By Paige Arden
Cattle. One of human’s first and most widespread acts of domestication. Historically used for facilitated labour, such as pulling the plows to cultivate farmland, their meat, or their hide, there have also been accounts of them being used in the place of horses to ride into war. The fact that they are so commonly domesticated means that it’s almost odd for us, especially in the western hemisphere, to imagine them ever evolving on their own. It is said that the calculated biomass of domestic cattle alone is greater than that of all wild mammals.
They helped us survive, they made it so that we could complete enough acts of agriculture to feed our people, and they were often times the only reason we were able to make it through the winter. Cattle not only played an irreplaceable role in the modernization of our world, but they gave us the means to create the societies that would one day turn into great cities. It is an indisputable fact that cows and bulls alike were an important exploitation of our past, but why are they still being exploited today?
It’s the 21st Century, yet cattle are continuously raised, forced to give their milk to a species that is not their own, then slaughtered once they become “useless”. There have been reports on dairy farms that explain how cows only lactate when they are pregnant or have just given birth. People in the dairy industry like to impregnate dairy cows repeatedly, starting with calves as young as 12 months old, so that they continue to make milk for years at a time.
These cows are grazing animals and should be living in herds in grasslands, where they could be happy just lounging about and living their lives. The terrible truth is that cows today often find themselves in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), which are commonly referred to as factory farms. There, they are subject to limited movement, socialization, and freedom. Access to the outdoors is often times limited, and sometimes even completely denied. These cows find themselves remorselessly tied in place to individual stalls, either waiting for their milk to be stolen from them, or waiting for a nail through the brain.
This nail through the brain is supposed to be the humane way of killing an animal. As if killing anything can be considered humane. Multiple studies have revealed that, contrary to popular belief, cows actually do feel fear just before their lives end in such a horrible way- an outside animal being kept indoors with all of its family having already died, staring straight at the nail gun as it awaits certain death.
How are these cruel acts still supported? Why are we not doing anything to stop them?
Studies have shown that adults have no need for milk- why do you think such a large percentage of our population is lactose intolerant? It isn’t natural to drink milk past the age of 5, and it certainly isn’t natural to steal it from another species.
That’s without even mentioning the beef industry. There are so many alternatives out there that the necessity of resorting to primitive instincts to kill and eat animals is a thing of a past. We are not our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We have no need to eat the dead flesh off of some poor animal’s body. Our ancestors needed it to survive in the wilderness. We eat it because we’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s normal and tastes good.
According to Animal Charter, which is an “Initiative of Animal Justice”, In 2014, more than three million cattle and calves were killed in Canadian slaughterhouses. In Canada, the law allows cattle to be transported for up to 52 hours without food, water or rest. By contrast, in the European Union, this limit is eight hours. How does this get passed as okay?
This is why certain regulations have to be enforced upon cattle farms, making sure that if these cows are going to be turned into a burger, they at least deserve a happy life before that happens.
This isn’t about standing up for the killing of cattle or the milking of cows. The problem isn’t that. The problem is that the commercial way of doing it is so inhumane that the cows are being turned into items, and in turn are suffering. The expectation of being grown to be a perfect piece of meat is all that keeps some of these cows alive. I don’t even want to know what happens to those who are unable to deliver.
We have to stand up and advocate for the rights of cattle. They’ve been our companions for the better part of ten millennia. The least we, as potentially empathetic humans, can do is provide them with a sense of dignity and the right to a pleasant life. Until we can convince other humans not to slaughter cows, bulls, and their calves for the interest of food products, the least we can do is advocate for more humane conditions. Rather than treat them as prisoners, we must be able to treat them, if not as friends, then at least as business partners. They will give us milk and meat in exchange for a few long, happy years of free food, water, and shelter. It’s a trade deal that requires trust, and does so in a way where milk isn’t so much farmed and taken as it is relentingly given up in trade for the security of the cows.
The fight will not be over until humans can be convinced to give up the ways upon which they were brought up. However, sometimes you have to win a few battles before the war can be over. Everything takes time, but if we can at the very least get people to realize that maybe not what they’re doing is wrong but how they’re doing it, then there may be hope. It may take another decade to give cattle the freedom they deserve. Until then, we must first fight for their basic rights of health, proper care, and dignity.
Jeremy Bentham said it best when he stated: “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?”