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Why animals matter: they're just like us

Dr Lynley Tulloch

Starfish Bobby Calf Project

Why animals matter: they're just like us

Most animal rescuers have a sensitivity towards animals. The more we help, the deeper our capacity for compassion becomes. We also learn a lot of life lessons and receive as much love from the animals that we give. That’s the thing about compassion and love – the more you give the more you have.

Here are five things I have learned in the five years since I have been rescuing farm animals.

1. Goats wag their tails just like dogs to express excitement. Goats are highly individual and capable of deep emotional lives. Happy goats like to lie flat out in the sun and soak up all the goodness of life. Depressed goats won’t eat and sit sadly staring at the horizon. I am fostering a goat who grieved for a full 10 days for her caregiver. She sat at the gate and waited for him to come back, and she would not eat. All goats like to express their curious and quirky personalities through jumping, running, exploring , climbing and browsing. Tethered goats are prisoners of human ignorance.

2. Bovines can recognise their names and the engine sound of their caregiver’s car engine – just like dogs. Cows are amazing animals. My rescue steers hear my car engine as I arrive home and start bolting to the gate to wait for me to feed them.

Liz Spikol recently wrote an article entitled I used to Love Steak – Then I Met a Cow. .” So touched was she by her encounter with a sanctuary cow that she stopped eating meat. She writes, “at age 50 I finally brought my love of animals in line with my behaviour. She said what any person who has been close to a cow knows – they are very engaging animals, capable of rich communion with humans.

I have had similar profound experiences with my rescue steers. They have a capacity, in their silent communion, to make time stand still. They are calming and gentle, one of the Earth’s oldest and most gentle souls. If they trust you, they will let you curl up with them and are frankly capable of lifting humans from depression.

3. Ex- battery chickens follow you around the garden –just like dogs. Chickens adjust to the outside world really fast despite never having set a foot on earth for their first eighteen months of life. Most battery chickens will quickly begin scratching the ground and searching for bugs and worms. They also make nests and hide their eggs. They make great companions and don’t deserve being put in a cage for eighteen months – just so we can eat their eggs sunny side up. It’s quite unfair really, considering they never see the sun their entire lives.

4. Bobby calves are exquisitely sensitive, playful and bond with caregivers. You guessed it – just like dogs. These nuzzling, snuggly little bundles will fall asleep with their head cuddled on your lap. Once they trust you they are yours for life. I think it is legalised animal cruelty to put these sensitive baby animals on transport trucks to their slaughter at four days of age. They are barely out of the womb, where they grew for nine months – just like us.

5. They are ‘just like us’ in all the ways that matter. Animals live rich emotional lives . Professor Mark Bekoff in his book The Animals’ Agenda says that animals feel joy, happiness, love, depression and pain. They have sentience, meaning that they have an individuality and subjective experiences. In short, their lives matter to them.

And they should matter to us. My work in animal rescue has shown me the extent of animal suffering and abuse on New Zealand farms. Most of it is institutionalised , meaning part of the process of farming animals for food. Bobby calves suffer immensely as they are trucked, sometimes up to 12 hours on a transport truck to be killed. They can go 24 hours without food. By the time they are killed they are suffering. So is the confinement of hens in colony cages so small they only have just over the space of an A4 piece of paperallocated to each one. Meanwhile many goats across the country live their lives chained to one place . This is all legal.

Yet after a 2015 amendment to the Animal Welfare Act in New Zealand, animals are now recognised as sentient. The law is well ahead of our farming practices. No animal rescuer would deny animal sentience – many of us are dealing with the fall out of farming cruelty. They slipped through the cracks and into safety.

The public needs to become more critically aware of what is going on behind farm gates and make informed choices about their own consumption patterns. We need to align our hearts with our behaviour.


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