Lament for the cows


TOKYO (majirox news) – I grew up—a spoiled brat–in cow country. Just down the road was the village of Cheddar, where all that cheese comes from, Central Somerset. The cows outnumbered the human beings. My girl friend was the daughter of a farmer. And I still sometimes dream of the enormous bowls of fresh milk and cream in the stone-flagged kitchen.

The father of that girl friend, Stephen Dalston, used to get up at about 4 am, to milk his cows. And oh, those bowls of fresh milk. If you haven’t tasted that stuff, you will have missed something enormous for all of your life. The taste is exquisite, rich.

Since the regulations surrounding the milk industry are so strict these days in England, it is probably a crime punishable by death to taste the forbidden liquid. The farmers don’t fool with the law, if they value their farms.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that when I think of how the cows of the Tohoku region had been left, just left there, while the owners rushed off in a panic to avoid the radiation, I felt horrified.

Cows are not sacred in Japan or in England the way they are in India, where they are holy. But the idea of abandonment is pure evil, letting them starve to death, as I write. How are the farmers going to face themselves since they were forced to leave them behind?

Most of these sacred beasts are dead now, so put all of the above in the past tense. Such gorgeous black and white creatures, too. All 3,385 doomed. Maybe more.

I am sure we have not heard the last of this story. I assumed, when I saw the first interviews on Japanese TV of farmers with their cows right after March 11, that the farmers would be allowed back in to bring hay and water, wash their beasts and “talk” to them, one by one, as the individuals they are.

I assumed that cattle feed was on the way. But no, it is now a criminal offence to venture within the designated areas. You get arrested.

I was wrong, never assume. Never assume that we have heard the last of these creatures.

Scott Stokes was the former Tokyo bureau chief of the Financial Times, The Economist and the New York Times. His upcoming book on Commodore Perry is published by Overlook Press of New York.

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One Response to Lament for the cows

  1. Eimei Kashihara on 08/10/2011 at 3:41 pm

    I realise that the cows have been in a bad situation in Tohoku from the beginning. That is from March 11th onward. That said, what could the poor farmers do? Faced by an order from the government to leave their farms. Question now is what conpensation do they get? But still you are right. the cows were abandoned. I hearthat some farmers did refuse to leave ther cows. My heart goes out to them.

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