The group began gathering at 5 p.m. in front of Rancho Veal at 1522 Petaluma Boulevard North. It swelled to about 45 people by 5:45 p.m.

?We were there to mourn and memorialize the animals and remind people that this is animal cruelty,? said Lisa Soldavini of Petaluma, a member of Northbay Animal Advocates who helped organize the vigil along with Kate Danaher.

?People who eat meat are disconnected from the suffering that takes place at slaughterhouses. We wanted to make the connection for them and call attention to the slaughterhouses where the actual killing takes place.?

The event coincided with World Farmed Animals Day, an annual event observed by animal-rights groups that coincides with the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.

Soldavini said organizers met with Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons a week earlier to apprise police of the vigil. ?We checked out where we could be on the property,? she said.

The group also conducted protests at the KFC restaurant on east Washington Street and of Carson & Barnes Circus at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds earlier this year.

On Friday, members of the group came with prayer sticks, booklets of prayers for animals and a recording of a song, ?Silent Ones,? by singer-songwriter Jazelle, which they played on a CD player.

Participants came from as far away as Mendocino and Santa Cruz counties, Soldavini added.

?A lot of people driving by gave us honks and thumbs up,? she said, ?although there was some negative (responses).?

Babe Amaral, owner of Rancho Veal, acknowledged that the gathering was peaceful, but he said he was a little puzzled by the protest.

?I couldn?t figure why they were coming after us,? he said. ?We sold the veal business in 2005.?

Amaral said his company still processes older cows and bulls, but any veal calves that are brought to the plant are taken to the Central Valley.

Rancho Veal and Rancho Feeding, which share slaughter operations on three acres of land, are scheduled to shut down at some point and be sold to a developer to build homes.

The slaughterhouse is the last one in the Bay Area that processes beef animals.

(Contact Chris Samson at