To truly appreciate cows, an understanding of what exactly they do for us is crucial. There are a large group of people who seek to demonize the cow, citing a massive toll on the environment as a principal sin of raising livestock. The resources it takes to “conventionally” raise livestock – in confinement lots, feeding grain – are enormous, both in terms of feeding the animals and keeping the lots clean.
The question I pose, however, is why the cow herself gets the flack for our flawed way of raising her?
Looking at both the history of the Midwest, during the time of Lewis & Clark, and the current small, polyamorous (both animal and vegetable) farm model, we can ascertain that it is not the cow, it is the mass production of the cow, that is the true sin.
When bison (upwards of 60 million) were free to roam the Midwest, eating their natural diet of grass, our soil was some of the richest in the world in terms of minerals and vitamins.
On small polyamorous farms, when cows eat their ancestral diet of grass, their “waste” is not actually harmful – it nourishes the soil and the grass and the vegetables and the other animals that eat the plants. Cows are vital to true environmental sustainability.
This can be seen on farms (both small and enormous) that choose to fertilize with synthetic chemicals instead of hosting herds of livestock and letting their natural fertilizer enrich the earth. Without free-roaming cattle, the soil is sapped of nutrients, leading to poor vegetables, an overpopulation of insects, and unsustainable farmland.
Today, we voice our incredible appreciation of cows, and call into question the “conventional method” of raising them – the horrid, inhumane, filthy methods of feeding, housing, cleaning, and slaughtering that humans invented to maximize profit. Today, we say that a happy, healthy, thriving cow is more important than “cheap beef”. Beef (and all forms of meat) should have a higher cost, because they are derived from sentient life. Today, we celebrate cows.
Happy cow appreciation day!