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Caring about cattle

Posted by Richard on January 5, 2007

As the third sizable snowstorm in just over two weeks slams into eastern Colorado (Denver’s expecting about 7" today), it looks like a cattle catastrophe has been averted in southeastern Colorado, where the New Year’s Eve eve storm dumped up to 48" of snow, with 10-15′ drifts. For the past week, ranchers and volunteers, with help from National Guard planes and helicopters, struggled mightily to get feed and water to the stranded cattle. Officials initially predicted tens of thousands might die, but so far the toll is much lower than feared:

About 3,500 cattle are believed dead, a relatively small fraction of the 300,000 cattle snowbound in six southeastern Colorado counties, according to estimates by experts at the state Department of Agriculture.

In regional feedlots, another 1,000 cattle deaths were confirmed by veterinarian Bill Bennett, homeland security director for the state Agriculture Department.

The toll may rise due to this latest storm, but because of the wind, not heavy snow. Here’s a fascinating fact I bet you didn’t know:

Bennett expressed less concern about snow accumulation with this storm than the anticipated driving winds that may cause cows to suffocate. …

"If it’s blowing when it snows, cattle start inhaling so much snow that it gets in their lungs and they literally drown," explained state veterinarian John Maulsby.

Meanwhile, a couple of Denver radio jocks contacted People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals about helping to save the cattle, antelope, and elk facing a grim, cold death in that area. PETA basically said, "Who cares? They’re going to die anyway." The Center for Consumer Freedom is all over the story, and has links to the audio:

The dustup started when KRFX morning hosts Rick Lewis and Michael Floorwax (yes, that’s his real name) called PETA to ask if the group would help feed and rescue the snowbound herds. PETA spokeswoman Reannon Peterson took the call, and bluntly replied: "You’re going to save them, and then in six months they’re going to be killed and end up on someone’s plate. So I don’t know that it’s really the most noble cause." [click to listen].

Peterson also put the blame on ranchers, criticizing them for "leaving [the cattle] outside" in bad weather. Mind you, this is the same group that rails against "imprisoning" animals in pens or barns.

Peterson added that wild animals caught in the blizzard’s wake — the same animals PETA routinely criticizes hunters for bagging — also weren’t worth spending PETA’s money to save. "It’s an act of God," she said. "There’s really nothing to be done" [click to listen].

She’s right, of course — animals dying in storms and being eaten by predators are part of nature and the "cycle of life." The irony is that this is PETA, a group that works tirelessly to promote the Bambi / Peaceable Kingdom fantasy about animals, that mourns every animal eaten by a human, and that sheds tears over the dashed dreams and lost liberties of lobsters.

I suspect that many PETA members are secretly glad to see cattle die in a way that prevents humans from benefitting from their deaths. Like the environmentalists who’d rather see a forest consumed by fire (contributing to particulate pollution, greenhouse gases, and global warming) than cut by loggers, the animal rights crowd is largely motivated by antipathy toward humans (at its root, their own self-loathing). They’ve long reminded me of Macauley’s observation about the motivation of Puritans: "The Puritan hated bearbaiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators."

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