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animal rights | faith & spirituality

Field of Cows

I pass by this field every day on my way home. It's not important which one it is, it could be any field. It's a rolling, green pasture, sprinkled with spring flowers and bursting with rich, green grasses. There's a pear tree out in the middle, and a stream running through it. On one side, it runs along the river, and often geese gaggle along the shore, haughtily daring anyone to come too close. This time of the year, there are often eagles sitting in the trees near the shore. This is a beautiful and blessed place. But the most conspicuous residents are the cows.
Large, quiet, soft-eyed cows graze the grasses, blink somberly at the geese, and gaze into the fragrant, green light of spring. Heady, heavy thoughts are obviously on their minds. Joyful, spindly-legged calves trot along beside them now, their noses wet with the dew of new life, their eyes full of the wonder of a new day. I love these cows. The mothers and their babies gather in soft communion in the shade of the pear tree, and down along the coolness of the shallow stream. Wisdom and strength reverberate through the bones and hides of these ancient mothers' sturdy bodies, while joy and faith and exuberance ring out from their leaping, wide-eyed progeny.

I can feel the deep emotion between each pair, each mother and her young. A mother knows a mother's love, and this is clearly love. They wander together, soaking in the lessons of the day, and they lie down together, nuzzling each other gently. It is clear to me, these are mothers who love their babies as much as any human loves her own. And every day, as I pass by this field, I fear for them. One day, I know, if I do nothing, there will be fewer of them here. This graceful communion between mother and young could be interrupted any day now, with the loud, raucous shouts of sweaty men, the clanking of metal, the end of innocence and mercy.

I am afraid for them. And I wonder how to save them. Because I know what humans do to cows. If no one does anything to save them, I know that the dewy-eyed calves will be ripped away from their loving mothers. The mothers will bellow and stamp and fight for their young. The calves will struggle and cry out for their mothers' sides. Eyes will go all white-rings, and thrashing legs and hooves will tear the ground, if we don't stop this. While their mothers aching hearts bellow, the little calves will be loaded onto hard and scary trucks and freight cars, and driven away to dusty, dirty feed lots somewhere far from here, to be fattened up on unnatural diets for a few months in the mud. They will be lonely and sick and pumped full of antibiotics, and then, if we do nothing, they will be marched off to slaughter. The smell of blood will sting their nostrils, the terror rising in their throats, and no one to comfort them. If no one saves them.

And I know this, when I pass by this field. And you know this when you pass by green fields filled with cows and calves.

And you know this, when you walk placidly past the neat, bloody little plastic-wrapped packets of these calves' flesh on the shelves at Fred Meyers and Safeway and Whole Foods. In your heart of hearts, you know this is what is lost there, in that freezer aisle. You know that those anonymous lumps of "meat" were someone's babies once. Though you block it from your mind, you know inside that there was terror and horror and blood and death there, in that slaughter house, and that each calf loved its life as much as you do.

How can we live with this? How can we live with ourselves, if we just let this happen?

I wonder, when I see these cows in this field on this day, how can I save them? Could I maybe smuggle just one pair out of there? Maybe I could. Maybe I could find a place to take them, maybe I could feed them. But which? Which mother and which baby can live? That one over there? The brown mother with the sun in her eyes, caressing her little black calf? Or that pair over there, walking side by side, stepping carefully through the grass, thoughtfully making their way across the field? Maybe that leaping little brawny calf there, with his doting mother looking proudly on? How could I ever choose? How could I free just two, and leave the rest to what I know would come if I do nothing?

Do you ever think about these things?

I've been wondering, and plotting, and watching this go on for a long time now. At least 5 years I have been passing by this field, wondering. Every spring I rejoice in the new flush of life as the calves are brought forth into the world of light. And every month that passes, I timidly try not to notice how many cows are out there now. I try to force myself not to look away, so that I might not rob these little families of the truth of what is happening out there. So that I might bear witness, so that I might not forget that something must be done. But even so, I try not to feel too deeply the communion between those cows and me. Because it's so damn painful. And every, single day, I wonder when will I fucking Do something??? When will I summon up the courage and the will to actually DO something? To break through that barbed wire, and throw open the boundaries of life, and let the cows go free? When will I figure out a way?

In the meantime, on this one bright day, these cows, these Earth mothers, graze contentedly in the sun with these calves, waiting for me, for us, to rise up and find the strength to save them.