there doesn't seem to be a consensus, does there?
I've given this alot of thought subsequently. My answer at the time was C. and I'm sticking to it.
This was my logic: Option A: definitely had it's appeal. except for two things, first someone owned this cow, and even though it's in a bad way, they might get pissed if I just went bashing its head in, or slitting its throat. After it's dead, it's just my word that it actually was suffering. And maybe a vet or something would be able to take a blood sample to make a diagnosis which would have to be done while it was still alive. Second, there were the logistics of killing a large animal with bare hands, or available tools. Rabies definitely crossed my mind, and I literally didn't want to get splattered with blood or cow spit, or kicked, or even get too close.
And no, we don't have a gun... they're more trouble than they're worth IMO. YMMV. Plus, sound carries out here, and there probably isn't a better way of attracting attention than firing a gun.
Another consideration with option A is that the cow didn't seem awake or aware, which begs the question of whether suffering can exist without consciousness. A rock can't suffer, a healthy cow can, presumably, so what about this cow? My conclusion was that the majority of suffering was on our part having to watch it. Plus, it's an animal, and one that I eat no less. If I'm not losing sleep about being a carnivore, should this animal's suffering be my primary concern given the circumstances? Some would argue not only should it be my concern, but I should be a vegetarian as well.
Ain't gonna happen, yet Karma's a bitch.
Now, if this had been a wild animal, like an antelope, I would have acted differently... I wouldn't have been messing with someone else's property. On the other hand, if it was a wild animal, I could say, "look, stuff dies all the time in the wild, it may not be pretty, but it's normal.
It can play both ways.
Rather than finding a sick animal, if I was directly responsible for a wild animal's injured condition... say I collided with it, or even the situation with the pronghorn antelope getting stuck in the barbwire fence, then I would take responsibility for fixing the situation, even if it meant ending that animal's suffering, provided it didn't put me in harm's way.
But in this case; a sick, unconscious domesticated animal owned by a stranger in the middle of nowhere, Option A is out.
So how about option B?
Well, if I had collided with the cow, I'd definitely go back and man-up to my responsibility. Or if the animal was not a sick cow, but rather a sick dog, I'd go back and say "you've got a sick dog up ahead that needs some attention". But standing there looking at that cow, I had a flash of paranoia, and self-preservation instincts kicked in pretty hard.
Here's what went through my mind. Realizing that I don't know squat about ranching, I have no idea what the economic implications are for a rancher who has a sick cow. Obviously this cow shouldn't go to slaughter, but what happens to the rest of the heard? Quarantine? Lost income? Big expenses? Does this need to get reported to the FDA? Is someone keeping track of these animals... their pedigree, when they're born, when and how they die? How much accountability and/or corruption
is there in that system if it exists at all? I had no clue.
Times are tough... if I had seen several people at the compound, a friendly wave returned, a group of workers, etc... I'd have gone back without hesitation. But I had a vision of parking the bike in the front yard, and knocking on doors, or honking the horn to get the attention of an individual who might (?) have a big financial interest
in making the cow problem "go away"
, including us, without any witnesses. The two links are to relevant news items, FWIW.
This may be an irrational fear of the unknown, but out in the middle of nowhere, with no one knowing our whereabouts, it would be just too easy for us to disappear without a trace.
Getting involved might put us in harm's way. That was a low, but ultimately unquantifiable risk I was unwilling to take.
We rode on.
Regarding the public health concerns, and should we have notified someone at the next town, for instance... I wouldn't even know where to begin with that. I felt that the cow would eventually be discovered by someone driving up that road. The road was essentially the driveway to the ranch compound, so I didn't think they needed help discovering it... that discovery would happen eventually, and probably soon. There were fresh tire tracks in the dirt after all, and it was easily visible from the road.
I've since tried to educate myself, but all I have to go by are google links to blogs, mostly supporting veganism, and a few NYTimes articles recently published about the Westland/Halmark Meat, Chino, CA, Humane Society video and subsequent recall.
March 8 '08
May 21 '08
June 11 '08
Does anyone with real life ranching / cattle experience have any insights into how the system is supposed to work for "downer" cattle situations like this?