A new model for society

Whatever you might say against European imperialism and colonialism, it was good for the dairy industry. Ditto the railways which, beginning with the Great Western, made a fortune delivering rural milk supplies to the Great Wen of London, using methods soon copied by entrepreneurs in Paris, New York, Bombay. We forget, don’t we, that before 1860 or so, almost all dairy farming for urban consumption was done within the cities; to say nothing of other animal feedlot operations, including poultry and eggs; market gardening, horticulture and so forth. I’m with the hipsters for bringing it all back.

I cast no aspersions on the milkers of buffalo, goats, sheep, camels, donkeys, horses, reindeer, yaks, when I recognize that the Holstein/Frisian cow was the great cause and inspiration for the rise of what Max Weber murkily called the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, emanating from the north-west of Europe. Instead, as will be seen, I champion them.

Neil Cameron interviewed the learned Professor Gerhard Fleischkopf, in a cover piece for the Idler magazine, more than a quarter-century ago, to publicize a thesis that still hasn’t been taken seriously enough by the historians. Contra Weber, Fleischkopf showed that it wasn’t the Germans, Dutchmen, Normans, English who launched this cultural revolution. Rather it was their cows, who forced them to rise very early every morning, lest they be kicked upon finally approaching the engorged teats with their milk-stools and pails; forced them otherwise to adopt patterns of behaviour entirely in the interest of the cows. Their philosophical and theological outlook — a dramatic break from the mediaeval scholastic synthesis — was not in any sense original to them, but instead an artefact of their cultural and intellectual manipulation, by cows. And so, too, their adaptive pushiness towards those of other lands — those lesser breeds without modern dairying techniques — whom they subjugated in turn, as agents of the cow.

Professor Fleischkopf proposed a post-Marxist vegan materialist analysis, but was happy to explain his insights in lay terms:

“Who has not quailed and shrivelled inside, when confronted with the cold hatred in the eyes of a Siamese cat disturbed from rest? Who has not winced and turned his head when faced with the sad, reproachful stare of a basset hound? These feelings of unease are as nothing when compared with what happens if you spend hours locking eyes with a cow. That steady, unceasing watchfulness, that awful solemnity!”

Yes, it was at the root of the Protestant Reformation.

As one who has returned to the mediaeval Catholic outlook, I am an enthusiast instead for a Canadian elk dairy industry, whose animals lactate a milk that is superior to that of your standard Holstein (“Frisian” to you Euros) in butterfat content, milk solids, and trace minerals from aluminum to zinc (including iron and phosphorus).

Let me specify the elk, Cervus canadensis, also known in these parts as the Wapiti; and not the moose, with its more palmate antlers, slightly larger size, and solitary disposition. One may no more herd moose than cats; I have considered and rejected both propositions. Readers abroad could easily fall into confusion, however, from their eccentric habit of using the terms interchangeably (i.e. moose and elk; foreigners can usually tell the difference between either and a pet feline).

For that matter, elk meat contains more protein than beef, and has that game venison edge to carry it beyond the beef glibness; though I have to admit it is a little on the lean side. The antlers are a spring shedding bonus, and until we find a better use for their bone and velvet, we may export them to China by way of settling our national debts. A glover once told me the hides, too, are more than a match for the common cowhides; at the very least they make excellent teepees. The animal itself stands about a foot taller than a Holstein at the shoulder — before we measure the male antlers — and their booming, operatic, basso profundo voices are of potential use in any barnyard choir.

But they are the females and their milk that more immediately interest me. Verily, should some gentle reader see clear to send me a few million through PayPal, I would be happy to invest in elk cheese factories, which I find at present too thin on the ground. (There are none in America, by actual count; the closest is at Bjurholm, in northern Sweden.) I have access to an Ontario cheese-making specialist still in the pink of youth (from the Forfar family, and a little shy of eighty, which is young for a Forfar these days); and the outline of a winning promotional strategy. Surely, billions could be made.

It is true that elk carry an uncommonly broad range of infectious diseases, but I gather they suffer little themselves, seldom communicate them to humans, yet pass them along readily to cattle, thus conferring a significant competitive advantage on our elk dairy farmer.

My motive is, however, higher than that of enriching myself and my friends. It is instead to substitute for the bovine, a new model of social organization, based instead on cervine attitudes and behaviour. The elk bulls (I prefer to call them stags) are more manly, the elk cows (I prefer to call them hinds) more feminine, and both in their nature less smug. Neither has the cattle-cow’s aggressive ideological propensities; and so long as you aren’t messing with their calves, the females are more deferential. The males, too, outside the rutting season. And I believe the hinds are less Germanic when it comes to being milked; they will let us sleep in most mornings.

I’m not sure whether to count this as another “Benedict option.” But gentle reader will appreciate that I am trying to think “outside the box.”