Mad cows keep on coming back into the news. This is a trifle surprising since references to cows — mad or otherwise — have generally a short shelf life; or so one was led to believe. Apparently, this is not so. The mad cow disease keeps on rearing its ugly head in the unlikeliest of places. This reminds one of a mad cow bit coming from Switzerland, of all places. Perhaps a word of explanation here would be in order. Switzerland is a place which one has been brought up to equate with idyllic splendour — a place where people go to lap up all that is good and delectable in nature. Mention, therefore, of such a thing as mad cow symptoms in the same breath as Swiss chocolate and/or cheese does sound a bit odd.
Well, be that as it may, things came to such a sorry pass that even Swiss cows failed to pass muster, so to say. Agence France Presse, datelined Geneva, had reported authoritatively that Swiss cows — horror of horrors — “have developed a mean streak since being left alone in the wild under a new rearing technique, raising the risk of attack for the unsuspecting rambler”.
To delve a bit deeper into this rather bizarre affair, it would appear that having been bitten by the bug of ‘environment friendliness’, the Swiss farmers decided to allow their cows to roam freely in the countryside “with their calves and a lone bull (sic)”. Now, this is where the nub of the story comes in. A Mr Philippe Cossy, belonging to a rather murky organization named Service for the Prevention of Farm Accidents, averred that “Inevitably the cow rediscovers her basic instincts, which are much akin to wild animals. She rebuilds self-defence mechanisms and becomes more distrustful and aggressive towards others, be they humans or animals”. There you have it in a nutshell, as the cliché goes.
By now the reader would be in no doubt about the interest of Mr Cossy’s Organization in this affair. After all how can you allow cows — and Swiss cows at that — to chivvy dreamy-eyed tourists all over the idyllic Swiss countryside. In the year 2001 (the news item revealed), 501 Swiss farm workers were actually attacked and injured by animals, including cows. At risk of attack also are the million or so ramblers who, it would appear, flock to the Swiss countryside every year.
If anything, what can be gleaned out of the aforementioned news item is the fact that the Swiss temperament is not to be taken lightly. In any other country, people would have taken such so-called farm accidents in their stride. But, hats off to the meticulous Swiss! Not only have they taken notice of the antics of their slightly mad cows but have actually gone so far as to set up a Service for the Prevention of Farm Accidents. This must have given a lot of confidence to those who intend to be among the million or so ramblers in the Swiss countryside in the coming years.
While on the subject of cows, one is reminded of the sacred cows that freely roam around the thoroughfares of Indian cities. These cows that one finds frequenting the streets of Delhi somehow never appear to be in the same frame of mind as the Swiss cows let out into the countryside. Whenever one has had occasion to visit India, one has invariably found the cows peaceful, and minding their own business. One wonders why? After all a cow is a cow. One supposes the contrast may well be due to the marked difference between the Western and Eastern ethos. Does make one wish the human beings would take a leaf out of the way of life of the bovines! There must be a moral in this somewhere, though one is at a loss to pinpoint it. Maybe the reader can do better.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2019.