Special to The Sun
Have you ever heard of a gaur? It’s the largest living member of the bovine family. A large gaur bull can weigh more than a ton and a half. His body may be nearly 11 feet long and he may be more than 7 feet tall at the shoulder. This is a huge, enormously powerful animal that could, no doubt, do a terrific amount of work if it would ever allow itself to be hitched to a plow. But it won’t. Man has never been able to offer the gaur a deal that would persuade it to become domesticated.
On the way to Tucson last week, I spent some time thinking about gaurs. It was the feedlots; thousands of cattle standing peacefully waiting to be packed up and transported to the slaughterhouse. They were totally oblivious to people coming and going around them. Human beings are the most deadly predators ever to inhabit this planet. In the history of the world, there has never been an animal so cunning, efficient and prolific in methods of killing other animals. People are the most deadly enemy that ever laid eyes on herds of cows, sheep, goats and horses. So you have to ask yourself, what happened to the survival instincts of domesticated cattle? How is it possible for a mother cow to allow the deadliest predator of them all to simply stroll up to her babies and take them away? She’ll even lie passively and let one of these predators help deliver them.
Once in Africa, I saw a leopard stalking a Cape buffalo calf. He made his move, expecting his mere presence would cause the cattle to scatter. He was dead wrong. These cattle won’t tolerate threats to their little ones. I’m told Cape buffaloes, like gaurs, are just too stubborn to be easy food or reliable servants.
So what bargain have domestic cattle made in return for being — like they are? Here’s what they get out of the deal. They get protection from non-human predators. Their masters don’t want anyone else feeding on them. They get an ordered life. Their comings and goings are controlled. In the more advanced economies — where predation is elevated to industrial levels — their food, housing and health care are provided for them. All they have to do in return is give over their little ones whenever their masters demand them, and be good domestic cattle happy to stand still to be milked and slaughtered as their masters design. This is the bargain gaurs and Cape Buffaloes have never been persuaded to make. People may try to control them, but the would-be controllers will have a heck of a fight on their hands.
Now, to change the subject (or maybe not), the Reuters news service cited a Justice Department report indicating that nonfatal firearm crimes declined by 69 percent over the past 20 years. But, for some reason, 56 percent of Americans believe that gun crime is higher now than it was 20 years ago. The perception that gun violence is getting out of hand is fueling an extremely emotional and divisive wave of legislation. Calls for crackdowns on gun and ammunition ownership border on hysteria. Before we choose up sides and square off for another round of polarizing legislation, shouldn’t we be confident the fight is necessary and reasonably calculated to solve a problem?
Those who are ready to get behind another instance of heavy-handed “steamroller” legislation should be encouraged to look at the facts. The Justice Department statistics I mentioned are based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System.
Now back to cattle, wild and domestic. If you want to tame a race of cattle that treasure their independence, you don’t start your efforts with the fierce and powerful. Start with the calves and those adults that are prone to be “easy-going” and obedient. They are the ones easiest to lead around to the corrals and feedlots. But nature provides even these with horns that might be used to defend themselves. To make sure they’re safe, docile and domesticated, their prudent masters will take steps to see that these horns pose no danger. In order to be confident that cattle can be safely herded, these defensive weapons must be blunted — or better yet, removed altogether. No doubt, horn-blunting and removal plans can be backed up by statistics and emotional argument. Maybe, though, some of us can learn something from those stubborn old gaur bulls. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.