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Cows without guns

idaho RANDY

In England, when the Guardian newspaper wrote last week about the great Pocatello cow escape, they tagged the breakout bovines the “Slaughterhouse five.”

British newspapers have a gift, don’t they?

But the first of the animals to break out, a heifer, sounded as if she had been inspired instead by the Dana Lyons song “Cows with Guns.” (“We will fight for bovine freedom/And hold our large heads high . . .”)

On December 12 she jumped a six-foot fence at Anderson Custom Pack and roared into a rampage, running through Pocatello’s north end, butting an animal control vehicle and two police cars. Finally, police shot and killed her. She may have been unarmed but, in truth, becoming dangerous and the stakes were high. (Sorry.)

Two days later four other cows, slated for the slaughter, went missing. Anderson spokesmen said they thought someone had let them loose; there’s not yet been an official determination on that one way or the other. However the escape happened, the animals were soon roaming around town. One of them was captured, and one was shot.

The other two evidently, at this writing, remain at large.

Here’s a problem, because a lot of people may be conflicted.

We don’t want cows roaming our streets, even cows that don’t ram motor vehicles. And a lot of us enjoy our beef (I do), even if we don’t try to devote a lot of thought about how it transitions from live animal to our plates. Yes, if we want our beef there will be slaughterhouses.

At the same time, most people love a good escape story. From “The Great Escape” to “Prison Break” most of us root for the people inside to get out, even if (as in “Prison Break”) some of them really are bad guys. And animals too (think about all those movies featuring an animal caged). We root for freedom, not for captivity. It’s hard not to cheer for the cows.

A few days after the second breakout, with two bovines still out there somewhere, the Farm Sanctuary group called in, and offered to find and take the animals back to their 300 acres at Orland, California, where they would be left to graze for the rest of their natural lives.

Farm Sanctuary National Shelter Director Susie Coston said in a statement that, “The processing plant expressed concern for the cows, one of whom is pregnant. It’s cold outside and they’re worried that the animals are tired, hungry and thirsty, so we’re hoping they will work with us to bring them to sanctuary. It would be a happy ending for everyone involved, but especially for the cows, who want nothing more than to simply enjoy the one life they get just like we do.”

Okay: It’s a story by turns strange, comic, a little dangerous and (maybe, depending on what happens next) heart-warming. It might have found a place on the Colbert Report were it still on the air.

But reflect on this: Idaho is home to about 2.2 million cattle, about half again as many head of them as of us.

Better hope they never hear “Cows with Guns.”

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