We don’t have a cow. As a 90 percent vegan, I’d like to give a pair of bullocks a retirement home. But I still haven’t managed to persuade Srini that they will not end up in our bed like all our animals; and after that mammoth task, there remains the other one of arranging their accommodation and care.
So meanwhile I go round ogling other people’s cows and ruminating on the complex question of keeping livestock.
The picture above was taken about three years ago. That calf is now seven months pregnant. Though it’s well looked after and leads a healthy outdoor life (unlike many less fortunate animals), I can’t believe it’s fair to artificially inseminate it at this young age and start it off on its career as a milk machine.
It also got me thinking how in the old days village children grew up knowing all the facts of life and death. They didn’t need sex education classes as city bred children did. They saw animals mating, and the resultant offspring. I don’t know what they learn these days. And calves today probably grow up thinking ‘daddy’ is a syringe.
A strange thing I find in our area is that cows are not named. Is this connected to the fact that there is a high turnover, that they are often bought and sold in times of plenty or of need? If so, which is the cause, and which the effect?
If you name a cow, does it become a member of the family, so you’d feel bad about selling it?
Tricolour cows like this one used to be known as ‘panchakalyani’, my mother tells me – my grandparents kept cows – and were specially prized. It was also the name of someone’s horse in history, I can’t remember who. I do remember that Raja Desingu had a horse called Neelaveni. And thereby hangs a tale of romance, treachery and chivalry. Fortunately for cows, they are not considered romantic or chivalrous.