About fifteen years ago, I was visiting a family function in a city in central India. Taking a stroll through the streets, I came across a calf (bovine), perched on one side of the street. Such sights are not uncommon in India, and the rest of the world now has come to terms with how Indian streets have all kinds of animals on the loose. This isn’t about whether that’s right or not, so I will stick to the story.
The calf caught my eye. (S)he was probably a few months old, light brown and had a distinct white patch running through his/her forehead. With legs folded, this beautiful creature melted me inside. I drew closer, lowered myself and gently stroked him/her with my fingers. (S)he seemed to enjoy it, raised his/her head, and soon I was an itch machine for this being.
About two minutes into this interaction, a young boy appeared out of nowhere and struck the calf with what appeared to be a bicycle tire (rubber) tube. The blissfulness of the animal transformed to a loud shriek, as his/her legs recoiled and carried it away. As for me, I was thrown off balance and almost landed on the back of my head, if it wasn’t for my hands.
This kid though, laughed hysterically. The humor didn’t escape me either, it was rather comical to see the calf take off like road runner. Sadly, this humor was not going to last for a second more.
From way across the street, as I pushed back on my hands to get up, a double-beat waltzing grew louder and more prominent in what seemed like the smallest packet of time that could pass. A raging cow ran towards us, and the only sensible course of action was to match it’s velocity vector. After I had gone maybe ten leaps out, I turned around to see the poor kid pinned to the ground by the cow with her forehead. I rushed back to help him and loudly hushed the animal away.
A bystander came over, scolding the kid and intimidated me by asking, “Why were you running?”
“You mean, I should have just gotten hit by this train?” I replied, maybe I said something less sarcastic, but I was definitely sarcastic.
“That cow was not going to hurt you, it was watching you playing with her calf. You had no reason to run.”
This was a very unusual thing. Part of me wanted to believe what this guy was saying, because it made me feel good. The other part of me didn’t, mostly because this is some random guy on a street and didn’t quite look all that vested in my self-esteem. Before I walked away, I preached to the kid, “You reap what you sow; don’t do this again.”
I reflected on this episode, mentioned it to a few folks, and almost everyone believed the projected behavior of the cow; that she wasn’t out to punish me. It was pretty much universal, except for the immediate people who really cared about my well being, like my mother, who was just glad that I got out of the cow’s way.
Thinking back though, I do believe that that the cow was just out to teach a lesson to someone who needed it. The logical reason was the fact that she wouldn’t have just walked away with me hushing her away. If she really wanted to hit me, she could have when I came back to help the kid.
Cows are emotionally intelligent beings, and this Psychology Today article has an analysis from a paper on bovine behavior. Yet, a large part of the world eats beef that comes from farms where these intelligent creatures are abused. You don’t eat dogs, or breed them to be grown into adults for meat. Doesn’t happen for cats either.
Many of these farm animals are sentient beings. Consumption of sentient beings by humans is inhumane, because we’ve got the brains to recognize intelligence and emotions, as well as replicate this intelligence and these emotions. We are able to grow past this. With time, I hope that our future generations will loathe the idea of beef and pork, not just for their religion, but for their humanity.