Let us not be hypocrites when we look at the shocking case of the runaway cow

17 June 2024, 16:54 | Updated: 17 June 2024, 16:56

Fury erupted after the cow was rammed by a police car
Fury erupted after the cow was rammed by a police car. Picture: social media

By Araminta Parker

In the dead of night, a Surrey Police officer made a decision that, in retrospect, they’ve probably come to regret.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

A calf from a nearby farm had broken loose and, after what we’re reliably informed were ‘a number’ of attempts to ‘safely recapture’ it, the police decided to abandon any attempt at securing it in a reasonable fashion.

Instead, they resorted to ramming the poor thing - repeatedly. With a massive van.

The outrage was immediate as appalled witnesses shouted at the police. But, as ever, the furore didn’t really kick off until the video went viral on social media.

It’s an undeniably shocking clip. One that would make any decent person feel unwell. The animal is clearly young, vulnerable and skittish. It crumples under the van before valiantly trying to get back on its feet - only to be hit again.

The original clip - at the time of writing - has more than 24 million views.

Campaigners, celebrities, politicians and ordinary people reacted with disgust. In apparent unison, the British public called for the officer to be sacked, prosecuted, named and more.

And yet, as I read through the endless commentary, I began to ask myself - is this all a little bit hypocritical?

The farmer reports that Beau Lucy is "recuperating" but, despite surviving her ordeal with the Surrey Police, she has little to look forward to. As a ten month old calf, the RSPCA says she could just have eight months left to live before she ends up between two burger buns or smothered in peppercorn sauce.

If she’s really lucky, her milk could end up in your tea and she could live another four years.

Left to live out her natural life, she’d have a life expectancy of about 20 years. And she might - thanks to her new found fame she’s been lucky enough to be offered a place in a sanctuary.

The vast majority of the UK’s cows are not quite so lucky. We slaughter some 2.8 million cattle a year - and their pain is unseen. They die, by design, behind closed doors. Like Beau Lucy, they’re scared and exhausted, facing down machines and people with motivations that they don’t and can’t understand. Slaughterhouse workers are frequently injured - despite following stunning procedures - by animals who devolve, as many of us would, into a state of total, uncontrollable panic.

Most people never see this - and don’t want to.

By the time these animals reach us they’re packaged and sanitized. Their deaths can seem quite bloodless once they’ve been chopped and cleaned and coated in plastic.

It’s all too easy not to think about how they got there - but perhaps it needn’t take a viral social media clip for us to do so.