From meat to pet: Felix’s great fortune
From meat to pet: Felix’s great
By Dr Lynley Tulloch
Felix means ‘fortunate one’. It is a name recently given to a steer (a neutered bull) who, for eighteen months of his life, was known only as ‘beefie’, and occasionally as ‘freezer beast’. You may only have met the likes of Felix when he appears on your plate as a steak or sizzling on the BBQ.
Yet Felix (and all those like him) are so much more than that. Felix was being advertised as a ‘freezer beast’, but a remarkable turn of fate resulted in his life being saved.
His plight caught the attention
of an Auckland Vegan Facebook group who started a Givealittle Page called ‘Saving little
beefie – fundraise for this little beast’. Within 3 days
nearly $1300 was raised to purchase him. One donator
commented “Run free little dude.” Another one remarked
“Let him live and be happy!!!”
Felix was ‘one we can help’ – as another donator commented. We can’t save them all, but we can save some. It reminds me of the quote by American author Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909): “I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
Millennials are at the forefront of shifting trends in the way that animals are thought about and eaten. A recent study found that many Millennials (people born from 1980 through 2000) are ecosensitive, embracing moderation in meat consumption by having a ‘low meat’ diet. Many do this due to awareness of the negative impact of excess meat consumption on human well-being and planetary health.
So it is also refreshing to see that the Auckland Vegans, many of whom are millennials, are sensitive to not only environmental and personal health, but also the sentience of animals that are farmed for their meat or other products such as milk or eggs.
Felix’s story is particularly poignant given the recent ordeal of “Hero Cow” – the red Limousin Polish cow who last month escaped from being put on a truck to the abattoir. This story does not have such a happy ending. She was recaptured on February 21 and was on her way to sanctuary at a local governor’s farm when she died from stress.
So strong was her will to live during her escape on January 23rd that she caused mayhem. She smashed a fence, broke a farmworker’s ribs, and then slid into the blue waters of Lake Nysa to find safety. Her fighting spirit was not dampened when firefighters came to retrieve her. Again, she dove in to Lake Nysa, swimming another 50 metres to a neighbouring peninsula.
Her story captured the hearts of many on social media. But none were so taken by the story of ‘Hero Cow’ (as she became named) then local politician and former singer Pawel Kukiz. On a Facebook post he wrote: "If all citizens could show such determination as this cow then Poland would be a much more prosperous country. I am not a vegetarian, but fortitude and the will to fight for this cow's life is invaluable."
He named her “Hero Cow”. Determined that “Hero Cow” should be rewarded for her attitude, Kukiz attempted to find her a permanent home. But it looks like the best laid plans of mice and men have fallen flat. She died anyway.
The story is hideously sad. You’d have to have a heart of granite not to feel for this cow. Like Kukiz, even if you eat meat you will still feel sad for this cow. Many of us have grown up watching cartoons where the recurrent theme is of the underdog scoring a victory due to ‘going the distance’. Such fortitude of spirit is highly regarded in many cultures.
So In the case of the polish cow, she has become the “Hero Cow”. She is the invincible cow who has fought against those who would take her life. She scored a moral victory, even if she lost her life. Her attributes are singled out as worthy – independent of any context surrounding her fight for life.
As an animal rights activist I am often accused on anthropomorphic thinking – that is; putting human qualities onto animals. But in this case, the meaning-making around this cow’s flight for her life is layered with human projection. And I am not the one doing it. I simply think this poor cow was frightened out of her wits. She was not a hero. She was terrified.
New Zealand had its own case of “Hero Cow” – the two cows and a calf who endured and survived the massive Kaikoura Earthquake in November 2016. There paddock buckled 80 metres from its original position and they were left stranded on a two-metre-high Island. They had to be rescued and their story went viral attracting pleas for their safe refuge at a sanctuary.
In our minds these played the part we wanted to see. The underlying message is this: they deserve to live only because they have special qualities of fortitude. All other cows can just be eaten.
This selective compassion is not fun for those animals caught up in the agribusiness machine that regards their bodes as little more than a massive steak.
As we speak Felix moves freely in his new paddock, safe from a gun or slaughter house. He lives because some people refused to do nothing. They did something. And that something means the world to Felix.
This piece is dedicated to “Hero Cow” – the cow whose life ended after extreme stress no being should ever endure. May you finally find peace.