Our Blog / Cow Talk
Meet Horatio and Primrose two new additions to the Ahimsa herd. They are happy little calves and are looking forward to playing in the fields once spring arrives. Eventually Primrose will become a milking cow. Horatio will start training as a working ox when he gets to around three.
Here are some of our beautiful ladies peacefully grazing at our farm in Kent.
Universally Cows are seen as an emblem or symbol of peace. The word “bucolic” which refers to a pastoral scene, comes from the Greek word “boukolos”, which translates to cowherd.
Unlike most mammals, Cows do not fight over food, they are not generally agressive and even when being herded into slaughterhouses, to be killed for food, they simply look sad and don’t try to fight back.
They are often sociable, and form lasting friendships, prefering to spend more time with some Cows than others. They are known to be very affectionate to their caretakers, and those who take care of Cows seem to take on this quality too.
An afternoon spent watching the graceful, unhurrying grazing of a herd of Cows almost leaves us sleepy with peace and contentment. Feeding them some lettuce, apples and other tidbits can be addictive, as is their gracious company.
Our herd, live peaceful and safe lives. The threat of being sent to slaughter does not hang over them and they are not just a number. I sponsor a Cow named Tilly. Being part of a slaughter-free herd means that Tilly will live out her life naturally. She will not be pregnant most of her life, with babies torn from her shortly after birth. Her calves will join the dairy herd if female and be trained as oxen if male. Don’t tell me her milk does not get it’s sweetness from her life of contentment.
And then there’s the cultivation of friends. Tilly has one or two best girlfriends to chew the cud with. Her life is ordered, with purpose and the pace is slow.
Sometimes I envy her.
"Please stop killing us for meat, before it's too late."
In a recent National Geographic article, Charles Mann announced: ”Soil degradation is putting the future of the global population at risk.”
Civil unrest in Latin America, Asia and Africa have now been attributed to a lack of food and/or affordable food, as a result of poor soil.
In other countries such as Australia, and the nations of Africa on the southern edge of the Sahara, cattle grazing and feed-crop production on marginal lands; contribute substancially to desertification. Basically we’re adding chemicals to soil to mass produce feed for meat animals, and systematically killing the soil for future generations.
“Overgrazing and the intensive production of feed grain for cattle, and other meat animals results in high levels of soil erosion” according to Alan B. Durning of the World Watch Institute 1986.
So I’ve just said it, Alan Durning was saying it in 1986 and many other people have warned us since. Why does it feel that no one is listening? Perhaps we’re not speaking loud enough. Perhaps we’re being drowned out by the noise of the latest “must have” electronic gizmo or advertisements for “stuff” and recipes that more often than not, include meat to stuff ourselves with.
Right now the ads are everywhere for Turkey orders for the upcoming xmas holidays. These poor birds, days numbered are painfully hobbling about packed, often filthy holding cells. They limp on broken legs, because they’ve been bred to be plump and “juicy” and their spindly legs simply cannot support the weight needed for the dinner table. The grain they’re fed cripples not only these sad birds, but the future of our planet.
By 2030, the Earth’s population will reach 8.3 billion. But in what will we be growing food?
Over the past few centuries, mainly due to meat production, the USA has lost about 2/3 of it’s topsoil. And they consider themselves a super power? What of the rest of the world?
I wonder how many people would enjoy tucking into their Sunday roast beef quite as much, if a tag came with it announcing:
“One pound of beef from cattle raised on feedlots, represents the loss of 35lbs worth of topsoil. But hey, it’s traditional right, don’t worry about it. Enjoy!”
”Viral Storm: the dawn of a new Pandemic Age.” written by Nathan Wolfe is a true wakeup call.
Little do many of us realise that our modern way of living with it’s emphasis on factory farming, constant long-distance travel and over-used antibiotics, is creating a powder keg of destruction for our future.
The new movie “Contagion” starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslett is actually loosely based on the research in Nathan’s book. Modern life has certainly made us more, not less vulnerable to a global pandemic.
Wolfe recounts the story of the first “bird flu” in 2003. A young boy brings home a sick chicken and dies 11 days later, drowning in his own fluids, beginning a global pandemic of epic proportions. Transmission of animal to human microbes, is the source of most global pandemics.
Although in his role as “Director of Global Forecasting” Wolfe goes all over the world hunting possible contagions; however despite that he says factory farms are actually a closer, more dangerous threat.
Since 2000 global meat production has risen by 20%. Using massive doses of antibiotics diseases to livestock have lessened, but new, more deadly viruses have emerged such as bird-flu, foot and mouth, and mad cow disease. Worldwatch state that, “cramped filthy conditions, in factory farms contribute to antibiotic resistance, making it more difficult to treat human as well as animal diseases.” Terrifyingly 80% of all antibiotics used, in 2009 were administered to animals, leaving just 20% to humans.
Industrial killing farms for meat animals contain over one billion cattle, one billion pigs and shockingly 20 billion chickens at any one time. Is it really a surprise that these factory farms have been described, by experts in their fields as “incubators” for infectious agents that can easily move to human populations, causing a deadly pandemic at any given time.
Perhaps a pandemic of global proportions has to be the only way humans come to their senses and stop slaughtering sentient beings for food? If that is the case, then we as a sentient species are certainly not as intelligent and superior as we believe.
