When cows fly

My Dad’s a bit deaf, so we have to be very careful with our diction when we’re talking to him, especially if he’s driving or distracted or even being driven distracted.

He mishears a lot of things.

For instance, if I was chatting to him in the car and I said something like, “Hey, Dad, have you heard the song ‘When Doves Cry’?” he might say back to me, “What? Did I hear that cows fly?” Those who know my Dad IRL know that he’s mad about cows, and has most likely never heard of Prince, so on this imaginary occasion at least, his mistake could be attributed to a phenomenon known as selective hearing, which he actually does suffer from also – as most men do.

Let’s park the imaginary Father faux pas for the moment because I did ask him a question in the car the other day, and it was about cows flying. “Dad, have you heard they’re flying cows on planes now?”

“Ha?” he said, so I repeated myself and then I elaborated a little further, “Well, I’m after reading somewhere that Ireland plans to fly 900 cows out to Belgium in 2021.”

I thought this was madness – imagine one cow on an aeroplane, let alone 900. I couldn’t do it. The plane would have to be massive to fit all of those cows… I pictured them on a Ryanair flight, just for my own amusement, thundering up and down the aisles, tails swinging, shite spattering against the windows, the smell, the chorus of cacophonous moos mingling with the noise of the engine – no, cows on a plane would not be a good thing.

Dad’s more realistic take on the whole thing brought me back to earth with a bang. “They fly cows in and out of Ireland all the time,” he scoffed, “and especially now with Brexit, they’ll be flying even more, oh they would.”

“But not 900 cows on the same aeroplane, Dad? Surely that’s impossible. Don’t you find it hard enough moving six cows up the road from one field to the next?” He heard that alright. Dad is very aware of my disapproval of his cow-moving techniques and the lack of forward planning that goes into them. It would honestly take an entire separate blog post just to explain how woeful he is at communicating to his human helpers – his children/wife/brother-in-law/sister/neighbours – which gap they must stand in to prevent the cows going off course.

“They have special planes for them,” Dad said in the same kind of excitable, high-pitched tone he uses to have football-related discussions. I’d hit a nerve. “They build the planes ‘specially, and it’s only calves that are a few days old that are sent over because they need them on the continent for breeding…”

“Yes, but why don’t they put the cows on a big ferry or something, you know, like an aircraft carrier? They might be less afraid, and they’d have more room.” I thought I was being very reasonable; I like to think of myself as a sort of Temple Grandin figure for Galway cows. (Google her; she’s like a cow choreographer, a savant engineer, and pioneer of kinder, more modern cattle-farming transportation techniques.)

In my opinion, one of the greatest animal-welfare problems is the physical abuse of livestock during transportation…. Typical abuses I have witnessed with alarming frequency are; hitting, beating, use of badly maintained trucks, jabbing of short objects into animals, and deliberate cruelty.

Temple Grandin

With one dismissive hand, Dad waved away my grandiose, Grandin-esque notions, “Will you stop, sure the cow isn’t afraid. It doesn’t know it’s on a plane!” He might have rolled his eyes, but I was looking out the window forlornly thinking of all the cows who would be forced to make that stressful plane journey to Belgium in the new year.

Teagasc, the Irish Farmer’s Association, and my Dad might think it’s a fine idea to fly hundreds of cows across a continent in a metal box, but I think it sounds like a recipe for disaster. I just hope that ‘Operation Moove,’ as it’s been dubbed, doesn’t give Michael O’Leary any bright ideas. If he had his way, there’d be a 500 lb Friesian sitting behind you on the redeye from Shannon to Seville. I don’t think the farmers would like that.

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