Cows, cows, cows
Holland is full of cows. So, if you take on a challenge to cover as many unassisted kilometers as possible in one month, as the WurOnWheels event does, your are bound to see cows.
My challenge is to cover 500 km between September 15 and October 15, not only on my bike, but also walking and running. That’s 16 km/day on average. Yesterday, I made a cow-tour. It was Day 6 of my challenge. My total now is 129 km, so I’m 22 km ahead of schedule. That’s nice.
Also nice: I saw three breeds of cow yesterday. Holstein Friesians, of course, both black-and-white ones and red Holsteins, but also Blaarkop cows, and Lakenvelders. The latter are also called castle-cows. The ones I saw were fortunate indeed: they were out on pasture and they had access to shade for cooling, and sand for dust bathing. These are elements of the natural behavioural repertoire of cattle. Yesterday it probably was the last summer day of 2018. Soon the grass will stop growing and the cows will have to go indoors…
Natural behaviour is important for animals, and it is as important for people as it is for animals. We are animals too, you know. Natural behaviour is important, because that is what you and your ancestors have been doing for millions of years in your so-called environment-of-evolutionary adaptation. An important element of natural behaviour is locomotion: moving around in space. For me, therefore, the WurOnWheels challenge has a particular meaning as the expression of natural locomotor behaviour, using one’s own muscles.
It is the very opposite of what we do a lot to our farm animals, especially our pigs and poultry, but also our cattle in winter: confining them in high numbers on the smallest possible amount of space. We started doing so after the Second World War, in order to meet the challenge of producing affordable food and ‘no more hunger’. But now the challenge is to stop doing so and transform our food production system into a sustainable enterprise. For this, it is essential to acknowledge the need to express natural behaviour, not only in humans, but in animals too.
Background information on natural behaviour, the question ‘How to feed the world?’ and my concept of ‘circular welfare economy’ (to replace circular nutriënt economy) see:
* Bracke, M.B.M. and Hopster, H. 2006. Assessing the importance of natural behavior for animal welfare. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 19: 77-89. Available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10806-005-4493-7.