Photo: A young bovine in a pasture, Murphys, CA.
I feel I must preface this post with the following so as to not to be misunderstood: I am an animal lover and I believe the abuse or uncalled for extermination of any animal should be rectified with a long prison sentence. To appease my NRA readers, I grew up in a family of hunters, so I have no qualms about our Constitutional right to bear arms nor of hunting for the sole purpose of putting meat on the table. But I do take serious issue with trophy hunting; it is frivolous and wasteful. I do not belong to any radical animal rights activist groups so you will never catch me releasing primates from medical laboratories or crashing my inflatable raft into a Japanese whaling ship. However, I do admit I have donated to Greenpeace (I adore whales) as well as the Humane Society. I am not a vegetarian nor vegan. My primary protein source consists of turkey and chicken, but I have been known to consume the occasional piece of red meat. I eat cheese and have sipped my share of homogenized dairy milk. I also believe animals have feelings and are far more intelligent than we give them credit for.
Yesterday, the following Sacramento Bee headline caught my attention immediately: “Police Gun Down Rampaging Pregnant Cow at California State Fair”. It seems this unfortunate bovine made a break for it while being transported to the birthing area of the Livestock Nursery Program where thousands of gawking fair goers were expected to watch her give birth to her calf. She escaped twice and was described as being “angry and agitated.” They failed to stop her due to a misfiring tranquilizer gun, so they did the next best thing. No, they didn’t try to lasso her like any good cowboy would do, they shot her dead. I do understand the uproar surrounding this most unfortunate bovine event at the State Fair, however, has anyone stopped to consider the possibility that this cow was suicidal?
I don’t know about you, but when I was pregnant, my hormones raged. By my ninth month I not only looked but felt like a bloated cow. My udders were engorged and my belly was distended beyond recognition. My little calf decided to take his sweet time and slept his way 14 days beyond his due date. I was fit to be tied. I was sleep deprived, uncomfortable and desperate to have my body back. I was willing to try anything to speed up the birthing process. I even went as far as to walk counter-clockwise in circles in the sand at a park under a full moon. Later that same night, with sand between my toes, I finally went into labor.
The word “labor” does not adequately describe the reality of the event itself. I believe this is one reason why men think it is no big deal to have a baby since they equate “labor” with fun things like building a fence, tinkering with their car engine or putting a sprinkler system in the front lawn. The word used to describe what a woman has to go through in order to give birth to a baby would be more appropriately equated with “falling off your bicycle seat and hitting your gonads on the crossbar repeatedly for 12 plus solid hours.” Get it now? I hope so. Go put an ice pack on it and stop your whining…
Now back to the scary bovine story. I remember being in the middle of the transition phase of my 22-hour labor. For those of you who haven’t been through this yet nor ever intend to, let me tell you about it. It certainly isn’t pretty. Contractions are happening with a renewed intensity at warp speed, one on top of the other. Ladies, envision the worse menstrual cramps you have ever had times 30. And for you men, if you have ever been startled awake in the middle of the night with a cramp in your calf, add to that your other calf plus the simultaneous curling of both feet, the twisting and pinching of your private parts and a your favorite wheelbarrow filled with bricks being rolled repeatedly across your torso from front to back. Vomiting is involuntary, the body shakes as if seizing, fatigue is overwhelming and you feel certain death is at your doorstep.
This is the point when my very sweet, well-meaning sister-in-law decided to knock on the labor room door for a quick visit. Have you seen the movie The Exorcist? My labor had transformed me into Linda Blair personified. It felt as if my head had spun around a thousand times and the voice that escaped my lips was unworldly. At the exact moment my son’s father inquired if I would mind a visitor, a deep, hoarse, frothing, vicious snarl escaped my parched lips that was equivalent to any Oscar-winning demon . All I wanted right then was to be shot and put out of my misery. The last thing I desired was a stable full of gawking well wishers watching me attempt to give birth to my first-born son.
The now deceased cow and I have a lot in common. You see, a cow does not receive the option of pain relievers or spinal blocks to assist in the birthing process. At the time of my own pregnancy the fad of the day was to deliver naturally without the assistance of body numbing drugs. I was a tough old bovine, or so I thought. I opted to go through this whole ordeal void of medication. So I was not on some happy-go-lucky drug high and my hormones were definitely raging. It was raw, it was honest, it was painful. I imagine it is the same for a cow but on much grander scale. Add to that the fact dairy cows are now pumped full with artificial hormones in order to increase milk productivity. Oh, and they are also impregnated readily through artificial insemination to ensure continued milk production. These cows don’t even have the pleasure of a sexual rendezvous and end up bearing the load of a calf slated for the auction barn for the same gestation period as a pregnant woman. Their udders are so overloaded by growth hormones and unnatural milking schedules they become infected and drag on the ground. Talk about hormone rage. If I were a pregnant cow I would be a tad bit angry and agitated myself!
So I can put myself in this unfortunate bovine’s hooves with ease. It is not a stretch for me to believe all this cow wanted was to be left alone to experience the miracle of birth in a quiet, peaceful stable on a soft bed of hay. She looked forward to meeting and bonding with her newest little progeny in some bucolic pasture as the roosters crowed and the corn stalks swayed. But alas, she was forced into a small metal trailer and was driven miles in the heat while the horse flies gnawed on her face. Unloaded in a strange place with unfamiliar smells and sounds, she was lead towards a small stall with the expectation to give birth while children stared wide-eyed with dripping waffle cones and their parents “oohed” and “aahed” between bites of giant corn dogs and sips from their 16oz. Buds.
What were her options? Few as far as I can determine. This daring bovine had reached her limit. She made a snap decision that was actually in the best interest of herself and her calf to be. Instead of facing the embarrassing inevitability of birthing in public and to save her calf from some veal house auction, she turned and charged an armed police officer. And with all barrels blazing, the trained officer did what he was trained to do best. He ended the life of this pregnant cow and her little calf in order to protect himself and the rest of the fair goers from her killer rage.
Rest in peace my little cow friends. May your Heaven be filled with as much grass as your multiple stomachs can regurgitate and may you always be remembered as so much more than just another unfeeling, corn-fed milk machine.