I am aware of the fact that an article has already been written about the cow farm, a beautiful one, in fact (courtesy of José Morales, Ecuador). But, as English A will teach you all too soon, probably everything that comes out of your mouth is biased and you can Not. Trust. Anything.
Well, obviously I’m over-dramatizing. You can trust many narratives based on how reliable their author’s are, what their theme is. My intent in creating this article is to provide you with another perspective to the narrative, or at least, an alternative solution.
To begin with, cows have to be milked otherwise they will burst. They have to be milked because they have recently produced offspring. They have been impregnated so that they could lactate, so that we can milk them. Hence, the perpetual cycle.
In order for humans to recognize and chart their activity, they have to get branded. This is done with a method called freeze-branding, which the internet tells me involves “almost no pain at all.” (No other quantitative evidence has been provided). In order to make the process of providing both meat and milk to the market as effectively as possible, their offspring are taken away from them almost immediately after birth (I don’t have sufficient evidence as to the exact time period. Don’t take me up on this) to a separate pen, where, if it is male, it is bred for slaughter, and if it is female, it will be bred for pregnancy.
The population has to be controlled, so once a cow grows “too old”, she is sent away for slaughter too, and I will only meet her on my plate, cooked to a crispy perfection.
They tie sensors around their legs, which look like rocks, because after walking around in very deep mud, they collect a lot of dirt, which then becomes solidified. The tie often cuts their skin, but the cow person, assures me that they would never leave them untreated, as he cleans and applies alcohol to the wound. He’s an honest man, but I don’t know what the industry cares for. The cows, or what it squeezes out of them. They medicate them when they’re sick. They milk them even as they excrete, and let me tell you excretion is the least of the filth the cows live in.
I don’t know if they mind, but privileged me would mind. I don’t know why, but it is a very human habit to consider our habits and our squeamishness applicable to other species. Maybe, it is the right thing to do. It is a moral conundrum I’m not well equipped to deal with, because I would laugh too hard the day the fashion industry decides to produce cow clothes.
I hate having to usher the cows in by yelling at them, but they don’t understand me, so that is a stupid argument in its very genesis. I hate having to yell at them, because if I am yelling at a person, it means I must be either thoroughly upset, or thoroughly excited (as is often my case, as y’all probably know). When I yell at the cows, it’s only because I am trying to make them do something for me to enjoy my breakfast.
I hate having to clip/hit (choose your favorite word, based on how comfortable you are with cold facts) them in the rear as I am shouting at them to do my bidding, feeling very much like the white capitalist in the colonized land. But then again, I do overdramatize too often. I have to clip/hit them, because sometimes shouting is not an effective enough language, so I have to resort to “alternatives”. We have a very crude and incredibly inaccurate expression in my language, morbidly used to make fun of domestic abuse; “He who beats you, loves you”. I care for the cows, I really do. They’re extremely lovable creatures, from the very first time you get to work with them. Despite the fact that they sometimes will smack you in the head with their tail (hilarious, trust me), despite the incessant, pungent pooping, despite the fairly traumatizing range of nipple shapes that puts your body issues to a shameful perspective; they are adorable.
I would never hit them, but I did today. I found myself shouting at first, holding my stick awkwardly at my side, reluctantly starting to clap, but they would not budge. It’s like they knew what I didn’t want to do, and they instantaneously created a moral test for me to undoubtedly, fail.
“They don’t listen to you” -the obnoxiously nice cow person dude I was trying to somehow demonize in my mind said, peering at me as I sprayed iodine on their nipples. My first thought was: “ I wouldn’t listen to me if I were yelling to try and get myself to enter a room. My immediate response to the yelling would be, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’”
I said none of those things. Instead, I shrugged. And maybe, this is the cowardly thing to do. To shrug, and then write about it. Maybe my way of atoning is incredibly inefficient. But I sure as hell will try my hardest.
I’ve worked at the cow farm more than thrice now. It is not, in any way, comfortable. It is hard, it requires enormous amounts of energy, dedication, and attention. That is why I inherently sympathize with the very nice cow person. He is alone most of the day, trying to manage the two groups made of respectively 28 and 49 cows. It takes a lot of effort to make that happen, let me tell you. He has probably touched their poop and other liquids countless times, which make him an admirable human in my eyes. We often consider the act of cleaning toilets a somehow demeaning task, scraping somebody else’s shit off the porcelain bowl. This cow person (who shall remain nameless because I like him, and also for ethical reasons) cleans excrement off of a milking facility, because in cow world, everything constitutes a toilet.
He does it with dignity, and I can tell, he loves his cows, but I don’t think he fully understands the cruel nature of the processes we inflict upon them. He has been practicing this for too long, has probably become desensitized to the phenomena that is pushing me to write a damn article. I think he doesn’t understand cow piss smells a lot like human piss.
He scrapes the poop, and he looks like Hercules to me, because he doesn’t care that the smell will stick to his skin like glue, overpowering the smell of the fabric softener and impregnate his clothes. To the white capitalist (that I desperately don’t want to be) this seems like a heroic task; to be willing to wake up every morning, for this?
And yet, and yet, the white capitalist fails to realize they despise the profession that puts protein in their stomachs. The stupid, reluctant, white capitalist constantly forgets about the animals without which they would have nothing.
I do not want to forget. I absolutely don’t.
I want to drink my milk in the morning without thinking about the veins bulging beneath the skin of their breasts. I want to enjoy my steak, knowing it came from the natural circle of life, not artificial population control. I want to stop feeling guilty about being the omnivore that most humans are.
I know, I know more acutely than I maybe would like to, that those beautiful, gorgeous cows are being mistreated. Severely. I know that there is nothing the cow dude can do, he is just a gear in a system that is controlled by magnates, and magnates make money, not ethical bibles. I know that it is the way the world runs. I know I am conforming in many ways.
Maybe my way of rebelling sucks. I apologize, readers, but this is the most effective way I can think of to rebel. I like my lifestyle, but I would not be an honest person, if I didn’t admit I don’t like how it is procured for me. I would not be honest if I didn’t admit that very often it has been so comfortable that I preferred being blind. I do, however, believe there is a better way to satisfy my cravings for prosciutto. There is no reason, in my opinion, why there shouldn’t be a revolution in the way we breed and treat those who continuously feed and clothe us. There is no reason, why those cows should cry after their newborn. There is no reason why the extremely nice cow person dude can’t be the pioneer of a new age of cow breeding.
There is no reason why I can’t, in the future, be a proud carnivore.
Written by Martina Hysi
Edited by Hannah Cook