Continuing with my farm animal musings, this post will be all about Cows!
After the miserable failure of #Februdairy in which the dairy industry tried to ignite a renaissance on social media, I decided to feature the animals that convinced me to become vegan. I also want to commend all the brave vegans out there that usurped #Februdairy and turned it into the miserable failure that the dairy marketing team feared it would become. I contributed in my very small way, by posting some facts that I will be sharing today.
Let me start by going into my reasons for going vegan based on cows. Back in 2016 (while I was still a vegetarian) I started to research egg companies that were ethical and treated their hens very well. I was happy at the time to (ignorantly) find that I could eat eggs without feeling guilty about the chickens if I bought them from certain farms. Before you jump down my throat, I know now that no matter how well the hens are treated on an egg farm, the male chickens are killed, because they are useless to the industry. Therefore, there are no morally justifiable ways to eat eggs. However, these are things that vegetarians don’t realize. Vegetarians either don’t see the full picture (mostly thanks to Animal Agriculture’s very high and thick walls) or they let themselves be fooled by pictures of happy animals.
This was my blindness with the dairy industry. I figured, “Well, they don’t kill the cows, they just milk them.” I also believed that cows just produced milk, because that’s what cows did. I never thought about the male cows either. Like many people, I was against veal my whole life, but had no idea that by buying a pound of cheese, I was also giving money to veal farmers. I didn’t know that the American government was spending my tax dollars on billion-dollar bail-outs for the failing dairy industries. I also didn’t know about the puss that was used to congeal the cheese either, but I honestly don’t think that would have stopped me from eating it. I had no attachment to milk or yogurt, but I was addicted to cheese.
Then came that faithful day I mentioned in my very first blog post, when my co-worker asked me if I ever looked up how dairy is made… I learned some awful truths that day and even after learning that the dairy industry supplies the veal industry and that after the cows are “spent” (which is only after 3-5 years) those cows I thought were only milked their whole life were slaughtered for cheap beef; it took me a few months to finally give up dairy completely. I grew up in an Italian family, so you know that cheese had deep hooks in me. Even today, I can’t help but salivate when I smell fresh mozzarella. But now I know that my taste buds are less important than my love and compassion.
I promise I will get to cows soon; but one final thing I want to say is that most vegans have an image burned into their minds that helps keep them vegan. For some it is slaughterhouse footage, pictures of a transport truck, a statistic about the dangers of animal products…for me it is the image of a baby cow only seconds old (literally still covered in its mom’s placenta) being dragged away from momma by a farmer. All the while the mother is chasing the calf desperately trying to lick its skin and clean the placenta off of the baby. As a father who lost his only child before it was ever born, this ripped my heart out. That mother cow loved that calf, and could not understand why this farmer was dragging it away from her. Every parent deserves to be with their children no matter what species they are. A glass of milk, a piece of cheese, a cup of yogurt is just another broken family.
Now, why should you care about cows?
Cows are forgiving and very sweet.
I have had the honor of meeting cows that have had very difficult lives of abuse that they escaped from. My wife and I sponsor a cow named Orlando at Farm Sanctuary, who was locked up in a shed with 10 other male baby cows whom had contracted pneumonia. Instead of getting the cows medical care, the owner of the property began shooting the cows in the back of the head. Thankfully, authorities arrived before he could finish killing all of the 11 cows. Orlando and four of his friends were rescued by Farm Sanctuary and given the care they needed.
I have met Orlando twice now, and despite his traumatizing past with humans, he could not be friendlier when strangers come to meet him. The best experience I ever had at the Watkins Glen Sanctuary was getting lots of kisses from Orlando while my wife and I got to meet the main cow herd.
One other example is a cow at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary named Kayli, who escaped from a slaughterhouse (see her story here). Kayli lived on a factory farm for a long time and suffered all the abuse and neglect that life comes with. It took Kayli some time to warm up to humans after she was rescued, but now she happily walks up to her fence and takes alfalfa treats from visitors and sticks around to let you pet and admire her. Kayli also enjoys laying around in the sun all day with her best friends Dylan (more on him below) and Maybelle.
Cows are cognizant and form tight bonds
Cows do not rank as high on the intelligence spectrum as pigs, but that does not mean they are dumb. Cows recognize their own names and they form tight bonds with fellow cows and people. Cows will usually form a strong connection with members of their herd. Cows have best friends that they will play with, share their food, and lounge side-by-side. Mother cows on a Sanctuary may even “adopt” another young cow, and if possible share her milk with the orphaned cow. Cows will mourn their friends after they pass away and will comfort one another when a member of the herd is gone forever.
Cows are resilient
Dairy cows may suffer one of the worst fates in all of animal agriculture, and yet they still fight through the emotional and physical pain for years before they are unmercifully released from this world. I have formed a particularly strong bond with one cow at Woodstock who epitomizes the word Survivor.
Dylan was diagnosed with cancer in his right eye late in 2017 and needed surgery to have it removed. Dylan’s surgery was a success and thankfully the cancer did not spread from the right eye. Like many people, cancer has made a significant impact on my life. Both my mother and my mother-in-law are cancer survivors just like Dylan. It takes a strong will to battle cancer. Survivors go through some of the worst months/years of their lives just for a chance at survival. They are some of the strongest willed humans in the world and I am proud to be the son of a survivor.
In Dylan’s case, he didn’t know why his eye needed to be removed, and he certainly didn’t understand why he needed to be separated from his herd while his eye socket healed. Regardless of not knowing why, Dylan fought and maintained that lust for life that all animals share. Despite the pain of the surgery, the loneliness of not getting to lay side-by side with his herd, and the disorientation of losing an eye, Dylan fought-on. Dylan not only represents survivors of cancer, but he represents the will to live that all farm animals share. Even those unlucky billions each year who meet their end with a knife cutting their throat, they all share the same lust for life that Dylan the cancer survivor shares.
Dylan is my brother from a different mother and each time we see each other, our relationship grows a little more.
COWS ARE AWESOME!