Your Herd Will Message
You When the Time Comes
Perhaps that’s what George Orwell feared the most. Not cellphones and their invasion of your privacy. Not the ubiquity of people doing all sorts of dangerous things while text messaging. No, our money would be on you, as a farmer, receiving a SMS straight from your cows’ vaginas.
That’s right, dear reader, we don’t mean to be crass, but that’s exactly the kind of device Swiss researchers have been working on. And, in case you’re wondering, yes, this is the latest on our thrilling series about bovines, who the last you’ve heard, can make you crazy too.
Today, besides your usual pasture-variety cow attack, we have them drinking beer; stalking and killing an old man who’d thrown water at them (a no-no, apparently), and a group of individuals being openly accused of killing senior citizens in the U.K.
Before we get going, though, credit must be given to our friend Maggie Koerth-Baker, an editor at Boing Boing, who wrote a week-long series on risk analysis, a couple of months ago, using cow cases as a tongue-in-cheek device.
Inspired by the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, ‘the popularity of which is largely driven by the public’s fascination with and fear of sharks,’ she picked cows because every year, as you’ve read here before, they do kill more people than sharks.
THE ANGRY MOM’S COMPLAINT
Emma Gregory was also out dog walking last year, but thank goodness, she had a better luck than her own pet, who died a few days later. She also has a mom who took upon herself to protest the lack of signs warning people about cranky cows lurking around.
Farmers know that they’re protective about their calves, a point driven by those who oppose the consumption of cow’s milk by humans; they also argue that the dairy industry is insensitive about the animals’ maternal bonds, and as soon as the new calf is born, routinely snatch it away from their mothers.
But the field where Emma was sashaying in Sonning, U.K., where many use to shorten their trips, has no warning signs indicating that cows can come out of nowhere and attack, as they did. The local community is reviewing the issue.
DEADLY FOR SENIORS?
The cases of Michael O’Dea, 74, from County Clare, Ireland, and Anita Hinchey, 61, from Cardiff, Wales, complete a grim picture about the relationship between cattle and senior citizens in the U.K. Was it all something they said, we wonder.
O’Shea’s been praised as a hero, since he gave his life trying to protect his son Eddie, who was being attacked, again, according to reports, for no apparent reason. We don’t mean to bad mouth the cows, but they can be truly brutal.
In the case of poor Ms. Hinchey, they literally crushed her to death. Her mangled body was found near a well-known path, used by dog walkers, who, by the way, have been criticized by locals for letting their pets roam free in the area.
And we thought bovines respect canines. Not so, if you were to follow the stories, specially in Wales. Even that we don’t really know what kind of dog Ms. H. had, there’s no indication that it hasn’t survived, and no foul play is suspected either, according to the police.
A VERY VENGEFUL BULL
In the district of Madhya Pradesh, India, a frail Bhoop Narayan Prajapati, 65, chastised a bull who was sitting in his front steps. Since the bull wouldn’t move, he had the (bad) idea of throwing water at him.
The story gets sinister here, because the bull returned on the next day, when Prajapati was drinking his tea. This time, there was no time for a chat; the bull chased the old man around the house, pinned him down, and gored him to death.
Or not quite. Prajapati, you see, was taken to the local hospital, but it was too late to save his life. Now, brace yourself: the bull followed him there, and later was seen at the crematorium during his funeral. Creepy.
Like those gangster stories, where the hit man joins the crowd, anonymously, to make sure the ‘target’ is really dead, so he can go back to collect the other half of his contract. Actually, there’s at least one Bollywood musical with a similar twist.
Pradesh sits near Bhopal, the site of the unrelated 1984 Union Carbide tragedy, when a gas leak killed almost 4,000 people, according to Indian officials. Many believe the real number of casualties to be a multiple of that, though. The giant multinational chemical concern has fought the survivors in international courts and, so far, evaded any accountability for the disaster. Their lawsuit is still pending.
BEER-LOVING COWS ARE NICER
Time to lighten up. Back in the U.S., what happened in Boxford, Mass. was about beer. A few friends were having a party when a group of cows erupted at the scene.
