If Cows Could Speak
by Andrew Kirschner
I am cow.
I like to feel the sun on my back
graze in an open field
and nurse my young.
I provide milk for my babies
and I love them
as you do your own.
I also like to groom them
and explore the world around us
like any other animal that inhabits the earth.
If I could speak your language
I would tell you about my life in an industrial factory
and you would probably never eat hamburger, veal, or steak
or buy shoes, purses, clothes, chairs, or sports equipment
made of leather
for the rest of your life.
I am born for the sole purpose of being killed
so you can eat me
or wear or use my skin.
I live a life of pain and suffering
and I die a gruesome death.
It is not the idyllic and humane scene you may imagine.
If I am selected to produce milk
I am forced to have a calf every year.
Like humans, I have a nine-month gestation period.
Imagine the discomfort of giving birth every year
for your entire life.
I am also forced to produce 100 pounds of milk every day.
In a bucolic setting, I would produce only 10 pounds.
Normally, I would live to be more than 25 years old
but I’m ground into meat after just three years
which means I will only live approximately 12% of my life.
That’s the equivalent of ending your life at age 8.
I am scared when I am rounded up for transport
and I am often injured in the process.
After removing my horns,
I am packed on trucks and sold like a slave at auction.
In order to identify me, I am branded with a hot iron.
It is frightening, unnecessary, ruthless, and painful.
There are other ways to mark my identity but factory workers don’t do it
because I am just a commodity to them.
The workers also cut a chunk out of my neck
so they can tell I belong to them from a distance.
I receive no painkillers.
My owners show me no mercy.
If they did, compassionate humans
wouldn’t have to create organizations called
Mercy for Animals
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Farm Animal Rights Movement
The Humane Society of the United States
or Farm Sanctuary
These organizations exist because I am tortured.
I am force-fed genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH)
to increase my size and milk production
which also contains my pus and blood that you drink.
The growth hormones cause my milk to contain high levels of Insulin Growth Factor-1
which has been shown to cause breast and colon cancer in people like you.
As a result of ingesting these steroids, my calves often have birth defects.
I never have the chance to interact with them
and their father is killed for meat since he can’t produce milk.
Since there are so many males that don’t produce milk
my owners decided to find new ways to use them
so they created the veal industry.
They force males into wood crates for months
so they can’t even turn around
stretch their legs or lie in comfort.
They wear chains around their necks
and they feed them diets deficient in necessary nutrients
so they will be anemic and atrophy,
causing their flesh to soften and white.
The crates have no bedding.
They sleep on a cement floor
until workers grind them up
so people can eat them for dinner.
I live in dust and manure-filled holding pens for months.
As a result, I suffer from respiratory ailments.
Many of us contract cancer in the eye.
Left untreated, it eats away at our eyes and face
and creates a hole in the side of our heads.
It is painful beyond measure.
I am transported multiple times before slaughter
sometimes traveling thousands of miles on trucks.
Many of us die of heat exhaustion and disease.
The stress is enormous.
Raising us for slaughter also harms the planet.
We release massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions
wrecking havoc on the environment
through the emission of methane released from burping.
The greenhouse effect is worse than carbon dioxide
and every form of transportation combined.
We also consume billions of pounds of food because we are fed grain
instead of grass
that could be better used to feed starving people
since we provide so little food in comparison to the food we eat
that could also be consumed by hungry children.
It takes thousands of gallons of water
to produce one pound of our flesh
and the improper disposal of our feces
and chemicals used to raise us
pollute your air, oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams
making ill and killing many people just like you.
We often become terribly sick or break our legs and can’t walk.
They call us “downed” cows.
Our illness and inability to move angers some factory workers
so they brutally beat us and drag us to our deaths.
They often use heavy equipment to transport us while we’re still alive
putting hooks into our backs to lug us to our fate.
Before they hang me upside down and bleed me to death,
I am supposed to be knocked unconscious
with a bolt gun to the head
but it often fails
so many times cows like me hang upside down
kicking and wailing in unthinkable pain
until if we’re lucky
someone comes along and sticks a knife in our throats
and ends our misery.
Please think about your actions.
They matter to animals, your health, and the planet.
I’m dead now.
But it’s not too late for you to save others
from the life I lived.
You have the power to save thousands of animals
just like me
from abuse and suffering
simply by not eating us
or buying products made of us.
I know you care.
I know you have the capacity to show mercy.
I hope you will.
For a free veg starter kit, please log onto goveg.org