Shakespeare, Massage and Slaughter

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It is clear that animal welfare, particularly of dairy cows, is becoming more and more of a concern amongst the general population.

If you do an internet search for DeLaval, you will find a company started by a man devoted to producing products to make animals’ lives more comfortable. The most recent invention by the Swede is a giant loofah-style roller, much like a car wash, which grooms cattle and increases blood circulation, raising milk production by 3.5 per cent. Cows enjoy the feeling and so far 30,000 machines have been sold.

It has also recently been claimed that performing Shakespeare plays in front of cows relaxes them and boosts their milk by up to 4 per cent.

Farmers have previously found that animals enjoy listening to classical music. In an admittedly “bizarre experiment”, a theatre group set out to see whether the same principal would apply to drama.

Actors from the local Changeling Theatre Company, which specialise in “very quirky, open-air Shakespeare productions”, were tasked with “entertaining” Friesian cows at the Pleasant Farm, near Maidstone, Kent.

Scenes from The Merry Wives of Windsor, a comedy about a man seducing two women, apparently led to an increase in milk yields of four per cent.

“We selected scenes from the play we felt to be lyrical and relaxing,”said Rob Forknall, the group’s artistic director.

It is, of course, no surprise that happier, more relaxed cows produce more milk. With cows, as with humans, physical health is inexorably linked to mental and emotional well-being. These experiments are all very encouraging, but perhaps people’s generosity towards farm animals needs to extend beyond art and towards a more enjoyable every day life…

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