Norwegian Bovines Side with Beauvoir

by Karen Topakian

Last week, the online writing site Red Room asked its members and authors to submit a blog. Addressing whether we agreed with Simone de Beauvoir when she wrote: “I wish that every human life might be pure, transparent freedom,” or with her lifelong partner Jean Paul-Sartre’s assessment that we’re “condemned to be free”?

I wrestled with the topic for a few moments.

Immediately, coming up with bad song lyrics about freedom. As in the Tom Petty song Refugee. “Everybody’s had to fight to be free.” Or Kris Kristofferson’s famous line sung by Janis Joplin, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin left to lose.”

Then my mind wandered to the Monty Python sketch where two British housewives Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion sit in a laundromat arguing about Jean Paul Sartre’s master work. They paddle to Paris on a block of wood in search of Sartre and find Simone at home sweeping up a messy apartment. Complaining about the profusion of propaganda pamphlets, which a goat chews on noisily.

None of this seemed worthy of the Red Room’s request.

I forgot about the contest until I saw this week’s headline in e! Science News, “Cows. More freedom may mean less milk.”

Cows, those blocky bovines that spend 20 hours out of the day chewing, behave differently when free of the shackles of tie-stall barns. So says a Norwegian study reported in Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica.

As of 2004, the government of Norway forbid the building of new tie-stall barns. A study of their performance and health shows that in small herds (fewer than 27 cows), they produced less milk but in herds of 45 cows or more, free stall cows produced more milk.

“In free-stalls fertility was better, calving interval shorter, and the incidence rate of teat injuries, ketosis, indigestions, anoestrus and cystic ovaries was lower than in tie-stalls. All of these factors were more favorable in estimated 50-cow herds as compared to 20-cow herds. In the larger herd category, bulk milk somatic cell counts were higher, and the incidence rate of mastitis (all cases) and all diseases was lower,” says Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica.

Imagine. When you untie these herds their lives improve. Their sexual activity increases, they are sick less often and they produce more milk.

The Red Room should have asked these Norwegian cows to write the blog. I know they would agree with their fellow female Simone.


  1. Wonderful Blog, it made my day!
    I wish you could read Dutch and see the webpage . It describes a Cow’s Hotel, where the cows are treated as guests. They can sleep on different types of matrasses. There is a variation of health food on the menu. The farmer is termed as ‘hotel manager’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: