Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Holy Cow - David Duchovny

A cow, a pig, and a turkey walk onto a plane ....  I guess this book would be classified as absurdist humor.

Elsie is a dairy cow.  One night, through the farmer's window, she watches a documentary about factory farming.  Elsie always thought her mother abandoned her, but she discovers what really  happened to her mother and what her fate will be.  She also sees a program on the holy cows of India and decides to go there, where she'll be safe.

Word gets around on the farm.  Jerry the pig wants to leave the farm, too.  He wants to go to Israel, where they don't eat pigs.  Tom the turkey, who's starved himself in the hope that he won't be slaughtered in November, wants to go to Turkey.  He thinks they must respect turkeys there if they named their country after them.

Working together, they buy on-line airline tickets, steal clothing for disguises, and get on the plane.  But none of the places they hope will be safe havens are what they had hoped.  Israelis may not eat pork, but they also see pigs as unclean.  Jerry (who has asked to be called Shalom) and his friends have rocks thrown at them.  They briefly induce peace in the middle east when the Arabs and the Israelis join in mutual hatred of pigs.

Tom finds that, as a flightless modern turkey bred for meat, flying in an airplane is ecstasy.  He steals a plane and flies Elsie and Jerry around for further adventures.

You may not believe this, but I can't remember how this book ends.  And I only finished reading it on Sunday.  That means that I was totally unconscious when I finished the book or that it had a weak ending.  The book dwells lightly and briefly on the awful things that are routinely done to farm animals, suggests in a humorous way that animals are not unaware of their suffering or the suffering of other animals, and asks readers to respect animals and, perhaps, to think twice before eating one of them.

The author, David Duchovny, a well-known actor, is a vegetarian most of the time, according to a recent interview I read.  He says that he doesn't eat meat unless he goes to someone's house and they serve it.  He thinks it's wrong to waste an animal's life, so he eats it.  It's not clear to me if he cares that much about animals or if his focus is on the environmental degradation of factory farms (from which come 99% of all meat).

As an ethical vegan, who appreciates that not eating meat is also healthier for me and for the planet, I take this more seriously, so I had some trouble with the book.  To me, lamb chops, baby back ribs, or veal are just as horrifyingly repulsive as a nicely roasted human baby.  Maybe this sort of soft approach is more palatable for the general public.  If any readers side with the animals and stop eating meat, then, thank you Mr. Duchovny.


  1. I had heard Duchovny has written a book but I didn't know what it was about. Had no idea he was mostly vegetarian. What is interesting is that Gillian Anderson also published a book recently. Hers is science fiction.

    1. I take it you're an X-Files fan! I'm not crazy about science fiction, except the kind where ants grow really big and eat everyone, but I should take another look at this series. I know a lot of people love it.

  2. He's a vegetarian most of the time? I had to smile when I thought about that. That could be recast as...most of the time he doesn't kill others could be looked at that he tries to limit his harm to mother Earth and her beings. I'll be pleased that he's trying (and maybe his book will make others try too) and at the same time I'll look a little askance at his apparent stance that "politeness" is more important than occasionally killing others.

    Thanks for the review, I had heard nothing about this book before.

    1. Yes, I know. I'm always depressed when I find out that a vegan / vegetarian is now a flexitarian or a former vegan / vegetarian. Because I think it's wrong to take an innocent life, I can't imagine going back to eating animals. If I had become a vegan because I wanted to improve my health or I cared about the environment, then backsliding would be easier.

      A few years ago I almost drove myself insane identifying with every animal going to slaughter, every pet abused. I can't help if I'm incapacitated by depression. I had to find a place from which I could continue to work for peace and safety for all creatures. I think I've found that place. If Duchovny is a vegetarian most of the time, that means that fewer animals are killed, and I have to be content with that. Each life is precious, but I still grieve for all the animals sent to slaughter. If I ruled the world ......!