Roger Morgan-Grenville reveals how intensive farming harms the environment

EVALUATION: JORUJO AMONG COWS

by Roger Morgan-Grenville (Icon £ 18.99, 368pp)

It is useless to chase a herd of escaped cows. They like to go in a circle, so they will almost always go back to where they started sooner or later.

If you chase them, you will frighten them and leave them strained for hours afterwards.

Many such insights come from the great Dr. Temple Grandin, the American scientist whose severe autism helped her understand animals much better than most of us do. Much like people with autism, cows dislike loud noises, bright lights and flickering shadows. They are most content when simply left alone, to pottery around their familiar fields.

U.S. scientist Dr. Temple Grandin says that if you chase cows, you will scare them and leave them strained for hours afterwards.

Roger Morgan-Grenville adores cows, explaining that he loves nothing more than leaning against a gate and watching them for hours.

“Sometimes I feel like, along with eating digestive biscuits, that’s what I’m set to do on earth,” he says. In Taking Stock he explores the whole trade in cows and cattle, so perfectly suited to our islands, which have perhaps the best natural grazing in the world (mild climate and all that rain from the Atlantic). It makes for a fun, understandable and extremely informative book.

DNA studies show that British cows have enough Spanish in them. They also share about 80 percent of their DNA with us, although geneticists are currently wary of over-interpreting it. We also share 60 percent of our DNA with bananas, though that doesn’t make us bananas (well, not most of us do anyway). By 3,500 BC, we had already used cows to pull our plows in Wiltshire. Today we raise and raise our livestock to maximize production – cows, which until recently were not expected to produce much more than 15 liters of milk a day, are now being pushed to produce 60. But that costs money: their lifespans are much shorter. .

And the many different breeds of hardy, attractive, but less productive British cows, including the Jersey, Ayrshire and Dairy Shorthorn, have largely been replaced by the “standard Euro-blob Holstein Friesian”.

But there is a lot of encouragement here – and a lot of fun, with the author as a kind headmaster. He visits various small farms around England, talking to farmers in rebellion against the bullying supermarkets producing high quality food and selling directly to customers.

Intense farming gives us cheap food, while also polluting our rivers en masse, which we the consumer have to pay to clean up.  It's crazy

Intense farming gives us cheap food, while also polluting our rivers en masse, which we the consumer have to pay to clean up. They are crazy

On one farm, Hollis Mead Organic in West Dorset, they only milk their cows once a day, rather than the two or even three times favored by farm traders, and they sell their cheese online. I happen to have tasted some Hollis Mead cheese at our local market the other day, and it was incredibly good.

Lower productivity for higher quality also benefits wildlife. Fields return from light green rye grass to ‘grass leys’, rich in red clover and alfalfa, and therefore bees and butterflies, barn owls, kestrels, dung beetles … And who needs to buy in expensive foreign manure when a native cow. can produce the best manure known to man: a magnificent, steaming 25 kg of manure a day?

Morgan-Grenville is fading because of the alternatives, such as a cheap fast food chain burger. McDonald’s doesn’t even pretend not to be involved in deforestation; its own Impact Statement boasts of “our commitment to eradicate deforestation from our global supply chains by 2030”.

In medieval Germany, will you probably find a cow among the mourners, because they alone understood the way to heaven?  in Ireland they would tie a candle to a cow's tail to prevent fairies from stealing butter.

In medieval Germany ‘you will probably find a cow among the mourners, for they alone understood the way to heaven’; in Ireland they would tie a candle to a cow’s tail to discourage fairies from stealing butter;

So another eight years of deforestation? So yes, says Morgan-Grenville, you can buy one of their burgers for anything from 89p to £ 4.39 – but you’ll have to pay so much again in tax.

Intense farming gives us cheap food, while also polluting our rivers en masse, which we the consumer have to pay to clean up. They are crazy.

But if that makes the book sound too much like a political-economic harangue, it’s not. It is essentially a love letter to the cow, that attractive creature that appears in our folklore as a figure of quiet wisdom and fertility.

In medieval Germany ‘you will probably find a cow among the mourners, for they alone understood the way to heaven’; in Ireland a candle would be tied to a cow’s tail to discourage fairies from stealing butter. Unlit candle supposedly – given the methane …

Taking Stock is a charming book by a thoughtful, funny, sometimes angry man who loves to eat beef and loves cows, and it offers plenty of nutritious food to think about.

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