Now, this might seem like a very odd question but let me explain…
I think myself to be a very lucky countryside commuter; starting my day with a brisk 25 minute walk to work, along a steep and scenic country path in rural Cornwall. And as the day at my desk comes to a close, I always have the gentle walk back down the hill to look forward to; amongst wild flowers, dusty paths and resident cows!
It was this last point of interest that distracted me the other day, as I idly strolled down the hill; inspiring me to stop for a chat. Nonchalantly gathered around a wooden gate – like a group of teenagers outside their local newsagents – the cows barely showed interest in me; as I approached with the kind of overenthusiastic cooing you would naturally expect from a cat loving Vegan!
“hello…how are you today? Oohh look at you, aren’t you lovely?” I cheerily said to them, as they looked to me blankly, or not at all. I continued…telling them about my day, how I was their friends and, more importantly, that I was Vegan and didn’t consume anything from them! I will add here that it had been a particularly long day and I think the country air had gone to my head…
But then a strange thing happened. One by one the cows started to sniff, edging closer to me with curiosity; as though they were vetting me with their noses and edging in for a closer look. Before I knew it, I had about 10 cows pushed up against the gate, sniffing at me in (what I perceived to be) a friendly exchange.
I continued to talk to my new friends for 10 minutes longer; making sure to keep an eye out for passing farmers who might call the police thinking I was some crazy loony. But it did get me thinking, we treat our pets with this much love and compassion – talking to them, stroking them, feeding them ice cream from a spoon (or is that just me??!) – so why not other animals?
Maybe this is a naïve perspective, and there are some clear differences between farm animals and household pets; but why do we have such a disconnection with the animals we choose to use rather than nurture?
As PETA points out: “Animal behaviourists have found that cows interact in socially complex ways, developing friendships over time and sometimes holding grudges against other cows who treat them badly.” In scientific studies too, they have shown signs of advanced cognitive abilities; learning to push a lever to use a drinking fountain when they’re thirsty, enjoying the intellectual challenge and getting excited when they find a solution! This suggests my new furry friends have the potential to be real smart cookies; socially aware and in tune with their surroundings.
So maybe these Cornish cows did sniff me out as a vegan, or maybe they sensed my compassionate and friendly approach to our encounter. Or maybe they were just intrigued by the sound of my vitamin B12 supplements rattling in my handbag…who knows! But one thing I did get from my chat with the cows, was a reminder that there is more to learn about these friendly giants.