Celebrate Year of the Ox and refrain from eating our sociable bovine friends, Peta urges

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am

Whatever you think of animal rights activism, the people who run Peta at least have a sense of humour. What I particularly appreciate is that their lovely officers love taking off their clothes on busy street corners to protest against the horrors visited upon other species that share our planet. My only complaint is that they don't do it often enough.

Anyway, the Year of the Ox is almost upon us. And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants you to spare a thought for cows. The Chinese zodiac says people born in this year share the cow's qualities of sensitivity, honesty, strength, attention to detail and dependability. They are also affectionate towards friends and family. Consider these claims Peta makes about cows:

Cattle care. Each cow can recognise more than 100 members of the herd, and social relationships are very important. When separated from families, friends or human companions, cows grieve - even shedding tears over their loss.

Buffaloes love their calves. Mothers have been known to bellow for their babies and travel for miles to reunite with calves who have been sold to veal farms.

Cows have 'Eureka' moments. Researchers have found that cows not only figure out problems, but also enjoy the intellectual challenge and get excited when they find a solution.

Bovines are brainy. Research has shown that cows clearly understand cause-and-effect relationships. Much like humans, cows also learn lessons from one another and have the capacity to worry about the future.

But, Peta's Rebecca Chui said: 'On today's factory farms, cows live miserable lives and are denied everything that is natural and important to them. They are branded, dehorned and castrated without any painkillers. Cows on dairy farms are kept constantly pregnant and have their babies taken away from them. They are forced to produce up to 10 times more milk than they would produce naturally. When their bodies are worn out, they are shipped for slaughter and are ground up for hamburger. Slaughterhouse workers sometimes strangle, beat, scald, skin and dismember conscious animals to keep production lines moving.

'What better way to celebrate the Year of the Cow than to resolve to leave these gentle, intelligent animals off our plates?'