Protesters gathered outside Benner’s Farm in East Setauket this weekend hoping to save Minnie, a 2-year-old cow whose owners say will be slaughtered to feed their family.

Debate over the cow’s fate began last week, pitting local animal lovers, who want to buy Minnie so she can spend the remainder of her life at a sanctuary, against the Benner family, who have owned and operated the farm since 1977.

About 20 people protested outside Benner’s Farm Saturday, according to the organizer, Kimberly Sherriton, of Commack. Ten more arrived Sunday, waving signs and handing out fliers to drivers stopped at the intersection of Gnarled Hollow and Old Town roads.

Response from passers-by was mixed.

“I think you’re gonna hear an uproar from the community,” one woman said while stopped in her sport-utility vehicle Sunday afternoon. “This is just so sad.”

Protesters hold signs outside of Benner's Farm in East Setauket to save Minnie the Cow from being slaughtered, April 10, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Minutes later, another woman drove up and debated the protesters: “It’s a farm. It’s an honest living. You’re out of your mind,” she said to Sherriton before driving off.

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Sherriton, 47, started the campaign to save Minnie from slaughter last week after attending a birthday party at the 15-acre farm, where visitors can pick organically grown strawberries, learn to milk a goat and take part in gardening workshops.

“I broke down crying when I heard they were going to kill that cow,” Sherriton said, while holding a bright orange “Save Minnie” poster. “She’s so affectionate and playful. She licks like a puppy dog, and she’s treated like a pet.”

Jodie Flynn, of East Yaphank, criticized Benner’s Farm ads, which say visitors can “pet and cuddle” animals, leading her to believe the farm is a petting zoo.

“How can you let children pet and cuddle these animals and then turn around and have them slaughtered? It’s heartless,” said Flynn, 39.

Bob Benner, 73, said he’s straightforward with visitors that his farm “is not a petting zoo.”

A Save Minnie from Slaughter Facebook page has racked up more than 735 friends as of Sunday afternoon. And Sherriton said a New Jersey animal sanctuary is willing to take the cow.

But Benner said he has no plans to sell Minnie.

“This is a working farm,” he said. “I raise the best food that I can for my family. I don’t raise the animals in crowded feeding lots or in unsanitary conditions, and we’re not going to change because someone is unhappy with that.”