We were driving down a long dusty highway, just after crossing from Texas into New Mexico. There wasn’t much to see at first; it was an expansive brown and sporadically industrialized desert speckled with patches of irrigated greenů But then, in amongst the industrial buildings, contrasting figures of black and white came into view.
A couple of hundred feet from the highway, standing under thin tin roofs, in what little shade there was, paddock after paddock of cows began to whirl by. There were no blades of grass or even weeds to be found under hoof here, only compacted sun-broiled dirt. Still, some cows braved the heat, perhaps because there was not enough room in the shade for all, and lolled around the yard.
There did not seem to be a bull, male cow or young calves of any gender in the herds. We discovered later that these were most likely dairy cows, kept on site so that they could be moved in and out of the nearby factory at milking time.
Their lives appeared to consist of “waiting.” Waiting to eat, waiting to give birth, waiting for their children to be taken from them, waiting for their bodies to be drained of the milk they futilely created for their missing calves. They knew these routines, but I wonder if they knew that all the “waiting” was only leading to an early death.
If every carton of milk, package of cheese, sour cream and yogurt told the true story of these cows lives; the loss of their children and the bloody end both they and their calves ultimately meetů would the greater public still turn a blind eye?