When nine sheep disappeared from their pasture in Yellow Springs, Ohio, last-place month, there were no volunteer-organized search defendants. No flashlights curving about in the darkness , no ears cocked to hear a distant bleat , no paintings on milk cartons.

The months-long battle between the impassioned activists who hoped to save the animals, and Antioch College–who planned to slaughter them–will end on Saturday with a three-hour vigil in honor of the lambs. Because the animals are dead. We think.

It all began last spring when the then-baby lambs were let loose in their solar-panel-adorned meadow on the campus of the private liberal arts school. The lambs are parts of a” living laboratory” and sustainability program on the Antioch College Farm, and the school said that–once they ripened into sheep–they would feed students in the nearby dining hall.

Over the next several months, fevered activists led by Dr. David Nibert, a neighbor of the college and a sociology professor at Wittenberg University, conducted a relentless expedition to save the creatures’ lives. They offered to buy the lambs, learnt a region willing to re-home them, compiled more than 88,000 signatures on a Change.org application, moved impassioned requests from over 100 academics, bought television commercial-grades depicting bloody lambs in slaughterhouses, and peppered the liberal arts college campus with countless complains, pamphlets, emails, and phone calls.

Nibert’s expedition grab PETA’s notice, which led the animal-rights group to write an open letter to Antioch College President Tom Manley comparing the” senseless brutality” of killing the lambs with the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4, in which 10 beings were killed and 27 others were injured.

Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson told The Daily Beast in September that death threats were sent to the school after the PETA letter–and referenced “the organizations activities”. An unknown caller to an Antioch receptionist’s private cell digit supposedly said,” I should slaughter your fucking house, bitch .” Police opened an investigation into the calls to campus, announcing it” telephone persecution .”

That same month, Barbara Pearl–a vegan whose son attended Antioch College before he died in a auto gate-crash at the age of 23 — questioned heads how much it would take to save the animals in honour of her son’s memory. One reportedly replied:$ 1 million. The institution memo, nonetheless, that it would use the money to buy more lambs to murderer for the living laboratory.

” Our students might not have the full farm-to-table experience, but a portion of the$ 1 million would be applied to the cost of purchasing locally-grown humanely and sustainably farmed meat for consumption by our students who are omnivores and towards the purchase of next year’s solar sheep ,” said the school’s explanation at the time.” Antioch College is not planning to alter its farm-to-table and sustainability platforms .”

On social media, heated engagements between the town’s former and current inhabitants at one point devolved into a comparison with Lord of the Flies , William Golding’s 1954 dystopian novel, which famously depicts a group of schoolboys marooned on an island in a terrifying portrait of mankind’s intrinsic savagery.

” I suspicion the worst “

Amid all that drama, many activists still held out hope while the lambs appeared to remain on campus through most of November.

Then, last week, Nibert sent an email to The Daily Beast.

” The nine Antioch lambs disappeared from campus yesterday ,” he wrote on Nov. 25.” I horror the most difficult, but hold out a bit of hope that they may have been relocated .”

Antioch College has refused to confirm what happened to the lambs to The Daily Beast or to anybody else. In a statement, a spokesman said on Friday,” Even as the Antioch College parish stayed persecution and death threats, we gained gargantuan carry from parties locally and across the country as they was informed about our internationally-recognized farm-to-table dining program and sustainable farming practises .”

” We continue to be proud of our educational program where principles of environmental agriculture and self-sufficiency are explored ,” he added.

Audrey Hackett, a reporter with The Yellow Springs News , meanwhile, told The Daily Beast last week that the paper has stopped accepting characters about the lambs because the material is no longer relevant” based on the best understanding our newspaper currently has” about the fate of the lambs.

Hackett said she did not have more specific information about the creatures.

” It is difficult to believe how a college would dismiss a mother’s plea to honor the recollection of her alone son, Jason ,” Barbara Pearl told The Daily Beast on Friday.” It is unthinkable and heartbreaking. I have pled them to please give the lambs to me as a direction to reputation Jason’s memory .”

” I am heartbroken ,” she said.

” I cannot believe the college would be so cruel and heartless to kill them when they have an opportunity to help a baby honor her child ,” said Pearl.” I have to believe this is not the case here and that goodness and kindnes will surely reign .”

The press release about the vigil on Friday featured Jason’s portrait side-by-side with the departed lambs.

” Antioch College has acted disgracefully to the mother of a former student ,” said Marilyn Kroplick, president of international animal protection organization In Defense of Swine, referring to the$ 1 million offer, and its strings.

Matthew Hamity, campaigns chairman at In Defense of Animals, claimed on Friday that the school’s refusal to acknowledge the death of the lambs was evidence that it” implicitly recognizes the obvious truth: no quantity of transparency can alter killing into kindness .”

Nibert will harbour his vigil on Saturday at midday at the area of Xenia Avenue and Corry Street, in Yellow Springs, in honour of the lambs and Barbara’s son, Jason Seth Houten’s, memory. Neighbourhood activists, he told The Daily Beast, will pick to” console one another in the face of the unnecessary and violent deaths of our nine friends .”

” The nine lambs were gentle, curious, and affectionate and could have enjoyed life for many years, living together at a sanctuary with friends and beings to care for them ,” Nibert contributed.” Their exploitation and brutal demises shall not be required to be depart unnoticed or castigated .”

” In a nature characterized by so much violence and ecological destruction, this was an opportunity for Antioch College to take a leading role in promoting a genuinely exactly and sustained macrocosm ,” Nibert said.” That opportunity for Antioch may well have died with the killing of the nine innocent lambs .”

After the vigil, the school will be finally able to take a breath after several months of angry words, telephone calls, and persecution. But that consolation may well be short-lived, since a brand-new class of newborn lambs is expected to return to the school in the spring.

And, as Hamity said on Friday, In Defense of Animals an intention to” remain active in our efforts to ensure that this never happens again .”