Friday, June 12, 2009

"Whither, The Cow?"

Some people don’t eat cows. Some people extend the prohibition to not eating dairy products, which I don’t really get. I guess they believe that cows aren’t food, and they just want us to leave them alone.

The question is, “If cows aren’t food, what exactly are they?”

I claim no expertise concerning the bovine species. I just think about stuff and today, I’m thinking about cows. My mind goes where it goes. I can’t stop it. I’m not sure I’d want to if I could.


The people who want us to leave cows alone clearly like cows. (Most people pretty much like cows, though it doesn’t stop us from enjoying them at mealtime.) Those who stand up for cows want the cows to be happy and flourish, for them to, in the Star Trek vernacular, “Live long and prosper.”

The problem is this.

Under the system currently in place, people – farmers and ranchers – take care of cows. They don’t do it out of kindness. They have ulterior motives. Farmers and ranchers make money off of cows. They invest in their wellbeing – food and protection, maybe some shots and veterinary bills – in hopes of reaping a profit down the line. There is no altruism involved. These people are in the cow business.

Suppose, however, that there was no cow business, no way to profit from cows whatsoever. Cows simply existed, left completely alone to enjoy their lives. Nobody slaughtered them. But nobody took care of them either. They were simply left to their own resources.

Then what?

Can cows fend for themselves? Can they provide themselves with food and shelter and protection from, I don’t know, wolves? If they can, good luck to them. But if they can’t, what exactly is going become of them?

When cows no longer pay their own way, who’s going to want to invest in them? There’d be no incentive anymore. You think people will sink money into cows and just have them wandering around their property?

Is there any chance cows will morph into household pets? They’re not puppies. They’re actually not that cute. “Cow rides”, does that sound like a future for them? Not as long as there are horses around. They’d have to line up behind camels and llamas.

We’re not India; we’re not going to suddenly to the level of deities and start praying to them. They’d probably just be ignored.

What are they going to do?

I recognize the issue of, “Why do they have to do anything?” It’s a legitimate issue. I won’t argue that “Cows were put here for a purpose” – I don’t know why cows were put here – I don’t know why anything was put here – but over the centuries, a purpose has evolved. Cows became “people food.” All kinds of food – meat, milk, butter, cheese. Cows were a pantry on legs.

The question is, what happens when they’re not?

In my view, cows, rendered purposeless, are on the “fast track” to extinction. A few devoted cow lovers might protect them for a while, but, you know, generations pass, and, eventually, somebody’s going to say, “What are we doing this for?”

It’s unquestionable that the people sensitive to the mistreatment of cows want those animals to stick around. Yet it seems to me, the treatment they’re insisting upon will inevitably lead to the opposite result.

The only way to insure that cows will always be with us is to keep eating them.


Anonymous said...

If cows weren't domesticated, they'd be buffalo. And hence almost extinct.

growingupartists said...

I agree, and insulting them whenever we get the chance keeps cows humble. Cows don't mind.

Someday soon Obama will realize the worth of cow leadership and will be able to entrust cows everywhere to lead America forward into greener green times, which cows naturally love.

Rebecca said...

I love your blog and I eat beef, but I have to take exception to the statement, "Under the system currently in place, people – farmers and ranchers – take care of cows."

They don't actually. They cross breed their cattle to the point that the cows often cannot give birth naturally because the calves are so big. Ranchers also use artificial insemination to the point where cows are giving birth far more often than nature meant them to.

This is why beef is no longer uniformly as good as it was decades ago and why Kobe beef is so expensive. Not that cows necessarily need to be massaged or serenaded by classical music, but it is more expensive to "take care of them" than it is to wring every last penny you can from their hide.

And it isn't only cows. Pigs, chickens, mink and other animals raised for food or their skins are abused daily all over America. It is an issue that is just now starting to be spotlighted and, hopefully, it won't be too much longer before there is new regulation.

It will take a fight, though, because the ranchers are a powerful lobby. In fact, they filed suit against one of their own who wanted to innoculate ALL of his cattle against some disease, because he'd have been allowed to advertise the fact and it would have put pressure on all the rest of them to do the same...which would have been expensive. And the court agreed. Of course, that's a decision begging to be overturned, but it still shows the current state of affairs.

So, while I believe in the food chain, I wish I had the will power to be a vegetarian. Because although I don't mind eating meat, I'd prefer it come from animals who had not been tortured first.

Oh, wait. Aren't you from Canada? I bet they DO take care of their animals there. Maybe I should just move.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question.

I recall reading in a book, I think it was a LeCarre novel, but if someone were to say I was wrong, I wouldn't spend a second disagreeing, that the cows in India are considered sacred, therefore left alone.

As a result, they are often in bad shape, Undernourished, susceptible to disease and the like.

A. Buck Short said...

As a rancher once put it to me, cattle are pretty much man’s way of turning grass into something he can eat. Otherwise it’s pretty much just lawns and golf.

We’re a family of four – two vegans, and two…well…guys. Must admit the vegans have gotten me sufficiently squeamish with accounts of all this factory farming. Only one thing pretty much keeping me from going over, tofu. My son, has an interesting counterargument. He says if taking a lower form of life is no different morally than taking any other life, vegetarians are the most bloodthirsty of all. “Far more insects are killed growing fruit and vegetable to feed us than cattle or chickens. We are now entering the organic phase of that discussion.

Anonymous said...

Go watch Food Inc. See how far we've come from the mythologized ideal world of meat and farming. See how we all feel about those damned fart machines then.

Joe said...

1- You just might want to reinterpret The Wealth of Nations in Pomerantz-ese. That'd sell a trillion copies.

2- I eat cows. While I'm not all that thrilled about factory farming, I'm also not that bothered by it. People have tried to flip my squeamish switch with appalling tales of Upton Sinclair-ish horrors and I simply glaze over, catatonic with disinterest.

These are the advantages of being shallow.