Meanwhile back at the corporate cattle ranch, rumors of mad cow disease are circulating among the cattle. One group of four seem to be ruminating upon serious matters. Let’s listen while they chew the cud.
Daisy: Did you hear that poor Melvin went down and, instead of burying the poor slob, those ranchers just shipped him off to the slaughterhouse?
Gabby: Yup, I heard talk of a few others in that condition that are on their way to the meat market. But what happened to Melvin to make him so sick that he couldn’t even stand on his own anymore?
Blackie: Where you been, Gabby? Don’t you know that Melvin and probably all the rest of us have been feedin on the carcasses of other animals. You know, that scrappie stuff made of dead sheep?
Daisy: Why I thought that that government agency, the FAA..
Doc: No, the FDA..
Daisy: Yeh, that one. Didn’t they order a halt to that animal cannibalism back in 1997.
Blackie: Yeh, and cowpies have been sellin at Pies-Are-Us.
Doc: Now, wait a second, Blackie, Daisy’s right about the FDA ban on dead animals in feed, but…
Blackie: Yeh, there’s always a big but….You mean who is watchin out that those big feed corporations don’t stick that stuff in the feed, or these big operations, like this corporate ranch, don’t smuggle whatever road kill they find into our food supply?
Gabby: Now hold on there, dadnabbit. Why would they try to hornswaggle us cows and get us sick? Wouldn’t it just hurt their profits?
Blackie: Listen, old-timer, you seem to think that these corporate farmers have some sort of code of ethics that prevents them from gettin away with whatever.
Gabby: Well now, you young whippersnapper, I just don’t think these humans would risk hurtin themselves both monetarily and physically.
Blackie: Well, you don’t know nothin, you oreo spotted Uncle Moo.
Daisy: Hey now, Blackie, there ain’t no call to get riled up about all of this. I’m sure it was just a mistake that will be quickly corrected. I mean we’re an important investment. Why we wind up on the dinner tables around the world.
Blackie: Do you just accept your fate so blindly, Daisy? Don’t you think we should organize and fight back. Dammit, I want my freedom instead of being penned in here. If I gotta die, I want to be up on all fours, not goin down on my knees to ask for some sympathy.
Gabby: Now where will your militant moos get you other than killed before your time?
Blackie: We’re already marked cows. Can’t you see that?
Daisy: Doc, are we marked? Is there no way out but the kind of revolutionary suicide that Blackie seems to want?
Doc: You know for those of us on these big coporate cattle ranches, there isn’t really any hope. I guess you could say it’s our lot in life to put up with these insults and injuries. Why if it’s not the scrappie, it’s the hormones that are pumped into us.
Hell, I overheard one vet say that 80% of us cows in the USofA have bovine leukemia. And all the antibiotics that are pumped into us to prevent the spread of other viruses and diseases only compound the problems, as well as compromising the health of those humans stupid enough to eat us.
Daisy: But we are bred to be eaten. We know that’s the way it’s always been and will continue.
Doc: Not so, Daisy. Why in the old days, our ancient cousins, the buffalo, just roamed these plains, grazing on the abundant grasses and trying to outrun those red natives who would stampede whole herds off cliffs.
Blackie: Yeh, they been wasted us all the way back till the ancient time.
Doc: Well, not exactly. Those buffalo herds were thinned out over time, but always used by those red natives. It was the coming of those white people with our direct ancestors that created the first of the problems. Why those white people, first working for the railroad just slaughtered the buffalo herds, leaving good meat to rot. They killed off the grazing cultures of the Plains and penned up the red natives. Then, they had lots of fights with other ranchers, particularly those with sheep, over who would get the grazing rights to the vast western territories.
Gabby: Yeh, I heard tell of those ranch wars. What stopped it?
Doc: Why just giving everybody big ranches with special feed so that territory could be neatly divided. So they surrounded us with fences and called it taming the west.
Blackie: Yeh, they tamed our booties.
Daisy: But why have some of us been getting sick with the BS?
Doc: That’s BSE, Daisy. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. It’s a degenerative brain disease that can be transferred through the blood, tissues, and organs. Humans get an equivalent of it, called Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, from eating diseased meat. And there are other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE’s) in the whole food chain. Some human doctors think there are even connections to diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Blackie: I heard that those honkies are so stupid that they would rather risk getting the disease than spending the money to prevent BSE. I don’t know why they call it “mad cow” disease; it should be called “mad human” disease!
Gabby: Now hold on a dadgoneminute, there. Surely, they got some of them legislators from the people’s party, the Dummycrats, that would want to prevent this.
Blackie: Hah, you touched in the head already, Gabby. Don’t you know that there’s Dummycrats that voted with the Repukicans to stop any extensive testing of livestock. I never understood why they call it a two potty system since it seems like one big shithole to me.
Gabby: Well, dadblastit, I’m gonna light out of here and head off to some safe warm spot in Central or South America.
Doc: Not much chance of that, Gabby. In fact, the humans in those places, like Honduras and Brazil, are just clearing out the rainforests to turn more land into cattle farming corporations. Why some people in those countries are starving and all of the land and calories that it takes to keep us fed could be better used to feed those poor people with corn, rice, and beans.
Daisy: Now wait, Doc. You’re soundin like one of those turncoat vegetarians. I mean what will become of us if humans won’t hunger for our meat.
Doc: Look, Daisy, it’s estimated that as much as 1/4 of the land mass on earth is devoted to cattle raising. And all of the shit and urine, pardon my French, is contibuting to massive pollution. Why we’re soiling our own nests, so to speak. I think we’ve become a plague that humans invented out of greed and protein obsession. So, we need to find some balance in all of this.
Blackie: Balance, my hindquarters. There cain’t be no balance as long as capitalism rules. It’s time to pick up the gun, metaphorically speaking. I mean those humans with their opposable thumbs and too big brains think they can continue to lord it over us. There’s a day of reckoning ahead for them. We gotta get wild and that’s no bull.
Gabby: Cain’t go backwards.
Blackie: Well, I ain’t goin to eat no more of that feed even if I starve myself to death. I ain’t gonna wind-up in the fast-food place of that clown, Ronnie Mac.
Daisy: So, Doc? Where do we go? What can we do?
Doc: I wish I had the answers. But the real solutions, unfortunately, have got to come from humans themselves. And you know you irrational and unreliable they are!
At this, the gang of four turned towards the shed. They seemed resigned to some terrible fate. Fortunately, we’re not stupid animals who rely on some herd instinct. But then, it’s too big an issue for one person to worry about. I’ll have to do my ruminating at an udder time.
For those who may want to ruminate on these matters, try reading Jeremy Rifkin’s Beyond Beef; Howard Lyman’s Mad Cowboy; Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber’s Mad Cow USA; and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation.
FRAN SHOR teaches at Wayne State University and is a peace and justice activist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org