Before revelers and partygoers could say bud, the bovines were all over and even before tasting the stuff, they were already acting rude, knocking down tables, and kicking the party clear of guests. That’s when theirs started.
According to the people who watched it (from the sidelines), they proceed to dry the bar, some even catching ‘beer on its way down as it spilled off the table.’ They even raided the empty cans in the recycling bin.
For all we’ve read so far, though, these were the kind of unruly but ultimately harmless drunks, and left peacefully when their owner showed up. Only the place got messed up, and there was probably not much booze left to console the bummed humans.
At the same time, no one got trampled, or had to sacrifice a pet or two in order to survive the onslaught. Perhaps that could be a lesson for those other cows across the pond, who seem to have a mean (and murderous) streak about them.
While you insert your own jokes about it here, we move on to the last topic of this post, one that has little to do with cows going wild, or humans getting killed. Let’s visit the Alps, now; apparently, they do things differently there.
WHEN COWS TEXT MESSAGE
While the media claims not to know where Mitt Romney’s secret bank accounts could be, it’s almost certain that he has at least one is Swiss banks. As it turns out, there something else uncomfortable in the land of the Family Robinson.
For bulls and farmers, it’s important to know when a cow is in heat. As with everything else, very little in a modern farm is left to chance, and control over the procreation cycle is crucial.
But alas, as demand for milk increases, it puts stress on dairy cows, who then show ever fewer signs of heat. Now, researchers at a technical college in Bern stepped in and developed an electronic heat detector to monitor these now subtle signs.
Once implanted in the cows’ genitals, the device monitors temperature and other levels. When reaching an optimal level, it sends a message to the farmer, who can make a decision as to whether bring a bull along, or, which is more likely, the artificial inseminator. For the farmer, it’s very practical, helping him save some dough.
FIXING WHAT WE’VE BROKEN
But for the cows, these things can’t be comfortable, specially since they get very agitated when in heat (who wouldn’t?) Thus, short of being able to express exactly what they ‘think’ about the sensor stuffed inside, or where to send the farmer, they may resort to being very angry, as some believe. Go ahead, find it all silly, but consider yourself warned.
Not just animal activists are speaking out against the so-called heat detector, for being physically intrusive, and denoting the high pressure milk production now involves, due to increasing demand. Many farmers are also not happy, not so much because of their literal ‘cash cows,’ but for the costs: each device has a market value of $1,400 per unit.
Ultimately, such need to optimize every stage of production in modern dairy farms around the world maybe a consequence of their modified diet. Rich in added proteins, minerals and vitamins, it may disrupt their metabolism and inhibit their reproductive cycles, which are already almost completely taken over by schedules and seed selection technology.
No wonder that idyllic view of cows as peaceful, grazing gentle giants, out in the pasture getting fat and looking pretty, is taking a beating. There’s no place for nurturing other aspects of being an animal for these semi-mobile ‘milk factories.’ They’ve become busy individuals, whose sole existence is to support and meet our species’ food demands.
It’s ironic that such technology’s being pushed in Switzerland, which has fairly strict animal rights laws, and where even dog owners have to undergo a course on how to handle their pets. Perhaps the big contradiction of this issue resides precisely in the unresolved age-old question about animals: who’s friend, and what’s food.
Since the biggest part of the population won’t give up eating meat or animal products, either because they can and don’t want to, or because their choice is between that or starvation, it’s doubtful the progress will be made in any considerable way. It’ll be more likely that other gadgets will replace the current ones, and then, other devices will replace those too, in a continuous cycle.
It all boils down to another one of those zingers, terribly missing from presidential debates of lately (let’s not talk about Big Bird here, OK?): who’s the rational, generous, selfless species, and who’s the one doing the killing. The deceptively simple outer layer of this question disguises a few truthful assumptions about us that not many have the guts to even enunciate. Could you?
* No Bull
* (Not) Nice to Meat You
* Prairie Space
* Holy Bull
* Hey Cow
* Bovine Inspiration