An open letter from a Cow to Human Beings

Joey : “… This is all a moo-point”
Rachel: “A Moo Point?”
Joey : “Yeah. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter… It’s… moo”

From the television show ‘Friends’

Dear Human,

The only voice missing in the ongoing beef debate is mine.

That’s slightly strange, because I have quite a lot at stake.

You see, I am a cow.

You might want to put down that beef burger while you read this.
I know.
It’s awkward for me too.

So I can imagine that your first thoughts are probably — Is this article really written by a cow? Surely not! Cows have no business writing articles. They are supposed to be mooing and chewing and producing milk and that sort of stuff. Boy, those thighs look delicious.

Well, for the purpose of this article — it is quite irrelevant what kind of a cow I am. You can think of me as a ‘special’ cow who is exceptionally able to do things that other cows can’t — like reading and writing. Think ‘Rainman’. Now, think ‘Raincow’. And add a dash of ‘Dr. Dolittle’.

And stop looking at my thighs.

Of course, I can also do things which other cows can.

Graze.
Reproduce.
Nurture my young.
Form relationships.
Feel pleasure and pain.
Be afraid of dying.
Be self-aware.
Remember.
Solve problems.
Predict Earthquakes.

You know, that sort of stuff.

But before I point out with much wit and irony the comic-tragedy of your discourse about beef, I must quickly add that I also speak for the Goat and the Chicken and rats and other nonhuman animals.

After all, I don’t want to be accused of being a Speciesist

You know Speciesism — The belief that we are entitled to treat members of other species in a manner that it would be wrong to treat members of our own species.

Or

Ill-treating those who are different from you.

I know you’ve made some progress in this because most of you find the idea of human slaves distasteful. Most of you also feel that humans should not be discriminated from each other on the basis of gender, disability, ethnic origin, race, color of skin or these fascinating constructs you call Religion.

There was a time in your history when you treated each other like you treat us now. It can be argued that you still do. You displaced millions of yourselves, destroyed families and social structures and murdered each other.

As nonhuman animals, we know something about displacement, losing families, ruined social structures and being murdered.

You think of nonhuman animals as your property.

Not as persons.

You know — a person. One who has a personality.

Have you never seen a personality in a nonhuman animal?

Have you never seen a goat with spunk, a snobbish cow, an irritable chicken, a friendly dog?

Of course we understand we are different from you — but you are different from each other too.

Let’s take skin color. You believe that color of skin is not a reason to ill-treat or torment another person.
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But it seems, number of legs is.

In 1857, Dred Scott, a human slave, sued in a human court — claiming he and his wife and children were persons, not property that belonged to his master.

He lost.

In another part of the world, till 1936 it was possible for humans to hunt other humans for sport by obtaining a license.

However, you managed somehow to move beyond this.

And you justly find this horrifying.

What will your great grandchildren find horrifying about you?

Ability

Of course humans have abilities that nonhumans don’t have.

You are very clever.

(Well, not at predicting earthquakes.)

Your ending of human slavery rested on the belief that all humans are equal in intelligence, abilities, rationality and capacity for personal growth.

Obviously, we are not equal to you in these respects. Justice demands that you treat the equal equally, so treating us unequally is not wrong.

Good point.
Or is it?

As human individuals, you obviously differ in your intelligence and abilities. But don’t you still enjoy the same protections? If having greater intelligence or abilities does not entitle one human to exploit another, why must it entitle you to exploit us.

Suffering

Some people say that animals don’t suffer in the same way that humans can.

Human suffering is of a better kind?

Suffering is a mental event. How do you even know that other humans are suffering? You have to rely on what you observe. An empathetic understanding of pain must always rely on inference. And all the signs are common between suffering humans and nonhumans — screaming, yelping, writhing, calling, grunting.

Language

A difference is that humans can communicate their pain in language — maybe eloquently, whereas we can’t (me being an exception, of course).

So language is the big differentiator.

Does capacity for language determine how humans or nonhumans should be treated?

But language cannot be trusted. You would not believe a person who said he was in pain if he was smiling and had a twinkle in the eye. You would not believe a person who said he was not in pain if his skin was freshly peeled and dripping with blood and he was groaning and grunting.

You know that terror and panic you feel when the airplane you are traveling in hits turbulence and the plane suddenly lurches and sinks while the sky flashes with lightning outside. That’s fear of dying. It’s beyond language, intelligence or abilities. It’s common between humans and nonhumans. Except that in the case of nonhumans, that feeling is followed by the worst outcome actually happening.

You do use language often, but when you have to say something deep, something soulful, something intense — you rely less on words — and more on your bodies, your breathing, your eyes.

Just like us. And infants. And many humans too.

Differences

Is it because as nonhumans we are so different from you, that you absolutely cannot know how we suffer?

But then, this is belied by another one of your endeavors that impact us. Experimenting on non-humans.

If you really believed that we are different from you, how could your experimenters justify the usefulness of their experiments on us to learn more about yourselves.

When a researcher makes rats choose between drowning in water or experiencing electric shocks, he does so because he believes that the rat experiences the electric shock in a way that is very similar to the way humans experience it — otherwise he learns nothing about human behavior.

Experimenting on us to learn more about yourselves and what can hurt your skin, your eyes, your hair really gives us what we need to prove how similar we are — you and I. Evidence.

Beef

Believe it or not — being alive is an end in itself for cows and goats and chicken. Just like it is for humans. When you view me — either as food or as a symbol of your religion — you are making it about yourself, not me.

There are people throwing parties for other humans to come and eat cooked dead bodies of murdered cows and pigs and other nonhumans. Believe it or not, these are the compassionate and tolerant ones.

There are others who want to protect us. But just one of us. Only the cow. Not the buffaloes, the pigs, the chicken, the goats.

Not because life is sacred.

But because ‘their’ beliefs are.

And they are ready to kill other humans for it too. As I explained above, humans are similar in their capacity to experience suffering to nonhumans.

Let me be clear about this: It’s wrong to kill humans too.

You’re using the cow for that one thing that a cow doesn’t do. Hurt other sentient beings.

Money

I know money. It’s delicious.

Slavery was cheap labor. Why abolish it?
What happened to all the companies and employees and livelihoods of people involved in Slavery?

There were many good people who were slave-owners.

A question

I know most humans want to be tolerant and compassionate.

What is tolerance here?

What would be compassionate?

In closing

Moo.

Yours etc.,

A fellow conscious animal