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Cow down -- pregnant cow is shot at California State Fair

September 7, 2010 |  1:42 pm

StateFairCow I've never been much of a fan of circuses, because of the exploitive animal acts, or the animal exhibits at state and county fairs. A cow made out of butter is one thing; a cow who's very pregnant and corralled into some display at a fair just so people can exhibit the "miracle of birth" -- that's a no-go.

At the recent California State Fair, people got to witness the "miracle of death." A very pregnant cow understandably panicked in this alarmingly unfamiliar place as she was being herded into a "birthing pen." She broke free, knocked over a police officer and ran through the fairgrounds before it opened. Officials said they tried to tranquilize her and couldn't, so police shot her to death -- four times in the head, three times in the body.

I appreciate the argument that children need to see real animals in real life to understand their life cycles. (It's unfortunately the same argument people use for not spaying and neutering their pets -- which more often than not results in the "surplus" puppies and kittens being dumped at animal shelters, on the taxpayers' dime, and maybe getting adopted or maybe not -- or just being dumped, period.)

But why stop at birth at some fair? If you want kids to know about animal and farm life, take them to a farm. This isn't like a zoo, where the animals are 10,000 miles away. This is California, the state that feeds the world. Don't force the animals to come to the "audience," and certainly don't force them into unnatural and arguably cruel "stunts," like pig races and live-birth exhibits ("Bear down, Bossy -- we've got some fourth-graders on their way over from the deep-fried s'mores stand").

A farm is a far better place to see what animals do and don't do naturally -- and all the better if kids get a look at not just free-range farm animals, but the kind of unnatural, wretched factory farming and appalling feedlots that Big Ag has created to deliver the cheap chicken nuggets and double-deck burgers that people only think of as arriving on the plate -- never existing on the hoof.

And as long as we're talking learning experiences, how about field trips to the slaughterhouses too? If it's important to witness birth, what about the ugly manner of death that happens to make those burgers and nuggets? Farm kids and rural kids know what you have to do to kill your food; it's dishonest for Americans to pretend that their meat comes like something from a lab, all nice and tidy and pink and plastic-packaged, without recognizing or acknowledging that it was once part of a living creature -- like the cows and calves at the fair -- that had to be killed and cut up to get to our plates.

Put all of that in a state fair, too, and then maybe we can talk about a birthing exhibit.

RELATED FARM ANIMAL NEWS:
Bull jumps into grandstands, charging spectators and injuring 40 at Spanish bullring
Owner of Ohio dairy farm at center of animal-cruelty investigation won't face charges

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: A screen grab from YouTube user abcchadin's video of the cow running through the fairgrounds pursued by a vehicle

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