Friday, December 3, 2010

Bovines and Bees

 Why do beautiful places often come with extreme animal abuse? We keep parking in incredible spots, and often, part of the package is hunting, animal agriculture or other animal abuse.

Right now we are in the gorgeous desert and mountains of southern Arizona. We are on the edge of the national forest. The national forest and all private land in the area is range for cattle. If you have private land and do not want cattle grazing on it, you have to fence them out. Cattle grazing has changed the landscape here. The plants and soil all showing the abuse of large herds of domestic cattle who are owned by people.

On the land to the east of us is a ranch. It is round-up time. This means that cowboys have gone out on horseback and rounded up the free-roaming cattle and have them in pens so close to us that we can hear their bellowing 24/7. I sat outside the pens today and watched the trapped cattle trying to get back to the cattle they had been grazing with and all of them wanting out of the pens. Because these cattle are being sold off to slaughter or other ranches, they are divided by new owner. This means that mothers and babies are separated..... and friends, those who spent the last 5 months wandering these mountains side by side, are no longer together. Their bellowing is not random bellowing. They have gone from freedom to captivity. They have gone from choosing their food and friends to having no choice.

I watched one mother staring at a youngster three pens away. The youngster was staring back. When the mother called out, the youngster answered. While watching them, I thought about the story I read a few days ago by a writer who is a holocaust survivor. He tells of getting off the train at the camp and being lined up with all the men. His mother was lined up with the women. He watched her line move forward and as he and his mother looked in each others eyes, they had no idea that would be the last time they would see each other.

The pens are slowly being emptied by pick-up trucks coming in empty with empty trailers, loading the cattle and then driving out. I have watched about a dozen leave in the last few days. For those who are full grown and heading to slaughter, the next part of their journey will be the worst. They are heading for a place where the air is filled with panic and the floors are covered in blood.

I heard one of the cowboys screaming at the cattle to get in the trailer. He was calling them lots of names, including “stupid”. We think that cattle or other animals are “stupid” when they do not willingly walk toward a violent situation. The cows and pigs who have escaped from stockyards and slaughterhouses by leaping over 5-6 foot fences and walls were not stupid. No one had to tell them in their own language that they needed to get out of there. The cows who are trying to avoid getting in those trailers are far from stupid. They are no more stupid than any human trying to avoid pain and death.


Our sweet gentle and beautiful neighbors to the west:

I find it amazing that any of these beings are able to eek out a living on this land....where do the cattle find water in a place of no year round lakes or rivers?  These two are in a large field, but they have most likely been out on the open range until recently.  They slowly suck up the water from the tank with a look of total bliss on their faces. 
How do they find food on land that seems to barely sustain dry brush?





Even the smallest creatures want to live. It is so dry where we are that the animals have learned to seek out any moisture. Our first morning here, I turned on the outside shower and within a few minutes bees, crickets, ants, birds and other life appeared all around me. The bees will not leave. There is a constant hummmmmmm around our camper as they enjoy the party. I asked the neighbor why the bees are swarmed around one of our screen doors. She asked if we had fruit inside. Sure enough, they are smart enough to know that there is a giant bowl of fruit just inside that door. I am too dumb to have figured out they wanted the fruit. When the occasional bee gets into our home, our dog Bean starts chasing them and trying to eat them. They do not just dumbly sit there and let Bean chow down. They fly for their lives. They hide in the perfect places that she cannot get to. They want to live. Like all of us…..from the tiniest insect to the biggest mammal.

1 comment:

  1. Seventy years ago, the spiritual ancestor of the screaming cowboy was wearing a black uniform and screaming at the "stupid" human animals that did not want to get on the transport trains to Auschwitz.