Thursday, September 02, 2010

Mammals: Cows (Cattle)

by Dick Mac

Cows (more generally known as cattle) are the most well-known ungulates, they are bovines. They are domesticated and raised as livestock (meat), dairy cows, and draft animals. Their skins are used for leather goods and their shit is used as fertilizer.

In India they are sacred, and in the rest of the world they are a multi-billion dollar industry,

Some people think they are cute, I find them scary-looking.

There are many, many different types of cattle, and Wikipedia has an excellent List of cattle breeds. Yes, some are cuter than others, and some are scarier than others.

My relationship to cattle is pretty much the same as all other non-Indian humans. I think of them as a product. It's rare to see them in a zoo (but not impossible). They are not mysterious or cuddly, they are thought of, sadly, as a product.

I am lactose-intolerant. I suffer when I enjoy cheese or ice cream. I haven't had a glass of milk since 1973, because it just makes me sick. Not sick in the figurative ("that makes me sick") sense, but physically sick with stomach cramps, a runny nose, etc. I accept the lesser discomfort I experience from cheese, because I just love cheese - especially stinky cheese.

I am an omnivore, and I am neither allergic nor physically intolerant to the meat of cattle the way I am to their milk. I love a steak, I love a burger, I love a good beef stew. Not intending to totally gross-out my vegan and vegetarian friends, I admit that I quite like liver, sweetbreads, and other forms of offal.

I am vegan during my Lenten fast. That is, for all of Lent I eat no animal products. None. No butter or cheese, certainly no meat or fish. It's a challenge, but it's a challenge I embrace and rather enjoy. In fact, for some weeks after Easter, I find myself continuing to avoid animal products. Eventually, though, I am back in the throes of animal-consumption and forget all about the healthy alternative of a vegan lifestyle.

As a meat-eater, and like most meat-eaters, I am loathe to consider the process used to deliver that yummy burger to my plate.

Like all products, however, cattle are processed. We often see movies of dairy farms: shiny, clean barns with rows and rows of cows attached to tubes that extract their milk. These are basically corporate propaganda films; they do not show the bruising and abuse of the cows' teats, or the remarkable amount of antibiotics pumped into the animals. What is shown is a rather sterile, almost lovely, image of modern efficiency.

It's rare that we see movies of slaughterhouses. Just the thought is unpleasant, and even the most gullible person can't be convinced to see the process as modern, clean, efficient, and downright attractive.

So, I have decided to provide you with the opportunity to see how that burger gets to my plate.


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