Take a look at the packaging on a container of milk and you're likely to see bucolic idylls of red barns, green pastures, and happy, well-treated cows. In truth, the distance from a living cow to a glass of milk is vast, and nearly impossible to grasp in a way that resonates with an average person ticking items off a grocery list. To translate this journey into tangible terms, Kathryn Gillespie had a brilliant idea: to follow the moments in the life cycles of individual animals-animals like The Cow with Ear Tag #1389.
In contrast to the widely known truths of commercial meat manufacture, the dairy industry enjoys a relatively benign reputation, with most consumers unaware of this kitchen staple's backstory. The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 explores how the seemingly nonthreatening practice of raising animals for milk is just one link in a chain that affects livestock across the agricultural spectrum. Gillespie takes readers to farms, auction yards, slaughterhouses, and even rendering plants to show how living cows are transformed into food. The result is an empathetic look at cows and our relationship with them, one that makes both their lives and their suffering real-in particular, the fleeting encounter with the cow of the title, just one animal whose story galvanized Gillespie to write this book.
The myriad ways that the commercial meat industry causes harm are at the forefront of numerous discussions today. The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 adds a crucial piece to these conversations by asking us to consider the individual animals whose lives we may take for granted.