February 28, 2005


The secret life of moody cows (Jonathan Leake, 2/276/05, Times of London)

Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, said even chickens may have to be treated as individuals with needs and problems.

“Remarkable cognitive abilities and cultural innovations have been revealed,” she said. “Our challenge is to teach others that every animal we intend to eat or use is a complex individual, and to adjust our farming culture accordingly.”

Nicol will be presenting her findings to a scientific conference to be held in London next month by Compassion in World Farming, the animal welfare lobby group.

John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol, has just published a book on the topic, Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden. “People have assumed that intelligence is linked to the ability to suffer and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic,” he said.

Webster and his colleagues have documented how cows within a herd form smaller friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other. They will also dislike other cows and can bear grudges for months or years.

Dairy cow herds can also be intensely sexual.

No one who's ever looked into the limpid pools of a Jersey cow's eyes has failed to be stirred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 28, 2005 12:06 PM

The Wife been out of town for a while?

Posted by: Rick T. at February 28, 2005 4:33 PM

I help raise chickens, cows and pigs. Pigs have moods. Some cows have moods. Some don't, though. They're pretty stupid on the whole. Chickens don't have moods. Chickens are wretched little creatures. Our head rooster, Colonel Nicholson, is as nasty an animal as I've ever run across.

Posted by: Governor Breck at February 28, 2005 5:06 PM

I was mistaken in a comment to a similar posting. It was Tom Lehrer who, in his introduction to "In Old Mexico", spoke of the career of one Dr. Samuel Gall, whose "educational career began, interestingly enough, in agricultural school, where he majored in animal husbandry, until they caught him at it one day." Sounds like this John Webster has a role model.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at February 28, 2005 5:07 PM

Oh sure, they are stirring all right. But then you commit and two years later she's complaining that she's bored and wants to study Feng Shui at the local community college.

Posted by: Peter B at February 28, 2005 9:41 PM

The only stirring I feel is my wok. MMM, Beef with brocolli.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 1, 2005 2:05 AM