Dominion Is a Funny Thing

And now, we’re officially into the Year of the Aurochs. My mind keeps wandering back to the day when, courtesy of Theresa Sarzynski in New Jersey, I met Herbie, a bovine refugee at a sanctuary for rescued farm animals.

It’s odd how we have this sort of meme image of the happy cow, instilled in us from childhood. Herbie and friends were as happy as cows can be, but they were some of the scant few to receive protection from what nearly always happens to cows. So, what’s up with the whole happy-cow concept? 

We take their milk. Notoriously, after farmers pull their infants away, they bellow for days. They mourn as their offspring are prepared to become the veal special on a diner’s menu. Ultimately, all the dairy cows, like the beef cattle before them, wind up in slotted trucks, bound for slaughter. These are not secrets. It takes very little effort to put two and two together. Why don’t we?

Dairy production is marketed as hilarious. (That’s a leather sofa, too, right? Such wit!)

And oh! The irony: “I poured myself into this commercial!”

Why do we play this collective game?  

How would we feel if the laugh were on us?

I keep talking about the aurochs because… 

Most people have no idea about that part. They never knew cows came from animals, now extinct, called aurochs, who lived on their terms until humans hunted them down to the very last one. They didn’t learn about the selective breeding that deprived cows of their freedom, one generation at a time, so that dependence on the human environment is now etched into their DNA.

In fact, many vegans don’t know.  I’ve been told by a number of vegans that the ideal “vegan world” includes happy cows, and looks like a sanctuary. We’d learn to pet cows and not eat them.

When I was preparing The Year of the Aurochs for publication at CounterPunch, Harold Brown pointed out that dairy cows are the most docile. They were bred to be as gentle as pets, so they could be walked and milked. The ones who chase people across fields are the beef cattle. They don’t need to be completely docile, Harold said. They only need to be driven. 

Purpose-breeding gradually transformed the aurochs into sources of edible substances which humans could have just as well done without. We can make burgers from beetroot and ice cream from oats. Why didn’t we simply do that all along? Why did we cultivate a taste for blood and for the liquid produced by other animals’ mammary glands? And how could we laugh?

I think we must answer these questions.

Love and liberation,


4 thoughts on “Dominion Is a Funny Thing

  1. And, if young cows show the least bit of independence or herd leadership, they are removed from the herd. Those innate behaviors would probably cause an early slaughter in the world of animal husbandry. Thank you, Lee, for the reminders that domestication is at the root so much suffering.

  2. Yes, it is. A number of animal-rights writers have explained their philosophy in basic form by saying that we love dogs, so it’s unfair that we wear cows or eat pigs. Perhaps that framing is at the root of our collective failure to pursue animal liberation! Our love for individual dogs may be beautiful, but the treatment of any domesticated being, no matter how kind, should not become the ideal of this movement – unless we think animals are essentially ours to have and to hold.

  3. I once read an article written by an animal whisper, claiming to know what animals think and what they would say if they could. She wrote that the animals you mention in this article, in fact, all animals know that they can kill us human animals. They could stampede and crush us into the ground. They could bite off our heads, they could take over the earth. But they won’t. They are so connected to their inner being, their inner self, that they just take it all in and wait in mostly silence, teaching the human animals to be peaceful and to be like them. Living in harmony. They are showing the world the way, being the role models. Millions have caught on. Millions more need to awaken from their stupor. Thank you for your powerful writings, Lee.

    • Thank you very much for contributing your thoughts, Sandie. My sense of things is that other animals, at least the ones strong enough to dominate Homo sapiens, do not entertain the idea of systematic dominion and control. Sure, they might be well aware of their physical and collective power, but I don’t think they consider themselves superior and compelled to exercise supremacy over us.

      For example, a shark might bite a human swimmer, but I don’t think that is part of sharks contemplating whether they should or shouldn’t control and use us.

      In dire contrast, we are intensely focused on exercising the prerogative to perform our self-assigned dominion role.

      I could be wrong about other animals. I do not want to claim any special insights enabling me to represent their perspectives. And I admit to occasionally imagining that bees are collectively declining to keep serving human commerce.

      In any case, I do think we must interrogate our own thoughts and the outcomes of those thoughts, immediately.

      Just thinking aloud, so to speak. Much love to you.

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.