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Are cows happy?
It’s the Pitts
By Lee Pitts

As someone who has owned and appreciated cattle for 40 years, I am gratified that so many people are also concerned about the mental state of cows these days.

Not long ago People for the Ethical Treatment of Ani-mals (PETA) sued the California Milk Board for proclaiming in their ads that their milk came from “happy cows”. PETA pleaded in court (unsuccessfully) that milk cows could not possibly be happy because they lived their lives in mud and dirt, were repeatedly impregnated and milked throughout their pregnancies. PETA said it was inconceivable that cows could ever be happy with such a life and that dairymen were misleading consumers with false advertising by stating that their cows were indeed “happy.”

Even with all the experience that I’ve had with cows I must admit that sometimes it’s hard to tell when they are happy. After all, mostly what they do all day is lay around and eat. If only cows had bovine psychiatrists, support groups and a Dr. Phil to call their own perhaps they might find happiness while they lay around all day and ate.

Another group is also worried about the mental state of this country’s cows, especially those bovines that graze our public lands. Even though you and I know that cattle are necessary in maintaining the health of grasslands, in reducing fire danger and in good watershed management, these folks have a beef with beeves and contend that bovines are so far off their mental reservation that they are a danger to anyone who would use our public lands. Because these folks don’t like having to walk around, or though, the occasional cow pie they say that “deranged” cows are such a menace to humans that all cows should be “de-ranged” from our public lands immediately.

Even though I have yet to hear of anyone being killed by a psychotic BLM Hereford I feel these people’s pain. Because I’ve had extensive experience in these matters I’ll pass on a few hints as to how the public can enhance their relationships with cows.

First of all, there are three times when humans can enjoy the total bovine experience. The best time is shortly after the mother has given birth. I would advise PETA members to approach the newborn calf while the mother is away at the water trough. Although she has probably hidden her baby you should sneak up on the calf and catch it.

As you caress and cradle the calf in your arms it will return your affection by bawling. No doubt this will hasten the cow’s retreat to where she left her baby and give PETA members the opportunity to determine if she is happy. As the cow approaches she will, no doubt, be surprised to see you. Extend your hand in friendship and in your most polite voice ask the cow to come closer. This she will probably do.

At this point you should see the love-light in her eye. This would be an appropriate time to say a prayer for your mutual happiness. I have no doubt that you will BOND with the cow and remember the experience for a long, long time.

Another opportunity to become one with cows is when they are being given their annual vaccinations and palpated in a squeeze chute. As you can imagine, at this point cows are very grateful to the cowboys for their many kindnesses. Get your personal estate in order and place yourself about five yards in front of the squeeze chute so that when they are turned loose you will be the first to greet them. You may even want to close your eyes so that you’ll be completely surprised by what happens next.

Lastly, I’d suggest that PETA members and hikers pack a picnic lunch of berry cobbler and sweet smelling cinnamon buns for a light lunch amongst the cows on public lands. Take your yapping dog along too. To find the cows follow the scat, footprints and tufts of brown or black hair on broken branches. When you do make contact, once again extend your hand, offer the picnic basket as a peace offering by dropping it and RUN FOR YOUR LIFE because... that’s a bear you idiot and she’s not happy!

Published in the January 18, 2006 issue of Farm World.