Are cows happy?

I don’t know about you but I look at cows, chomping away in their meadows, and think, nice life. (For now, obviously. Luckily cows are not given to theorising about the future, as far as we know.)

Simple things make me happy. The dog. She’s so cute to look at, with her snout on my thigh and her hopeful eyes on my dinner. The sun on my back as I drink coffee outside. The taste of a croissant with jam and butter. Flowers. If I had a bunch of chickens and donkeys and cows and cats, I’d be in clover.

But I live in a state of perpetual uneasiness about my higher drives and functions. If I haven’t written, I feel bad. If I haven’t created something – a painting, a song – I feel like I’m wasting time. Life is an isolation cell, and if you don’t keep marking the walls, like the Count of Monte Cristo, you’ll descend into madness. Or bovine contentment, which would be almost as bad. I’m acutely conscious of the passing of time, my time. I figure I have, at most, twenty years left. Each year goes past with increasing speed (so many people have noticed besides me) so I’d better not procrastinate…

And yet, why not? Why not just spend ALL DAY lying about in the sun (or, if it’s cold, under a blanket somewhere cosy). Eating croissants?


    1. I agree that we treat them badly, as products not beings. Still I think because they have limited ability to think about their situation, they probably are reasonably content, much of the time. I think they live in the moment, and at the moment the grass is green around here. But on a moral level, agree totally, and after all, maybe they think more than we know.

  1. I’ve often wondered whether cows are happy. Or ducks. Or Canadian geese. Or egrets, who always seem to be alone.

    Regarding the rest of your post, it’s something I struggle with as well.

    1. My son Felix always used to say that life in the wild was full of suffering that we don’t see, which is true. The animals around my place, wallabies and roos for instance, seem to have a range of moods from alert for danger to alert for personal space intrusion to sort of just hanging with the mob…is happiness a human construct?

  2. A relevant post for me today. I took a couple of days off around the holiday and here I am feeling guilty because I haven’t “done” anything. As though nourishing my spirit isn’t doing anything.

  3. Cows have such wonderfully gentle and content-looking faces. A dairy cow probably has the most miserable existence of any farmed animal, though. Penned pigs might equal them, but we don’t see them, of course. I don’t respect animal farmers in the least, although I try not to hate them, and understand that they may be okay people without the self-awaresness of the bad thing they do. The problem of being self-aware, though, is that we do question and contemplate. I understand your conundrum of should I fill up what remains of my life with as much as I can; or lie around eating croissants? All things going well, I probably have around thirty years left, and like you, find myself waxing and waning over doing and not doing. I’m learning just to flow with it.

    1. Same, and yes, dairy cows do have a raw deal. Animal farmers learn to accept the inherent cruelty, and they often do, weirdly, love their animals. There was a farmer in Yorkshire who decided to be done with the cruelty and run his farm without killing the calves and slaughtering the older cows, that’s what I really respect.

  4. Lying around all day, occasionally toddling outside for a wee or a snack, describes my dog’s life. He seems happy, until he has a bad dream and needs a cuddle. On the down side, his tries at literature are rubbish.

  5. as Buddha said — and I’m sure the cows will agree — ‘be in the moment, otherwise you will miss your life’

    btw I’ve written a poem called ‘Cows in a Paddock’ I think you will really like. If I can find it, I’ll post it tomorrow 🙂

  6. I procrastinate heavily (I know that’s not precisely what you are talking about). Then suddenly I may be writing something and I find flow.

    I have all these plans for these anthropological essays but my ideas become vague. Then sometimes “whoosh” the ideas come.

    Travel often inspires me to write more but I rarely do it because of money/time/commitments

  7. I recently had the same thoughts about cows, so I did some research and learned they’re quite intelligent, have friends, feelings and more ways to comoonicate besides Moo. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I then wrote a humorous new blog post about it you may like called Exposed! The Secret Life of Dairy Cows. If you’re interested, check the blog on my website.

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