Cows

by Vivian Parry, age 14
Cows Vivian Perry is a fiction writer who dabbles in poetry. She hopes to write a novel some day. She is currently working on narrative non fiction piece exposing the abuses of the American slaughterhouse industry.

“There are no windows. I have not seen daylight for three days. All I have to look at are the bright, artificial lights hanging from the ceiling and the peaceful blackness when I close my eyes to sleep.”

What more abuse is there to come?

Over 99 percent of farm animals in America, such as chickens, cows, and hogs, are raised in factory farms:  large, industrial operations that raise large numbers of animals for food. Cow transport and slaughter is especially cruel. Cattle who survive feedlots, dairy sheds, and veal farms face an excruciating trip to the final step of cattle slaughter in the U.S – the slaughterhouse.

My name’s Harold. I’m a calf (a young cow). When I was created into this world I had a mother, but the second I was born, she was taken away from me along with my other siblings. God knows where they are now. Possibly dead.

Just yesterday, I arrived here at the slaughterhouse. The trip here itself was nerve-wrackingly uncomfortable. It’s the middle of winter and it was so cold that I was frozen to the side of the truck. I was jammed in the back with about forty other cows. When we finally arrived here (the trip was ten hours long), I was pried off the walls of the truck with a crowbar by the petrifying humans who carry long electrifying sticks. It was hellish. Because I was hesitant to leave the truck, they stuck those darn sticks right up my rectum and in my face. I was terrified – in complete shock, I would say – after the long, cold truck ride. I couldn’t even leave where I was.

“If ya keep standin’ there they’ll keep on shocking you,” whispered a cow next to me.

“Yeah… okay,” I whispered back, scared to death of what they had warned.

“You’re lucky you even survived that truck ride. A lot of cows don’t,” said the cow. I stood there, in even more shock.

Coming into this world knowing I’m going to be slaughtered saddens me, but right about now, dying sounds like a swell idea. I’m only a year old. I have already had my family taken away from me, been pried off a frozen truck with crowbars, electrified with those long electrifying sticks, and fed food made up of my own species. The first day I arrived at the slaughterhouse, they fed new incoming cows the leftover cow fat from the previously slaughtered cattle. It was disgusting. It smelled of feces and dead cow. The forty other cows and I were all so hungry though, so we had to eat it. We hadn’t been fed on the truck ride a whole 24 hours prior to that. I closed my eyes and ate the cow intestine. I’m glad it took some portion of the horror away. I’m only a young cow. What more abuse is there to come?

Me and thousands of other cows spend most of our day eating disgusting food, sleeping, and walking in each others feces. Most cows are sick. We get infected or catch bugs going around quite easily. I’m guessing probably from either the food we are fed or our living conditions.

We are confined to a shiny, vertical, tin-like house. There are no windows. I have not seen daylight for three days. All I have to look at are the bright, artificial lights hanging from the ceiling and the peaceful blackness when I close my eyes to sleep.

I’m quite a bit fatter now. They feed us a lot. I have been told they only force feed us so much to fatten us up, so when we are slaughtered they can sell more meat out of our lifeless bodies. I don’t think that’s a true fact though. I certainly hope it’s not.

I made a new friend. His name is Ronn. He’s a black cow with white spots like me. We are the best of friends. We pretty much just sleep and eat together (which is all we have been doing here in the slaughterhouse), so I guess you could say we spend a lot of time together. Just yesterday I heard Marley, one of the immigrant workers, talk to his co-worker about me and Ronn always being together.

“They wanna separate us,” I mooed at Ronn in between bites of gloppy mush. “I can’t believe it. Why would they want to do that?”

“I dunno man,” he replied. “But don’t worry, I won’t let that happen.”

Ronn really cares for me. We kind of need each other. Neither of us have our families anymore. We are all we have.

I seem to be coming down with something. I have not been hungry for the past three days. Marley noticed and took me into a bright, bright room. There was a radio on while a doctor checked me for signs of infection.

“He could be infected. Do you think we can still slaughter him off to sell?”

“Yeah,” Marley told the doctor. “He’ll still make some good beef,” he obnoxiously laughed.

A commercial came on the radio. “Go beefatarian with our big mac – double quarter pounder with cheese. McDonald’s brings you the most juicy, filling hamburger you’ve ever eaten for just $4.79! Get yours now, exclusively at McDonald’s. Dooo-doo-doo, dooo-doo.”

Is that what we are being advertised for? Is that what we are sold for? Are our very lives only worth $4.79?

As they checked me for infection, my mind was racing. The more I thought about the commercial, the more furious I grew. The worst kind of anger is when you know you can’t do anything to stop the bad from continuing – that is what I felt like.

Now Ronn… he’s gone. How do I know, you ask? Word has gotten around about the surprise slaughter last night. Many cows that have been here for longer than I have experienced a surprise slaughter of their fellow cows many times, so many times that by now it’s not quite a surprise.  Ronn was taken away from me just last night and he hasn’t come back. Marley and two other buff guys came around our area and took about ten of us. I fought for Ronn ‘cause I knew where they were going to take him and what they would do to him. I mooed and tried to head-butt Marley. Immediately, I was stricken three or so times with an electrifying stick. It burned my side where they had struck me, as my heart feels now with Ronn gone. I am completely alone and I have nothing in this world.

Two weeks after Ronn’s death, Harold was slaughtered. He lived the last two weeks of his life as sad as he had ever been. By the time his slaughtering came around, he was glad he wouldn’t have to put up without Ronn around anymore. He was happy he wouldn’t be tortured anymore – no more shocks, no more mushy food. No more inhumane treatment. Slaughterhouses all over America treat their animals as if they aren’t living beings in need of great care.

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