Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ocean Grazing?

(By coincidence, just after I wrote this week's entry, below, the national media began reporting on charges of alleged cruelty discovered at large corporate dairy "farms." Once there were many small family dairy farms, places where the animals were so few in number that farmers could name each cow individually, and all were treated with kindness. By contrast, a disturbing number of corporate mega-farms so prevalent today, whose existence frequently depended upon buying out small family farms unable to stay in business, seem intent upon profits first and the animals' welfare second, or third, if at all. May I take this opportunity -- again -- to say bigger is not necessarily better. The word, growth, applies equally to the business world and cancer, and when each gets out of control the result can be horrific -- as it obviously has become because of the impersonality and cruelty associated with the practice of mega-farming. Cows, poultry and other critters often live in terrible conditions and it seems to be getting harder to produce farm products not contaminated with killer bacteria at some point in the complex network chain. Could be we really do reap what we sow.)

This seems ridiculous, yet it's been in my thoughts for years. Nobody likes to be, uh, "cowed," but this one calls for wild speculation:

In the 1980s many newspapers carried a syndicated column (via Chronicle Features) entitled "Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet," compiled by Steve Newman. A map highlighted global locations of interesting scientific events or findings of the day, and, to the delight of inquiring minds, Mr. Newman never failed to include the occasionally intriguing international UFO report. And there was some just down-home weird stuff, too, quirky little tidbits beckoning us to a place or incident both absurd and dark. So, I was more than a little curious and disturbed by "Earthweek" of September 11, 1989 when I read a paragraph entitled "Sunken Cow."

Newman culled a fair number of stories from various science news services, and this particular account described two people in a small submarine, involved in counting fish off Alaska's Baranof Island. While submerged to a depth of 690 feet beneath the surface, Tory O'Connell, a biologist with Alaska's Dept. of Fish and Game, and her pilot suddenly encountered for several seconds a dead cow resting on the ocean floor.

A videotape viewed by a reporter for The Sitka Sentinel documented this bizarre sight, confirming that the object did indeed seem to be a Holstein cow. The carcass's condition indicated that it hadn't been at the site very long, and ocean researchers (wisely!) declined to offer theories about the cow's guest appearance in Davy Jones' locker.

What to think? Obviously, this wasn't the cow that jumped over the moon. Or was it? If one accepts the high strangeness of cattle mutilations, including researchers' caveats that some animals appear to have been dropped from great heights -- leaving deep depressions in the ground -- almost anything goes. Whether any specific body parts were missing, of course, was not addressed.

One could also speculate upon the innocent passage of an ocean vessel crammed with cattle, a voyage troubled by The One That Got Away, but the implications of a cow abducted by otherworldly high-tech cattle rustlers of the night -- perhaps extraterrestrial morons who forgot that fish live in water, but even dead cows belong back on solid ground -- must be entertained. Or maybe somebody or something thought it best to conceal a horrible experiment far away from prying eyes.

Or. . . maybe the wretched creature, taking a rest from chewing grass in some far-off land, had a momentary creative or artistic spark, sprinted off at bovine speed and really did try to jump over the moon. Looks like the poor old girl almost made it, too, but for gravity.