The Ethics of Protection - If The Whale, Why Not the Cow?

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The Ethics of Protection - If The Whale, Why Not the Cow?

By Niscala Dasi
August 2010

Lying down in my bedroom in Wallangarra, a town based around a nearby slaughterhouse, I can hear the sounds of cows mooing frantically, each bellow ending with a scream. I have heard the sound before. We all have, who have lived in the country, but so long as it is not too close and too loud, so long as it is not annoying us, we don‘t give it a second thought…We have heard it before- the sound a cow makes when her calf has been taken away for slaughter. She cannot forget her calf, and cries incessantly.

How curious, in this context, is our indignant outcry over the slaughter of whales, and our branding of the Japanese as inhumane for using them as food sources? How different we presume ourselves from these people! How much more humane we are! Rather than slaughter them, we grasp the love that the mother whale has for her calf, how that love is a symptom of evolved and intelligent consciousness, not present in other of the ocean’s residents. We appreciate how the other mother whales push the new-born baby calf towards the mother, showing so much affection even for the calves that are not their own! How could the Japanese plunge a heartless harpoon into such loving and peaceful mammals? Rather than slaughter them, how much more wonderful it is to converse with them, commune with them, empathize with their pain at being considered merely food sources!

The reader, no doubt, will know by now which way this article is heading, and provided you sit down to a meal of beefsteak for dinner, you will have your justifications. Just as the Japanese do, for their slaughter of whales. The fact remains, however, that cows are like whales in many ways. They are capable of giving and receiving love, both from their own species and with the rare human being who protects them. They can speak in the language of love, reciprocating a stroking hand with an affectionate tongue, much like our treasured cats do. They love to be hugged, and like whales, cats, dogs and yes, even sheep, they each have their own unique personality, which defines who they are.

We love to focus on the love a mother whale has for her calf, and wax poetic about it, but we lack such poetic sensitivity when it comes to the love a mother cow has for her calf! That would be altogether too uncomfortable! We could not relish our beefsteak if we knew that it came from a thinking sensitive creature, who was at the time suffering intensely from the loss of her offspring, and who was desperately trying to communicate that pain to us- but her cries fell on our deaf ears. If all that truth was clear to our consciousness, surely the flesh would stick in our throats, and we would push aside the plate, no matter how palatably it be presented….

The fact is, we don’t think about cows, except as things to profit from, or eat… and we deliberately make this choice not to think thus, because of our fondness for cow flesh. The Japanese act exactly the same way- except their fondness is for whale flesh. So our outcry is not about ethics at all, but about what suits our palates. If something does not appeal to our palate, it is worthy of protection and it then can be thought about as something alive, like us in so many ways, and in general, it can be ethicized about. But if something does suit our palate, it is to be considered as an object of exploitation only- something to rear for the sole purpose of slaughtering.

We long for that time when the Japanese will wake up, and when humans and whales will live in harmony…but why not humans and cows? It is possible- there are a number of cow protection farms run by ISKCON, all of which can work economically, as the oxen are used both for their manure, and for their strength- by plowing fields that are then used to produce organic crops. This not only shows how cows and humans can live in harmony, but how they can, by doing so, provide a solution to the worldwide dependence on oil…our food security is certainly under threat when the only type of agriculture is that which depends completely on diesel-driven tractors and the like. Cows are an ideal adjunct to organic agriculture, as their manure when made into a tea, provides an ideal food for microorganisms which feed the soil. (It is my experience that a few waterings of such tea can turn dead soil into rich mulch full of worms etc) Besides the obvious and immediate advantages to the environment that replacing artificial fertilizers brings, the benefits to our health of organic produce has been well-documented.

Living on one of these farms for many years, I had first hand experience of how highly evolved cows are, how much like us they are, how much like the whales! Just like whales, all the mother cows shower affection on the newborn calf, and there is never a shortage of willing and eager adoptive mothers for a calf should a mother cow die in childbirth! The love of a cow for her calf is so great that, exactly like with human beings, it is not forgotten even when the calf reaches full maturity, and long after... I witnessed one cow called Yamuna, whose calf, called Deva, had for years been in another paddock and gradually grown into a sizeable bullock, dwarfing even his mother. Yet when Deva could, (on one blissful day for Yamuna), he found his way into her paddock and could be seen bent right over, slurping milk with great difficulty from dear old mama, who was a picture of maternal contentment.

Not one of these cows had a personality like any of the others. Each and every one was as colorful a character as could delight us every day, reciprocating in ways unique to their nature and personality, ever sensitive to our moods, ever ready to communicate their feelings, and ever ready to reciprocate affection! All of the attributes we value whales for, can be seen in abundance in cows, when we simply treat them with affection, when we do not use them, as the Japanese do the whales. The outcry over whale slaughter will only ever be an outcry over ethics, and not over preference of palate, when we forsake the pleasures of partaking of the flesh of all sentient, peaceful and highly evolved mammals, such as cows, sheep, and so on. Then we can be self-righteously indignant towards the Japanese. We will have earned the right.