile.

Even though his story is no longer in the headlines, Benjy the little gay bull had a big impact on the Irish community. In interviews, several people indicated that they didn’t know gay animals existed prior to hearing his story.

Bulls can live until the age of 16, so Benjy will likely spend the rest of his life happily in the sanctuary. And who knows, maybe he’ll settle down and find a partner after all.

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