I know many ethical people who agree in principle that slaughtering animals is wrong. Killing them for food also “seems” morally wrong they’ll nod, as they wander into a fast food restaurant and begin chewing on chicken bones or eating ground cows in the form of a greasy burger?
Could it be that they don’t equate the cooked “meat” they’re happily munching; with the terrified, screaming being, fighting hopelessly for it’s life that the “meat” was, days previously?
Vedic literature, 5000 years old states, “One should treat animals such as deer, camels, asses, monkeys, mice, snakes, birds and flies exactly like one’s own son. How little difference there actually is between children and these innocent animals.” Srimad Bhagavatam 7: 14-9
The Christian Bible also states “Thou shalt not kill.” Interestingly, it was not translated “Thou shalt not murder thy fellow man.” “Killing” seems to be talking about “all.”
A committed veggie I know happily states that meat eaters “should” be allowed to eat meat. He then adds, as long as they slaughter it themselves of course. There are very few (actually hardly any) meat-eating friends I know, who would be capable of this. That’s his point I suppose, but perhaps we can convert simply by the aroma, taste and uniqueness of meat-free food, rather than by trying to shock?
Many years ago another vegetarian friend prided himself on arriving to dinner, then announcing he was “Vegetarian” before the gathering (no doubt from a lofty height.) As there was no food he felt he could eat, he would proceed to munch a raw broccoli or cauliflower from the host’s frig. Meanwhile the company sat with him, self-conciously tucking into the prepared meal, with guilt-ridden apetites. I often wondered why he didn’t quietly tell the host beforehand, that he was veggie, and then offer to bring some food along to share, perhaps as an appetizer? This works very well, and people often ask you for the recipe!
Two cows in our herd are due to give birth in the next few weeks. We eagerly await the arrival of our newest members. If they’re female they’ll eventually join their mothers as dairy cows and the boys will eventually take their places as trained oxen. A quite different outcome than that of most calves. They’re usually sent to slaughter-houses soon after birth. The mother is beside herself with grief and we can only imagine what the baby goes through.
I believe education and not shock or belittlement is the key to moving towards a sustainable, vegetarian planet. When we begin to treat each other, human or other species with respect and appreciation for our uniqueness, we will be on our way. In the words of Steve Best:
“I define terrorism as any intentional act to injure or kill a living, sentient, innocent being for scientific, political or economic purposes.”
I presume “food” is one of the economical purposes he speaks of?
Ahimsa Cows graze on natural pasture.
It’s not as if we planned to get this lost.
In Britain, during WW2 the nation collectively, dug up this green and pleasant land and planted crops to feed us. We needed to feed ourselves and become less reliant on global imports; and we Succeeded. Of course much of the applause should go to the beautifully fertitle, rich soil that lay beneath the grass and pasture.
Generations of animals like sheep and cows had fed on this pasture and in the process had naturally fertilised it over time.
Fast forward to the 1960′s and 1970′s and we had a so-called “green revolution.” Clever plant breeders had developed high-yield wheat and rice strains with short stems and cute names like “Hobbit.” These new varieties promised to end world hunger. Or at least for the countries who could afford to pay.
All over the planet, this green revolution kept grain plentiful and cheap. So cheap it began to be fed to animals. Of course it was dependent on the constant spraying of chemical nitrates into the soil.
This trend has led to the bio-technology companies promising us a new green revolution. It’s GM or Genetically Modified crops that will provide a solution to global food shortages. This terrifying path we’re on, has already lead to starvation in many Third World Countries such as India. Farmers were provided with these “wonder” high-yield seeds, which were reliant on chemical sprays and lots of water. Their original seeds could handle drought conditions reasonably well, the “new and improved” version simply dropped dead! Result, disaster on a Nestle scale!
This wonderful company sent reps into Third World Countries in the 1980′s, dressed in white coats, to promote the use of their wonderful baby formula over breast-milk. Of course by the time the teams flew off with their profits and the mothers realised that without clean water the formula was poison, their milk had dried up and babies were dying. (See www.babymilkaction.org)
Our new mass produced industrial style farming is moving us towards catastrophe on a global scale.
This farming method robs our everyday food of the health-protecting nutrients we need. It’s also insidiously damaging our farmland, to such an extent that we’ll be incapable of feeding future generations. And of course it adds to our climate change worries. In the UK our green and pleasant land is now responsible for 18% of our CO2 emissions!
There is an answer. We need to go back to go forward. It will make our food healthier for everyone and our land more fertile and rich. It will also help our dwindling wildlife.
Without pesticides and chemical fertilizers this system won’t feed the giant bio-tech companies. Most of the profits would actually stay in the countryside. We might even be able to ease up on importing the cheap, nutritionally inferior grains that are starving our farming communities out of existence.
We need to use our sheep and cattle to fertilize our fields and pastures. Stop locking them into barns and feeding them with cheap, chemically laden grains and tons of antbiotics; because infections are rife when animals are penned together. We need to grow more grasses and help our earth to recover. Grass is something we’ve always grown well in this country, and pasture could very well save us.
The alternative is to keep getting further and further away from a natural lifestyle, and natural healthy local food. To be dependent on a global market, as far from sustainability and self-sufficency as it’s possible to be.
Factory farming, producing cheap nasty food and too much of it; is making us a nation of over-weight, greedy and unhealthy people. Time to travel back to the fork in the road and head down the more natural and self-sustaining route. The price of our present road is just way too high.