A trio of much-loved urban Auckland cows have been saved from the slaughter after a community garden backed down on its plans to offer meat packs to the public.

Kelmarna Organic Community Gardens & City Farm announced last week it had decided to kill the three Hereford steers, with their fine cuts to feature in meat packs which had already been fully pre-purchased.

The garden bordering Grey Lynn and Herne Bay promoted its first offering of beef as "from our free ranging, grass-fed cattle, as local as you can get".

But that decision was met with outrage, with one person posting on social media in response: "There is no ethical justification for slaughtering sentient creatures when other forms of food are available. A moral one, yes, but not ethical."

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Another wrote: "My kid loved coming to visit the garden and meet the animals. They would be heartbroken to know those lovely creatures are going to be sold for slaughter."

Some people even offered to purchase the cows and give them a new home.

The weight of the public response appeared too much, with the Kelmarna board of trustees today confirming cattle had been returned to Kelmarna, and they were working with a sanctuary who had offered to look after them permanently.

Kelmarna Community Garden Trust Board chair Phillippa Wilkie had previously defended the decision in a letter, thanking those who offered to rehome the cows but stating it was "not a financial decision".

"In our view the discussion about which foods we should eat as part of a truly sustainable diet, and whether animal products should be part of that, is ongoing.

"We consider that those who choose to eat meat should be able to know where it has come from and how it has been raised, in order to make an informed decision about it.

"This is why we have chosen to involve the community in this process."

While many supported the board's backdown, not everybody was happy.

"All the meat eaters can now go back to the supermarket to get their meat of unknown origin and dubious history, without knowing how it has been raised or what kind of life it's been raised, and support the factory farming industry like usual, instead of having an accessible source of ethical meat," commented one person on social media.