Friday, 10 April 2015

The Tears of a Cow

Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures. ~Thomas de Quincey

The term cattle, a word borrowed from the Anglo-Norman French word catel, itself borrowed from medieval Latin capitale (principal sum of money, or capital) is a variant of chattel (unit of personal property) and closely related to capital (in the economic sense) which originally referred to movable personal property, specifically livestock of any kind.

Domesticated since at least the early Neolithic period, cattle occupy a unique role in human history. In many cultures, they are raised for meat, dairy products, hides, and also used as draft animals. Some consider cattle the oldest form of wealth, with cattle raiding consequently being one of the earliest forms of theft.

In Hinduism, the cow is thought to be sacred or very holy, whereby most Hindus don't eat beef. The cow represents strength, and is respected by Hindus for her gentle nature which embodies the main teaching of Hinduism. Having great respect for the cow, and like other animals, Hindus believe that all life has a soul in which God resides, thus killing it would be a crime.

The cow was possibly revered because Hindus relied heavily on it for dairy products and for tilling the fields, and on cow dung for fuel and fertilizer. Thus, the cow’s status as a caretaker led to identifying it as an almost maternal figure. In earlier days, cattle being limited to select few fortunate folks, enjoyed the status that gold or money enjoys today.

How does it come to be that one culture considers a certain species of animal to be a mere commodity, whereas another culture will revere the same species as sacred?

Is it arrogance or is it conditioning that leads us to make the choices we make? Speciesism is a term that was coined by Richard D. Ryder, a British psychologist, in 1970, and refers to the idea that being human is a good enough reason for human animals to have greater moral rights than non-human animals … that all other species of animals are inferior and may therefore be used for human benefit without regard to the suffering inflicted.

Most of us who have ever had dogs as pets, include them as part of the family … man's best friend. Therefore, we are appalled and disgusted by the practice of dog meat consumption in Yulin or Jinhua, or wherever.

According to Jinhua's website, folklore states that the tradition of dog meat consumption originated when, in the 14th century, Hu Dahai, a rebel battling the Yuan Dynasty, ordered all dogs in Jinhua to be slaughtered because their barking had warned rebels of his army’s approach. His soldiers were then treated to dog meat, and it has since been a custom at temple fairs.

Whether there is any truth to this story or not is really of no importance. The importance lies in asking ourselves the following questions. Have I actually taken the time to question all outdated concepts and superficial values? Am I still just blindly following along with ideas based on the whim of another person many centuries before me? Am I truly the person I thought I was?

I considered myself to be a true animal lover. After all, I had many pets in my life: dogs, cats, birds, fish, etc. I visited petting zoos with the kids. I admired the picturesque beauty of horses and cows out to pasture as I drove by. But was I truly an animal lover, or did I pick and choose which animals deserved my moral consideration? There was a time I could walk into a grocery store and purchase meat without giving any consideration to the fact that it once was a beautiful living soul. I came to realize that I was a speciesist!

Waking up doesn't always happen in one full swoop, but in a series of smaller awakenings. This realization was big … and I had been hitting the snooze button far too long. When one is witness to the tears of a cow before she goes to slaughter, or cry out in anguish when her calf is taken away from her, it changes a person. It tore at my heart and opened my eyes with a jolt. How could I have missed this? How could I have been so blind?

If I was to consider myself an animal lover, immediate changes were to be made … and so they were. It wasn't a gradual removal of things off the grocery list either, but all meat and animal by-products were no longer an option. How could they be?

Cows form bonding relationships with other cows, just as we do with people. They have favorite or best friends and have a strong maternal bond with their young. And like us, if a cow is separated from their friends or their young, they become stressed. When allowed, a mother cow will remain close with her young for life.

In all factory farms, cows are artificially impregnated for milk production. After giving birth, they are almost immediately separated from their babies. Female calves will follow the fate of their mothers, while the males will suffer a worse fate with the meat industry.

After a calf is taken from his mother, she cries out for him with longing and heartbreaking distress.

Cows spend most of their lives bearing calves and giving milk. When their milk capacity ceases they are no longer of use, therefore disposed of in lieu of the high cost of keeping them.

Cows have the ability to express many emotions, and joy is one such emotion. Usually, cows are happy when they are let out to pasture in the spring, but these cows are happier than the average dairy cow because they no longer have the stress of giving milk in their lives, until their body is leached out, or from losing their babies. Here you can feel their joy, after these cows were rescued!

“When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.” ~A.D. Williams



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