It was 12,000 years ago when cattle were domesticated for the first time, dating back at least to the early Neolithic age.
Throughout history and into 2020 humans have continued to treat cattle as products, particularly after WW2 when industrialised farming began. Whether it’s for food in the form of beef and dairy, clothing in the form of leather or even utilising their dung as fuel, it’s clear that humans maximise the usage of cattle to the point of them existing only as a commodity.
This shouldn’t be the case. A cow is an animal, one of complete sentience with emotions and unique behaviours.
They are much more than livestock.
The reason for this piece stems from my own personal experience of how my perception of cows changed. The turning point for me transitioning from vegetarian to vegan was visiting a sanctuary for farmed animals and watching a herd of cattle, specifically French Limousins. I saw them grazing the grass in the wide-open space, calves interacting closely with their mothers and their intrigue when they noticed me watching them from the fence.
It was truly almost an epiphany moment. It clicked for me. I finally realised that the way society firmly ingrains our perception of cows as a commodity was wrong. Seeing them walking and interacting freely as a family made me realise their worth.
They deserve their freedom and happiness like every other animal.
And for me to truly believe that notion, I had to ditch dairy too.
Holsten Friesians have the highest milk production of all cow breeds and have become dominate in the dairy industry because of this.
Yet the dairy industry is riddled with systematic cruelty as most Friesians suffer lifelong abuse:
- Mother cows are artificially inseminated and once her baby is born the calf is taken away from her within 36 hours.
- Naturally they would stay together between eight and eleven months. The crucial after birth bonding period between mother and calf is therefore crushed.
- The mother is left to bellow for her baby whilst the calf, if female, is taken to a small solitary pen where she is raised for dairy production.
- If the calf is male, he is slaughtered for veal.
Just looking at the horrific life of a dairy cow is enough to argue that these animals shouldn’t be raised solely as livestock in these industrialised conditions.
There is no freedom for Friesians. Their lives are driven by cruel labour for the sake of commodities, whether it’s the milk on our cereal or cheese on pizza.
And that is precisely why most people are unaware of their qualities beyond this state of existence.
How can we appreciate the characteristics of a cow when all we visualise them as is a product?
Just like every other animal, Friesians and all other breeds of cattle have their own natural quirks and behaviours that we often miss:
- The black spots on a Holstein Friesian is like a fingerprint. They are all unique as no two cows have the same markings.
- Cattle are well equipped for their herbivore diet with four chambers in their stomach to help break down grass and grain. They have no upper front teeth so will use the sharpness of their bottom teeth against the hard palate of their mouth to cut grass.
- Cattle are well protected from the cold and snow as they have thick skin and hair that acts as a natural insulator. As you can see from the video below, they also love to play in the snow!
This sense of playfulness is one of the many traits that make cattle so endearing. Sanctuary owners and those lucky enough to be close to them have compared their energy and lust for life to dogs.
Such joy clearly indicates that cattle have a capacity to feel a breadth of emotions which unfortunately includes stress and sadness.
Friesians and other cattle are incredibly social animals which impacts their emotional state. In natural settings, they develop close friendships and choose to spend the majority of their time with two to four preferred individuals.
Developing and maintaining social groups positively impacts a cow’s emotional state. It perhaps comes as no surprise that when a cow is separated from other cattle and left in a solitary state, they suffer psychological stress.
The bond between calf and mother is incredibly strong and special under natural circumstances. Yet it is impossible for this bond to develop in the dairy industry, leaving the mother and calf to suffer the psychological stress of separation.
It’s a tragedy that these cows are unable to experience fulfilling lives, whether it’s through maintaining those integral close bonds or grazing in fresh wide-open spaces. With such systems in place, the majority of the general public are unable to see the beauty and unique identities of these animals.
And because of this the cruelty continues behind closed doors. The sheer demand for cheap meat and dairy has fuelled the industrialised farming system we know today where cattle continue to be treated like objects, seemingly incapable of feeling pain or emotion.
If you think that cows deserve to live freely, please help Open Cages ban factory farming by signing and sharing our petition here. Your signature will help us change the lives of cows and other farmed animals for the better.